How To Build A Hydroponic System With Fish (Easy Guide)

In this article, we will show you how to build a hydroponic system with fish. This is an excellent way to grow plants in your home without wasting time and money on seeds or soil. The process is simple and easy for anyone who loves gardening!

Aquaponics – How to Build Your Own
Key Takeaways
Aquaponics is a sustainable and efficient system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics.
Fish waste is converted to plant nutrients, which are then cleaned and purified by plants before recirculating to the fish.
Tilapia, trout, and catfish are popular choices for aquaponics, while leafy greens, herbs, tomatoes, and strawberries are some of the common plants grown.
To maintain an aquaponic system, regular monitoring of water quality, nutrient levels, and fish health is vital.
Aquaponics is a space-saving and environmentally-friendly method of growing fresh produce at home.

Step 1: Drill The Holes

Drill holes in the plastic container, lid and filter tank. Drill as many as needed for your system to function properly. 

At a minimum, make sure there are two holes on each side of the top of the plastic container (one for each pump). 

You don’t want to use too many holes or they could clog up with plant roots and make it difficult to clean out!

When drilling through glass lids or aquariums: Be sure not to go all the way through; leave some space between your drill bit and what you’re drilling into!

Adding nutrients to a hydroponic system is essential for plant growth and development. However, it’s important to understand the correct amount of nutrients to use based on the plant’s growth stage. Check out this expert advice on how to add nutrients to a hydroponic system and ensure your plants grow healthy.

Step 2: Cut Out A Circle At The Bottom

Next, you need to cut out a circle in the bottom of your plastic container. This will be where your fish can get into and out of their home. 

If you’re using a smaller container like I used, make sure to do this step before Step 1 so that your plant roots don’t get caught up in the plastic when you put it back together. 

You can use a sharp knife for this step just be careful not to cut through any part of the container!

Make sure that you don’t cut through any part of the container or else water can leak out and cause an overflow (which I learned firsthand).

Step 3: Waterproof The Plastic Container

Silicone sealant is a must for this step as it will ensure that your container is completely sealed and safe for fish to be in. 

We recommend a product like Aquarium Silicone II Sealant from Amazon, which is non-toxic and safe for both plants and fish alike.

Once the container has been completely sealed (you may want to let it sit overnight to make sure it’s dry), place your plant(s) inside the tank along with some substrate or gravel if you’d like them to grow faster.

Fungus in hydroponics can be a major problem if not treated properly. Preventing fungus growth starts with maintaining proper drainage and ventilation, as well as ensuring the nutrient solution is well balanced. Check out this guide to learn how to avoid fungus in hydroponics and keep your plants healthy.

Step 4: Cut Out The Circles For Access

Use a Dremel tool to cut out the circles for access. Hold the Dremel at an angle, about 45 degrees away from the tray, and drill down into plastic. 

Be careful not to get too close with your drill or you may damage or scratch the tray. After drilling out a circle, use a small cutting blade on your knife to enlarge it until you have made an opening large enough for your hands and arms (see Photo 4).

Step 5: Connecting Floats In Water

The next step is to connect the floats to the planter. To do this, you’ll need to cut out a hole in one end of each float large enough for it to fit snugly around the edge of your planter’s base board. 

You can use small-gauge wire or twine; just make sure that whatever material you use will not stretch or break when submerged in water. 

Secure these with small screws or glue if necessary and allow them to dry completely before moving on to the next step!

Now, place your plant media (such as expanded clay) into your chosen container, adjusting its height so that it fits snugly against each side wall without being too compressed against any interior surface. 

If necessary, secure its position by inserting small pieces of Styrofoam insulation between layers as they go down towards its bottom edge: once loose soil has been added later on top there won’t be much room left over so take care not crush its contents too much during installation process itself!

Algae growth is a common issue in hydroponic systems and can lead to various problems such as clogged pumps, reduced nutrient absorption, and pH imbalances. One way to prevent algae growth is to keep the nutrient solution in the recommended pH range. Learn more about how to avoid algae in hydroponics with this expert advice.

