Aquaponics 101 – Any day now.

It’s all starting to come together here on the hill overlooking the Knysna lagoon. With only a week to go now before I go and fetch the fish in Grahamstown, the aquaponic site has been a hive of activity. The 3 tons of gravel for the grow beds arrived last week, and I was so impressed with it that I ordered another load the next day and will be using it on all of my surrounds and pathways as you can see by the attached images. Many thanks to Travis Hughey for his Barrel Aquaponics manual. I’ve used some basic grow bed construction plans from this handy guide. Right, here is what I’ve been up to.


I have been fine-tuning my bricklaying skills. What could all of these little walls be for?


I have also been hard at work with the old circular saw. Benches maybe?


We will be needing lots of these little things as…………..


…spacers to hold…………….


…the grow beds !!!

I have found a brilliant design for an auto-siphon from the Backyard Aquaponics website, and will be using this in my system. It merely consists of a loop of hose. You fill the gravel grow bed with water, and as it reaches the point at the top of the loop a siphon effect is started and the bed drains automatically, only to fill up again and repeat over and over again. No electricity, no valves, just physics. Brilliant !! Here is what it looks like.


I also collected the pump (750W Spec pump) and plumbed into the system next to the sump. It has a non-return valve so that water cannot flow down the hill back into the sump.


The week ahead will involve filling the ponds, erecting the green house frame and covering with film and filling the grow beds with gravel. I have to get some vegetables in urgently to start the process before the fish arrive on Saturday. Wish me luck.

And finally, here’s Jess after a hard days building.


Be Good



21 thoughts on “Aquaponics 101 – Any day now.”

  1. How will you monitor how often the sump pump goes off, and how much water it actually pumps? When leaks inevitably occur, how will you be able to detect the reduction in flow?

  2. Hi Elwood,

    I’ve got the pump on a 24 hr electrical timer. It will be running 3 hours on and 3 hours off. When the pump is off I will have a side channel blower providing oxygenation to the Tilapia ponds. The sump holds 2500L of water and it would have to be some leak to empty this. There is also a non-return valve preventing water flowing back down to the pump. The pump is at the very lowest point so all of the ponds, grow beds and sump would have to empty (heaven forbid) before the pump would run dry. Thanks for your valuable comments.


  3. Hi Grandma,

    Thanks. Please feel free to use any you may need. I have visited your web site and am most impressed. I have also added your website to my blogroll favourites. As you can see, I have borrowed extensively from “Barrelponics” in my design. If you visit my site today you’ll see the next exciting episode in my build called Aquaponics 101 – The excitement mounts.


  4. Haing read your article in Backyard Aquaponics, I would suggest you mention that the autosiphon did not work! It would be a shame for folks to read this 101 course and try it out to the same sad results. Other than that, great job…….it is great that you are sharing your experiences. I have just reorderd my drain pipes and up sized my fish water up to 2 inch and drains to 3 inch. Sounds like good advise.

  5. Just curious why you did not try to use the barrel-ponics flood tank. It is easily adaptable to different materials as there have been some built in Kenya and I am building one in the Philippines as I write. It seriously simplifies the whole works and eliminates the timers and blower setup you are using. And yes, there are several people having problems with auti-siphons. Unless you have enough flow to overdrive them a bit they will simply trickle. This is why I chose not to use them to dunp the growbeds. ANyhow, keep up the great work!! You’d love to see what I am up to these days. I have a system designed that can produce an easy 100 lbs of fish per season with 60 square ft. of growbed space and has a 8′ x 12′ footprint and takes 40 watts to operate. I’ll get a plans set out when I get through working on a couple other ways to build it.

  6. Hi Travis,

    Welcome. Yes, I agree, autosiphons are prone to problems and as mentioned I eventually changed to pipe-within-pipe drains with timers. I think the reason I went this route is because this first home system was merely a pilot site to test the concept. During 2008 I built two much larger systems, a 37000L single tunnel system and a massive 200 000L dual-tunnel system. Both only pump for 1/3 of the day and drain for the rest and work like a bomb and use minimal electricity.

    Keep up the good work which I follow closely. I have added your URL to my blogroll.



  7. hi how do i get to see this travis guys system? can you send me a link please. I must say i still check your site every day for an update.

  8. Hi Gregg
    Hope to have success with your frist step aquaponics. I will notify you after the outcomes.
    God bless you

  9. Hey Greg,
    Thanks for he interest. THere areseveral sources where you can see photo’s of what I have built. One is on my website in the photo’s area(more to come soon). Another is at the yahoo group I moderate. You can gt to it by simply puting “barrelponics” in the search box at the yahoo groups website. Please feel free to join and I will get you approved. ANy other thing I can do pleaselet me know. Also if youa re in the states and find yourself anywhere near South Carolina I am always good for a visit when not traveling abroad.

  10. im getting more interested.. thanks to this medium and to you. i heard about aquaponics 3 weeks ago and i got so interested, i wanted to set-up my own, but i have so many questions… is there a site for starters wherein there’s not much technical terms.. hope green apples like me will be welcome to the group. thanks.

  11. Hi there,

    i need a price for a back up water tank that will work automaticaly when there is no water around that will work with my genaretor i need 10,000L X 5 including pumps and all the plumbing piping

  12. Quick question i am in Uganda and needing to set up a system with no electricity. Do you have any experience with this? If so i would love to speak to you about it, i have so ideas but i am not sure if they are crazy. drop me an email if you have time. Thanks.

  13. hi everyone! i am so amazed with the developments and productions of Aquaponics and I am planning to put up my 1st project here in the philippines, a friend from Switzerland actually introduced me with this beautiful and healthy project, he provided me all reading materials he sent in my dropbox… and I have read several pdf files and watched videos and now I am on my way to put up my own! I am excited but still frantic I might not make it work like you have done it guys… please help me… actually i am planning to follow the barrelponics system by mr travis hughey coz the best and cheapest available materials i have here matched this system… just wanna ask if I will be building a 6ftx8ftx3ftdepth fish pond how many gallons of water will I need to fill it? how do i compute that? and will it work for a 10 grow beds I will use to go with it… also I wanna ask if where do I get to grow the seeds? in a different seed bed or have to directly plant the seeds in the grow beds? hehehe this is one question I haven’t find answers in all the reading materials I have read…. thank you!

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