Posted by Nigel

Here’s the reason there’s been very little recent activity on the blog – we’ve been working hard on our new side project – our Headford backyard aquaponics system ….

Put simply, aquaponics is the integration of hydroponics and aquaculture, a recirculating method of sustainable food production. The process basically entails pumping nutrient rich effluent from fish tanks which fertilizes hydroponic plant beds, and, in turn, the plants function as a biofilter, removing the ammonia, nitrates, nitrates and phosphates from the water. The cleaned water then recirculates back into the fish tanks.

An aquaponics system is made up of two basic elements – a pond/tank for your fish and water reservoir and a grow bed for the plants.

This summer we’re experimenting with a small ‘backyard’ system, comprising three ponds and three grow beds. Following the photo’s above clockwise from top-left will give an idea of the amount of work involved in just preparing this small system. In the first photo, we’ve cut the top off an IBC (an intermediate bulk carrier – a plastic industrial container) to give us our basic tank and grow bed. We’ve tried to scavenge what we can in order to minimise costs but this was our greatest expense (€200.00 for the three). The next step is insulation to cope with temperature fluctuation. The second photo shows an aborted attempt using Polyurethane foam (yes, we should have tried putting it on before filling the tank with water!), and the next shows the finished tank and grow bed. In the end we used fibre insulation wrapped in black plastic sheeting kept in place with pallet wrap. Our grow beds are gravel filled (and cleaning the gravel proved to be the most intensive element of the set-up work), with simple wavin pipe irrigation systems. Our pumps are the cheapest pond pumps we could find online – about €65 each. In total we estimate we’ve spent about €800 between everything at this stage (add water testing gear, electrical fittings and sundry bits and pieces). We also bought some goldfish to get the whole ecosystem going.

The working model is also depicted above with water flowing from the plant bed drain and the pump in the, as yet, unpopulated fish tank. As you can see we have planted a few plants in one of the grow beds (lettuce and basil) and all is well so far.

We’ll be introducing our main fish stock shortly and we’ll go into more detail over the next few months, and keep readers abreast of progress. Hopefully we’ll be reporting a thriving little facility and be eating lots of trout, perch, lettuce and basil all summer (well – we won’t have fully grown fish that soon). There’s a thriving aquaponics community worldwide and it’s a very exciting field. If nothing else it should be good, clean summer fun. Most of the information we’ve garnered is from Joel Malcolm’s excellent book and forum available at Backyard Aquaponics.

13 Responses to “Aquaponics”

  1. elinorloewen says:

    Thanks for this post, I’ll have to keep it bookmarked so I can link it when some loony throws up on my blog.

  2. declan says:

    Your welcome Eli – not sure what you mean though! – ‘some loony throws up’. Will the Polyurethane Foam have a function with that?

  3. Moukhtar says:

    Thanks this post is very good and instructive. I am new to the that field, and wish to know about the outcome of a single unit (one container/ and one bed) in case of tilapia or mullet farming. A second concern is where one can get the seed ?
    Thanks again.

  4. declan says:

    Hi Moukhtar – Nigel is out on fieldwork right now but will address your query when he returns.

  5. danny says:

    Hi your brother was kind enough to pass on your link ,i had just posted a message on the backyard aquaponice forum and he got in touch ,i recomend the forum to any body with an intrest ,,,any way how do your grow beds drain ,,,is it simply holes in the bottom ,or asyphon ?and if a syphon how did you set that up ,,i would like to set up something along the same lines at home ,well excatly the same ,,thank you rgards Dan
    ps i know it very late in the year but if i have it up and running may be i could be planting in the spring ta

  6. Mike says:

    I love the article, thanks!

    Trying to live the lifestyle of a Pescatarian, this makes eating mostly free, Yay!

  7. Shea says:

    Not sure if you meant for this to happen, but, your link to this page from

    is directing people to

    Love the info, Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  8. declan says:

    TY Shea – Think it’s fixed now – don’t know how that could have been.. strange glitch indeed.

  9. Elsa says:

    This is a wonderful idea, I want to get one up and running, how do I find out how many fish I need per tray or square meter? What kind of fish, I have recently moved to Italy and have no idea where to find a hatchery.

    Thanks for your blog!

  10. declan says:

    Hi Elsa
    Best place to start would be to download the IBC of Aquaponics, you will find a link here –
    Kind regards

  11. Veronica says:

    Have u still got the aquaponics system going? How’s it going now? Have u moved on from goldfish? Is it outdoors still or in tunnel? Love to know how you’re getting on.

  12. declan says:

    Hi Veronica

    We lost our fish in the big freeze last winter I’m afraid. Still working on upgrading to a polytunnel, but it’s very slow progress – we were distracted by archaeology, ecology, beer and the general running of the business for some time, but are hopeful of getting back into the aquaponics later this year. Will post updates here.


  13. Karl says:

    Hope your aquaponics experiment is still alive. It’s encouraging to see native successes (and difficulties overcome) in this new area. I am looking forward to any more info on progress. all the best.

Leave a Reply