Aquaponics 101 – The Excitement Mounts

Wow, what a week. A lot was achieved but there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day. The birds wake me at 4:45am and I am on the site until the sun goes down after 7PM.

We have now got the greenhouse frame nicely secured with bolts, one of the tanks filled, the gravel growbeds filled and working, some test plants in, and the system cycling merrily away on 3 hour on and 3 hour off cycles. I could go into a lot of detail (this will have to wait for my book), but I think pictures are better than a thousand words, so here goes.


The gravel had to get thoroughly washed. Even then we will still have to cycle the system for days to filter out the colour.


While Joshua was washing the gravel, I was putting together the gravel grow beds. You need to provide a space for water under the gravel, otherwise your drain hole will clog and also the auto-siphon won’t work. To achieve this we cut a core-drain pipe in half along the seam.


You then lay the half at the bottom of the barrel covering the drain hole.


I then made up 6 spray bars with 25mm PVC. As you can see, each one has it’s own valve so that I can regulate the water to the grow beds precisely.


After I had tested the autosiphons and set the valves, we started loading the gravel.


Here is my interpretation of the “siphon-loop” concept. It works like a charm !!


I then planted some test plants. They’re either gem squashes or butternuts. I found them growing from pips in my compost heap.


I needed some assistance from my son to set the stand pipe. No, he is not a Tilapia.


Right, this is where I am now. I need to fill the other pond, put fish in, build another row of gravel grow beds and cycle, cycle, cycle.

SECRET : Please don’t tell anyone. The quickest and easiest way to kick-start the biological process in the grow beds is adding a small quantity of human urine (yuk). Anyway, I am doing beds 1,3, and 5 and my son is doing beds 2.4 and 6.

Next week there will be fish in !!!

Be Good



8 thoughts on “Aquaponics 101 – The Excitement Mounts”

  1. Hi, FANTASTIC way to show people how to get the basics on aquaponics. I was a huge fan of hydroponics but am now getting on the wagon of aquaponics. Please update when you can with more pictures and maybe some step by step instructions. Well done again.

  2. oh yeah, one more thing. How does your syphon loop work? Never seen one before. Looks like a simple yet effective system

  3. Hi Drew,

    Thanks for your kind words. Just search on the word aquaponics on my blog and all my articles will appear with step by step instructions. The siphon loop concept is brilliant (but high maintenance) and I will post full instructions. I wrote an article this week called Aquaponics 101 – so how do I start? Some good ideas there. I am not happy with the performance of the siphon loops as they require too much fiddling and maintenance, so I am actually converting my whole system to pipe within a pipe (bell-siphon) drains.

  4. Hi Dont know how I got to you but this is the best site in south africa. Pleez send me an email telling me how to make contact
    Regards Greg Cape Town

  5. Where can I find out details on building a bell-siphon, I get bits and pieces but not step by step directions. One thing I am unsure about is does the inner pipe attach to the drain at the bottom of the growbed loosely or is it tight? Any help would be appreciated.

  6. Hi there. Just following on Mitch’s question. I have followed all instructions on you tube videos and so on and I have been able to create a bell siphon. YEAH……..!!! Only problem is the inlet water volume needs to be high enough to turn on on the siphon but low enough to turn it off again. And this is where the hair pulling starts. Unless my construction is incorrect. My standpipe is 20mm diameter and my bell pipe is normal 50mm pvc. Am I missing something here with sizes….? Any help would be appreciated. Regards

    1. Hi Rodney,

      You’ll find that your construction is spot on. Bell siphons are really difficult to fine-tune. This is the reason that I standardised on pipe-within-pipe standpipes on a timer that are totally predictable.

      good luck

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