Aquaponics Fish Systems

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Aquaponics Systems

The 3 Aquaponics methods

As part of an ever-expanding field, combining hydroponics and aquaculture, producing many benefits for individuals and the world at large, aquaponics systems are something we here at think everyone should have, or at least try once in their lives.

Aquaponics systems can come in a range of looks and varieties. Aquariums and small fish tanks, green houses, vertical PVC towers and bathtubs are all potential homes for your fish and plants.

The 3 main types you will come across are: The Media Bed Method, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) and Deep Water Culture (DWC) aka Floating Rafts.

When deciding on which to choose, be sure to familiarize yourself with the different methods used in aquaponics, some systems may only use a media bed as means of supporting plant growth, whereas other designs may incorporate rafts into the mix.

Media Bed Method

The most popular aquaponic method for home and backyard aquaponics. These types of systems use an inert media, usually expanded clay or lava rocks, in their grow beds. These media take the place of soil in regular gardening, providing a structure for roots to take form in.

The structure the media beds give is one of the main advantages of this type of aquaponics system. This faux soil not only assists in supporting your plants, but also acts as a physical and biological filtration unit. Aquaponics media bed systems are able to grow a wider range of fruits and vegetables as this support can hold larger root clusters and heavier plants.

Using either a flood and drain technique or a constant flood method to cycle the water from the fish tank to the grow bed and back, media-based aquaponics systems are the easiest type of setup for beginners to start with.

A media bed-based aquaponics system is arguably the best type of system for beginners. As mentioned, due to the presence of the media base a wider range of plants can grow as there is a physical structure for more complex root structure. Where as the other 2 types of aquaponics methods below only support lighter plants – think leafy green vegetables. If you are hoping to cultivate ginger, root vegetables, tomatoes and so on a media based aquaponics systems is your best bet.

Nutrient Film Technique NFT

Nutrient film technique lettuce

A technique borrowed from its hydroponic cousin, the NFT method has been adapted for use with aquaponics. Instead of chemically treating the water with chemicals and fertilizers, an aquaponics NFT systems uses the nutritious water, that is at the core of the nitrogen cycle, from your fish tank.

Utilizing PVC pipes with holes in the top to place the plants, the NFT method uses a constant stream a of water running along the root system to keep the plants thriving. Due to the shallow nature of this type of aquaponics set up, plants with short root systems are best (think herbs and lettuce) as longer roots have a chance of clogging up your system.

Filtration has an extra step in NFT too. As there is no media, and not enough surface area to facilitate the growth of sufficient beneficial bacteria, physical and biofilters need to be added. If left unfiltered the build of ammonia from the fish waste will start to harm and eventually kill your plants.

Less forgiving than other types of aquaponics systems due to the shallow nature of the setup, and the issues this can cause, the NFT method needs some extra considerations. One of the great advantages of this type of aquaponics system is that it can be tailored to make the most out of small spaces by going and growing up, using the NFT to have a vertical garden.

vertical aquaponics system

Deep Water Culture (DWC) aka Floating Rafts

Deep water culture, raft system up or floating system. These are all synonyms for the 3rd type of aquaponics’ growing method. Media beds and NFT aquaponics set ups are great, now it’s time to find out if a raft aquaponics system is right for you.

Using water in a similar way to the nutrient film technique, that is, a consistent flow of nutritious oxygenated water flowing over the roots of the suspended plants. The floating method consists of large, usually food safe polystyrene, holding the plants over the channels of water fed by the fish tank.

Aquaponics Grown Lettuce

With no media to support any significant plant growth, this system is best suited for leafy green vegetables and herbs. Also, as with NFT, there is not enough surface area for the beneficial bacteria inherent in the nitrogen cycle to flourish and your deep-water culture system will require extra physical and bio filtration.

This type of aquaponics system is possibly the most straightforward type of system to use, easily expandable, with cheap, reusable raft for the plants, and so well suited for more commercial sized aquaponics farms.

Indoor Aquaponics

Aquaponics is not only a great way to garden and raise fish in your backyard and outdoors it is also a great way to bring a little bit of nature into your home or apartment. Growing herbs in your kitchen to add to your meals or raising some goldfish for the family and kids, bringing aquaponics inside with an aquaponics kit (or a fish tank) is an amazing option if you want to start small and get the feel for how the aquaponics process works.

There are many benefits to be had from bringing aquaponics indoors. From the therapeutic to the aesthetic, a talking point at gathering and also a clever way to bring a learning experience into your household for yourselves and children. Show them in real time how ecosystems in nature work by bringing it inside with an indoor aquaponics fish kit or tank.

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aquaponics fish

We regularly review  aquaponics systems, and in particular aquariums and indoor fish tanks. These our bread and butter (or should that be fish and vegetables?) at and we hope to help you find the best one to suit your circumstances

If you are interested in any more information about any of these products, please head over to our up to date review and blog pages to get the latest from our passionate team on how to get started with aquaponics today.

