Small Town Homestead
Small Town Homestead
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  • New Castle, IN

How To Build A Simple Aquaponics System Using An IBC

5 Materials
$200
1 Day
Easy

Have you ever wanted to get started with aquaponics but maybe you thought it looked a little difficult? Well I hope this post can convince you otherwise. Here is how to build a simple aquaponics system using an IBC.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

Much Easier Than I Thought

I had been planning on building one for a couple years but just kept putting it off. I think the reason I did that was because I thought it was going to be harder than it was to build, it was surprisingly easy. The only part that I think may be a little intimidating is the bell siphon so for my first build I just purchased one already made.


Less Expensive Than I Thought

The total cost of putting this system together was just over $200 and it could have been cheaper had I went with a smaller pump, made my bell siphon from scratch and bought the lava rocks in bulk. Not crazy expensive for the amount of food that can be produced with a system like this.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

I started with a food grade 275 gallon IBC.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

I then measured down 14 inches from the top of the cage, marked and cut both the cage and the tank. I used bolt cutters to cut the cage and a circular saw to cut the plastic tank.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

This is how the tanks stack, making a holding tank for the water and fish on the bottom and a grow bed on the top.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

I then decided I wanted to wrap the aquaponics system with wood that I repurposed from pallets. This serves a few functions; First it looks much better than a plastic tank sitting in your yard, This also helps to reduce algae build up in the tank because it reduces the amount of sunlight exposure, it also helps to regulate water temperatures because it blocks some sunlight.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

You can see from this picture that I cut off the pieces of cage that were sticking up and made a 2×4 frame around the top of the top frame giving me something to secure the other wood to and square off the top of the grow bed.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

You can see how the system is coming together from this picture. I put 3 2×4’s across the the top to sit the grow bed on which gave it some stability and raised it up a little allowing me more access to the fish tank below. I also set the grow bed as far back as I could also allowing some front access to the tank below.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

This was a good time to install the Bell Siphon Kit I purchased from Smokey Mountain Aquaponics.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

I drilled a 1 1/4 inch hole to install the bulkhead with the standing drain pipe. You just push the threaded pipe through the hole, install an o-ring from underneath then screw on the the threaded pipe from underneath.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

You can then just slide the “Bell” over the the standing pipe.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

You then just slide the guard over the Bell Siphon to keep rocks from being up against it.

how to build a simple aquaponics system using an ibc

I finished adding the pallet wood, added 12 bags of lava rock making it about 10″ deep, put in the pump attaching the water line and running it up to the grow bed. I then filled it with water and a few cheap goldfish and a couple algae covered stones from my backyard pond to start cycling the system. I then added a few plants and there it is, a running aquaponics system!


I am really starting to see the advantages to these systems more than ever before.


  • No Weeding!
  • No Watering!
  • Faster Growing
  • Great For Propagation Of Cuttings


I can see aquaponics being a huge part of my homestead in the years ahead, possibly replacing many of my raised beds. I have a lot to learn and i’m sure many trials lie ahead for me but for now it has me seeing only possibilities.

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 23 questions
  • Edmund stramiss
    on Apr 23, 2019

    Thanks for the valuable information on aquaponics. Tell me what Nutrients do you use for aquaponics plants ?

  • Alice
    on Apr 23, 2019

    I just have one question, are the fish living in the dark ???

    • Sue
      on Apr 24, 2019

      That was my question as well. I have a pond of goldfish and they like light and I believe need some sun to remain healthy.

  • Kim
    on Jun 8, 2019

    So you put fish in the bottom part ? If they don’t get any light how is this ok?

Join the conversation

2 of 33 comments
  • Nadine
    on Jul 26, 2018

    I am going to burst some bubbles here. This system dies not work efficiently if you, like us, live in an are where more than 1/3 of the year is cold to very cold. UNLESS you put the system in a green house. The reason is the bacteria that need to grow to feed the system will die off in the winter and will not grow fast enough to get restarted in the spring. This whole concept came from Australia in an area where cold weather is. Ot a problem.

  • Alice
    on Apr 23, 2019

    You are so smart. This is a great idea !!!


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