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How to convert your fish tank into an aquaponic system


The days where people used to possess things just to show off are gone. Without utility, nothing stays in the house. Adopting this philosophy, fish tanks also have stopped being just a trophy and started being in use as well. What’s that use? Aquaponics!

With some tubes, a pump, and a bunch of homemade items, it’s very easy to convert your little fish tank into a self-sustaining farming system called aquaponics.

Interested? Want detailed instructions about how to convert your fish tank into an aquaponic system? I am here to serve all your needs.

Stick with me and find out more about this awesome idea!

Making an aquaponic system at home

There are countless ways of turning your precious fish sanctuary into an aquaponic system.

You could take big machines and lay out carpets of growing medium on a giant floor space [for example, inside a garage], or you could even make do with something small like hanging a tray over a 10-gallon fish tank. It is totally up to the owner.

What I’m going to show has nothing to do with fanciness, just a straight, simple, and effective aquaponics system made out of a fish tank.

Are you excited to go? Then let’s get into it-

Required materials

  • 1.Water pump
  • 2.Post sleeve
  • 3.Tubes
  • 4.Net pots
  • 5.Electric drill
  • 6.7/8” Hole saw
  • 7.¼” drill bit
  • 8.Growing medium
  • 9.Marine sealant
  • 10.Saw
  • 11.Marker
  • 12.Bell siphon

After gathering all the necessary items, it’s time to step into the ring, one fish tank with an aquaponic system coming right up! Just follow these simple steps:

1.Sizing up the chamber

First, we’ll take the post sleeve to use it as a water chamber. A post sleeve made out of PVC works the best in this case because it’s easier to drill and provides more stability than foams.

Place the post sleeve on top of your fish tank, mark its edges then cut off any extra portion with a saw. If you’re unsure how much to trim, then do it little by little so that you can come back for more.

Attach caps on each end when you’re done so it’ll stay fitted.

2.Making inlets and outlets

It’s time to bring out your drill and have some fun. Get your 7/8” hole saw and attach it to the drill. Power up the saw and make a hole in your currently makeshift water chamber.

Remember to hold the drill steadily; otherwise, you might mess up and deform the hole. Where you want to place your inlet and outlet depends on where you’d set the pump and other equipment; so basically, it’s your choice.

I’ll suggest having the inlet and outlet 2 inches above the bottom of the sleeve. Do you know the height of the inlet doesn’t really matter? Are you going to ask me why am I so stiff about the measurements if it doesn’t matter?

The height of the outlet dictates the water level inside the chamber. It’d be great if the outlet is greater than the inlet.

When you’re done with the holes, you have to put the bell siphon inside. Place it in a manner that the ring goes outside the chamber and then you can tighten it with the nut. Then, you have to attach the connector with the tubes.

3.Placing Net pots

You need your thinking hat for this one. How many net pots you want depends on the length of the sleeve. I’m sure you don’t want your picture-perfect aquarium setup to be ruined by sloppy pot placement.

So, measure the length properly, then depending on the net pots’ diameter, figure out the spacing between each of them, so they’re hanging at a uniform distance.

Retake the marker and mark the diameter of the pots on the top surface of the sleeve. Bring out your drill again and carefully make holes with the hole saw.

I’ll share a trick with you. Use the drill bits on the marked areas first for an indentation. Making holes would be more comfortable that way. Don’t forget that to hold the drill steadily as the hole saw digs into the PVC sleeve.

If you followed the instructions till now properly, you would have beautifully drilled holes that’d look absolutely gorgeous with the net pots when you’re finished with this project.

Slide in the net pots. Then fill them up with a growing medium. The best kind of growing medium for this kind of aquaponic system is hydroton, in my opinion.

If you want alternatives, you can use plastic cups instead of net pots. A popular replacement for hydroton is sand and gravel mix, coconut fiber, rice hulls, etc. Although I’d still vouch for net pots and hydroton.

We’re 80% done; hang in there just a while longer!

4.Connecting the pump and chamber

The entrée is done, we’ll start the main dish now. Place the pump inside the fish tank and connect it with the chamber inlet using tubes and, you’re done! Compared to the previous steps, this is a cakewalk.


Here comes the tricky part. When everything has fit right in place, you need to seal it so there’s no kind of leakage. Glues are a big no-no because most glues are toxic to fish. A marine sealant is highly recommended.

Use the sealant on the caps and the cavities of the sleeves so that they can fit like a glove. Now, you should have everything in place. Turn on the pump and your aquaponic system would be ready to go!

Say hello to your new plants

Oh nice, you made it all the way down here! That means you’re well versed with how to convert your fish tank into an aquaponic system by now. It’s time we put what you’ve learned into action. Knowledge isn’t worth it if it is not used, right?

Start gathering all the necessary items and follow what I’ve suggested thoroughly, and you’ll have one sleek aquaponic fish tank at your service. Your fishes are waiting for their new friends. Good luck!