Outdoor Aquaponics Systems

Limited only to your available space, an outdoor aquaponics system, or a DIY aquaponics set up is a great option for beginners and those who are looking to expand their gardening and fish rearing options.

There are many ways in which to hold your flora and aquatic fauna, as you really only need food safe material that won’t leach chemicals – and has enough volume to hold an inert media and/or water – the options for an outdoor aquaponics set up are limited to your own imagination.

The most common types however are large durable plastic containers of various shapes and sizes. Converted IBC’s are a popular option, especially among the aquaponics DIY crowd. The more creative types are even known to turn old bathtubs into an aquaponics system.

Pre-built kits are also a good choice if you want to get straight into home aquaponics and start growing your own fresh fruit and vegetables today. Outdoor aquaponics is easier to expand upon as it is only limited to the space and time you have, so make sure you choose you aquaponics system design and type carefully.


tilapia school

Commercial Aquaponics

Commercial aquaponics, that is growing fish and plants in quantities to sell is a practical and possible way for anyone who wants to take that extra step and turn their passion for aquaponics into a business. Either as a side hustle or a fulltime investment, commercial aquaponics is gaining more traction and popularity the world over.

At scale, the best type of aquaponics system design to use for commercial aquaponics is the deep-water culture/raft system. This easily scalable aquaponics system design is the best-case scenario as it is cheaper to expand and/or run larger systems then say, a media bed system.  The trade-off here is that you don’t have to spend as much time and money on media bed management but are limited to smaller plants and herbs that the raft structure can support, such as basil and greens and other herbs.

NFT Coriander

Aquaponic farming is another term that is used interchangeably when talking about aquaponic commercial systems. This is what it sounds like, multiple heavily stocked fish tank set up ups and expansive floating rafts (used in the deep-water culture process) full of nutritious and organics leafy green vegetables.


For those that are looking to get serious with aquaponics and turn an interest into an income, getting started down the path of commercial aquaponics has never been easier, more established or accessible as it is today. If commercial aquaponics systems are too much at this stage in your journey you could always start out small with an aquaponics fish tank or aquarium. Head over to our review page check out our latest reviewed products. If you still want more information before you if an aquaponics system is for you please head over to our blog page to have a look at our ever growing (pardon the pun!) list of aquaponics articles.



Looking for a new hobby? Hoping to learn expand some skills? Have a space indoors or outside that you can’t decide what to do with? If any of this applies to you DIY aquaponics could be the solution you are looking for.

An ever-increasing number of people are turning to DIY aquaponic systems. A perfect way to get exactly what you want is usually to do it yourself. Converting unused barrels and bathtubs as become a past time for many in the aquaponics community.

The same basic principles apply to DIY aquaponics as they to do small aquaponics kits  or any other type of aquaponics system. They all use fish & plants, water and beneficial bacteria to perpetuate the nitrogen cycle. The self-sustaining ecosystem that is at the core of every aquaponics system.

The components and parts you will need for a do it yourself home aquaponics set up are comparable to any other pre made system. A fish tank, grow bed and pump are the core necessities. Depending on the type of aquaponics system you are looking to build bio and physical filtration, rafts and raft tanks are some of the other components that should be taken into consideration.


Still not sure if DIY aquaponics is for you? Head over to learning section on our blog page  to check out our list of articles.

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Key Components and Parts

Everything is only as good as its components and parts. Aquaponics systems are no different. From starting out and constructing your own set up following our steps in aquaponics system design article to replacing critical pumps or filtrations in other types of aquaponics set ups, knowing what each part and piece does and its role is key to understanding and getting the best out of you set up.

Some key components in an Aquaponics System are:

  • Fish tanks
  • Grow bed
  • Media type (If using a media based system)
  • Pumps
  • Biofilters
  • Bell Siphon
  • Associated piping and plumbing
  • Physical filtration devices

The design and size will dictate which key components and part you will need. Different aquaponics methods will also add or subtract from your choices – no point in buying expanded clay if you are not running a media-based system.

Size will also play a factor in your checklist. Particularly when it comes to oxygenation of the water, so careful attention to the type/s of pump you will need will be crucial. Please head over to our review page to check out the latest aquaponics system components we have had the pleasure of reviewing.

Maintenance and care

assorted tools

Aquaponics is like anything else that’s worth doing and keeping – your setup will need maintenance and care. The depth of this care will vary depending on the size, scale and location of your system.

The majority of it will be cleaning pipes, aquariums and filters. Keeping those algae in check and fixing for any blockages will go a long way to ensure your system, fish and vegetables are the best shape they can be in.

Checking and fixing any leaks and keeping any and all electrical equipment in good order will also form part of your care plan.

Don’t let this scare you off though. As most of the work is front loaded i.e., mostly done at installation – the maintenance and upkeep intensity are quite low.

The most frequent task will be feeding your fish and checking that pH level.

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