Step 6: Attach The Floats To The Planter

The floats are the most important part of your system, so be sure to pay close attention to this step. 

First, use a drill to make holes at least 6 inches apart in the plastic container. Then attach each float by using a screwdriver and inserting it into one of your predrilled holes. Make sure that your screws are long enough so that when they’re screwed into place they’ll come up through the bottom of the planter.

The last thing you need to do is attach the floats at a 45 degree angle relative to each other and then place them into their spots inside your hydroponic system (as shown in Figure 3).

Step 7: Put A Pump In A Bucket

Once you’ve created your reservoir, it’s time to put a pump in it. A pump is a device that moves liquid from one place to another, and they can be powered by electricity, water or wind. 

If your goal is to move water from the reservoir to other containers such as pots with plants growing in them, you need an upward-moving pump.

If you want your fish tank above ground level (like I did), choose an upward-moving pump rated for at least 100 gallons per hour (gph). 

However if your tank sits right on the ground and has no lid (like mine), make sure you get an extra large pond pump capable of pumping at least 1,500 gph

A recirculating hydroponic system is a great option for those who want to grow multiple plants with minimal effort. When building a recirculating system, it’s important to consider factors such as pH, nutrient levels, and oxygen levels in the water. Check out this easy tips guide on how to build a recirculating hydroponic system with ease.

Step 8: Pump Installation

In this step, you will be installing the pump in a bucket and attaching tubing to it. The pump will then be connected to your filter tank, fish tank and plant pots.

The first thing you need to do is install the pump into your bucket with an aquarium sealant so that there are no leaks. 

You may want to put a barrier between your plants and the bottom of your container in case any water spills out of it during operation of the system. 

Next, attach tubing from the pump’s output port directly into one side of an air stone fitting (this will serve as both input and output) followed by attaching another section of tubing (the length depends on how far away you place your plants). 

Your next step is connecting one end of this new section as well as another piece coming from other side/bottom lip (you should have 3 pieces now) together using clamps or screws so that air can flow freely through them without any blockage whatsoever! 

Finally, attach these same two pieces onto another piece coming from filter unit again using clamps or screws if necessary; you’ll now have 4 connections total: 1 from top/outside middle ring; 2 from bottom/inside middle ring; 3 from outside center ring again!

Step 9: Insert Tubing Into The Filter Tank

Next, you’ll need to insert the tubing into the filter tank. Cut a hole in your filter tank and thread it through. Then, connect your pump to the other end of the tubing. 

The idea is to make sure that one end of your tube isn’t lower than another you want them at about even levels so that water can flow through unimpeded by gravity or friction (which could cause clogs).

A hydroponic tower garden is an excellent space-saving option that can be used to grow various plants vertically. When building a hydroponic tower garden, factors such as lighting, nutrients, and water supply should be considered. Learn how to build a hydroponic tower garden step-by-step with this comprehensive guide and start growing your own fresh produce today!

Step 10 : Plants Plantings And Equipment Installation

In this step, you will be installing your plants in the system. Planting seedlings can be tricky and time-consuming, but it’s important to make sure that each one is planted properly so that they don’t get damaged by the roots of other plants or by the water current. 

Make sure to leave enough room between each plant for it to grow properly; if you’re planting small seedlings or cuttings (for example, basil), space them about an inch apart from one another. 

If you’re planting large plants like tomatoes or corn, plant them about two inches apart from one another. After installing your seeds and cuttings into their respective pots, place them into their new home!

As long as you’ve chosen appropriate containers for your fish tank setup—such as plastic buckets with lids it should be easy to install them into the system without too much trouble! 

Just make sure that everything fits snugly together before putting any weight on top of those containers (keep in mind: no matter how hard we try at times like these where there isn’t enough room for error).

Step 11 : Building Fish Tank And Installing It On A Stand

You are now ready to build the fish tank.

Materials needed: (1) 5-gallon bucket (2) 1/2″ PVC pipes, 2 feet long each (3) end caps for the PVC pipes (4) one piece of plexiglass or acrylic glass that fits inside your bucket.

Steps required: (1) Cut 4 pieces of PVC pipe that are 6″ each and leave about 3 inches of extra space at one end for a cap.

(2) Connect all 4 pieces together using two end caps on each side.

(3) Cut two small holes on opposite sides so that you can put some tubing through them and connect them to a pump which will later be used to feed nutrients into the system via aquarium pumps which currently cost about $10-$15 dollars depending on where you live.

(4) Drill holes in top cover so that light can go through but not water if possible because water will damage everything over time especially fish food!

(5) The next thing would be installing your fish tank onto a stand so make sure it’s strong enough before attempting this step because if not done properly then your whole project might fall apart.

Materials for Building an Aquaponics Fish Tank

5-gallon bucketUsed as the base for the fish tank.
1/2″ PVC pipes, 2 feet long eachUsed as the frame for the tank.
End caps for the PVC pipesUsed to cap the end of the PVC pipes.
One piece of plexiglass or acrylic glassUsed to cover the top of the tank to prevent debris from entering and keep fish from jumping out.

Note: Additional materials such as a water pump, tubing, and a stand may be needed depending on the design and setup of the aquaponics system.

Step 12 : Fill The Tank With Water, Fish And Plants

Add fish and plants, making sure that they have enough room to swim around and aren’t crowded. 

Most small aquarium kits don’t come with a filter, so you’ll need to buy one separately or get creative if there’s nowhere else to put it.

Add fertilizer at intervals of 2-5 days depending on how much food your fish eat in a day or two (more frequent feeding will require less fertilizer). Do not overfeed; uneaten food will decay and cause algae growth!

Steps to Fill the Aquaponics Tank

Step 1: Preparing the TankClean and prepare the tank for use. Check for any leaks or cracks in the tank.
Step 2: Adding Water to the TankFill the tank with water, making sure to leave enough space for the fish and plants.
Step 3: Adding Fish to the TankAdd fish to the tank, ensuring that they are compatible with the water conditions and that there is enough space.
Step 4: Adding Plants to the TankAdd plants to the tank, choosing plants that are compatible with the fish and water conditions of the system.
Step 5: Maintaining the Aquaponics SystemMonitor and maintain the water quality, nutrient levels, and fish and plant health regularly to ensure healthy growth.


As you can see, hydroponic gardening is a great way to grow plants. It’s easy, low-maintenance and super simple. 

As long as you follow this guide and get some good quality supplies, you’re on your way to growing delicious veggies all year long!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to learn more about aquaponics:

GroCycle – Aquaponics: A comprehensive guide on aquaponics that covers everything from system design to plant selection.

Go Green Aquaponics – Ultimate Aquaponics Beginner’s Guide: A beginner-friendly guide with practical tips on how to set up and maintain an aquaponics system.

Eartheasy – How to Grow with Aquaponics in 5 Simple Steps: An easy-to-follow guide on how to get started with aquaponics, including information on choosing the right fish and plants.


What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a sustainable and self-contained system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics. In an aquaponic system, fish waste is broken down by bacteria into nutrients that are absorbed by plants, which in turn filter and clean the water to be circulated back to the fish.

What are the benefits of aquaponics?

Aquaponics can provide organic and fresh produce while using less space and water than traditional farming. It is also a sustainable method of farming as it recycles water and nutrients, and can potentially provide a source of fish as well.

What fish are best for aquaponics?

Tilapia, trout, and catfish are popular choices for aquaponic systems because they are hardy, fast-growing, and can tolerate variations in water conditions. Other fish species that can be used include perch, koi, and goldfish.

What plants can be grown in aquaponics?

A wide variety of plants can be grown in an aquaponic system, including leafy greens, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries. Different plants have different nutrient requirements, so it’s important to choose plants that are compatible with the fish and water conditions of the system.

How do I maintain an aquaponic system?

Maintaining an aquaponic system involves regular monitoring of water quality, nutrient levels, and fish health. Tasks such as adding fish food, cleaning filters, and testing water pH should be performed regularly. It is also important to ensure the system is properly balanced and to make adjustments as needed.