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Trellis for AP

My beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes refused to stop growing. When they produced many runners over 5 foot long, I decided I should have already had them “trained” on a safe grow path.


The result is four trellises. Three are basic 8 foot tall ladder trellis

One trellis is a 6’ diameter ½ circle arch.

All are made from ½” EMT galvanized conduit and 18 gauge galvanized wire. I used PVC “Tees” to join the horizontal pipe to the vertical up rights. The joints are secured by drilling a hole and using #8 ½” self tapping, hex head screws.

Trellis with Cucumbers

Trellis with Cucumbers

Also, the screws are placed along the pipes on a 5″ grid pattern. This works to weave the wire around to make 5” grids.

Trellis Wire Guide Screws

Trellis Wire Guide Screws

Tee Joints

I found two types of PVC “Tees” that worked well to support the right angle joints made from ½” conduit.

One is black PVC “Tee” used to join black sprinkler or drip irrigation plastic pipe. The second is white PVC “Tee” that has three ½” threaded connections.


Tee Black PVC

Tee Black PVC

Both required I use my ½” hole saw to drill the holes out for a good friction fit for the metal conduit.

Trellis PVC Reamer

Trellis PVC Reamer


To mount the conduit trellis to the grow bed IBC metal frames I used two 2” worm gear pipe clamps to attached the bottom horizontal bar to the top IBC grow bed horizontal bar. My design had the bottom pipe the same height as the top pipe on the IBC growbed frames, when the bottom end of the trellis conduit is on the ground.

Trellis Hose Clamp Mounting

Trellis Hose Clamp Mounting

The two bottom ends of the trellis set over two pieces of 1/4” rebar driven into the ground. This four point mounting is very sturdy.

Trellis Rebar

Trellis Rebar

Plant support

I just wove the long plant runners vertically, in and out of the 18 gauge wire grids on the trellis.


The trellis were fun to build, work well and should last for many years. Also, they are easy to move and reuse. I would advice smarter grouping of plants when planting in the grow beds. All of the tall winding plants should be on one side of the grow bed so you can use one trellis per grow bed for all the tall plants. Also, having the tall plants on the down side from the sun as it crosses the sky, would allow no shade to fall on the rest of the grow bed.


Height of Ladder Trellis 89”

Width 35”

Horizontal pipe heights 1st 29″ or 32″, 2nd 48”, 3rd 67.5”, 4th (top) 87’ center 89” top of top leg.

Trellis Raw Frame

Trellis Raw Frame

Parts List

5 each ½” EMT galvanized conduit.        $2.00 * 5 =             $10.00

6 each black or white PVC “Tees”.            $1.70 * 6 =             $10.20

1/2 box of 100 each #8 self taping hex head screws              $5.00

One drill bit                                                                                        $5.00

½ roll of 18 AWG galvanized wire              $10.00/2=            $5.00

2 each 1 foot ¼” rebar                                    $2.00*2=              $4.00

2 each 2” diameter hose clamps                  $3.00*2=              $6.00

Project total cost:                                                                         $45.20

Labor: about 3 hours

Tools: hacksaw, drill motor, hex head screwdriver, pliers, hammer

Rafts Troughs Liner and Rocks

Raft with Holes

Raft with Holes


The 2” Dow Corning blue board is recommended by Friendly Aquaponics. Dow Blue Board Info

The 1: foam will float lettuce and other plants OK, but not much mechanical strength to support the net pots that the plants grow in. Also even 2” foam will break easily if stressed like lifting a big piece off full of plants, I cut mine into 2 foot by 4 foot or 2 by 2 foot sections.

Two types of Styrofoam, closed cell and open. The 2” Dow Corning blue board is closed cell, IE no water absorption. The open cell will “powder out” into little bubble shaped pieces, as it ages. Think of the older ice chests that work a while and then flake into pieces

Also, watch for food grade properties. Some foam is made with cyanide and I would not want that near my food products.

It had “snap” lines longwise in the foam making it subject to breaking easily. This is how installers break the foam to incremental sizes when they install it on the outside of a house. I painted the snap lines with 3-4 coats of good latex outdoor paint and that seemed to make it stronger.

I contacted Home Depot and Lowes stores and called corporate HQ. No one had Dow blue board in Dallas area. I emailed the Dow Rep and he recommended a few of his “listed” distributors, none had any in stock but one could order by the truck load. One guy at 84 Lumber recommended SSI.

I found Dow Corning Blue Board” 2inch thick insulation in North West Dallas at SSI. They have several locations in TX, LA, and OK. Blue board cost was $1.31/sq ft $41.92 a board, They charge by the square foot and sell 4’x8’ pieces.

2367 Glenda Lane,
Dallas, TX 75229-3318
(972) 243-0676 ‎


Friendly AP recommended 8” of water. The deeper the water (more volume) the less it is effected by temp changes. Also root depth could be enhanced as roots on my taller plants get to be 2 foot long or so.

Rafts and tall plants don’t work well together. Plants fall over due to poor mechanical support with the net pot and the raft. I tried building wire cages for taller plants, but the wind blew them over.

Plants that grow long like melons, beans, tomatoes, will suffer from the raft movement unless all the plant is on top of the raft. Ex: water levels change and raft movement causes root stem stress and damage.

Rafts vs Rocks


Rafts systems are great for plants that are broad and not too tall, like lettuce.

Raft systems don’t filter the fish effluent and algae as well as media (rock) based systems do, so plan on adding a mechanical and ideally a biological filter to your raft system, especially in Texas where the strong sun and heat grow Algae so well.

I have found that seeds start better outside the raft system. I use a watering table where I start the seeds in net pots filled with coarse coconut coir fibers or strips of coconut coir matt that has been washed and rolled into spirals 2” tall, then inserted into the net pots. Be sure to cover the seeds so they are in the dark. The watering table allows me to keep all the seedlings stacked together for easy watering. I often put my seedlings into shallow plastic trays and put an inch of AP water in the bottom of the tray.

Rock systems work well with small to tall plants, even tomatoes and melons, just lay the bulk of the plant along the growbeds on the ground, etc. Rocks filter the effluent better than raft systems, especially with worms in the rocks.

Rocks generally require a lot of physical work to sort sizes and to wash so you don’t get dirty fish tank water. I like 1/2” to 3/4” diameter rock sizes as the grow bed media. Be very selective about what you buy so that it does not require sorting and so much washing. Hydroton is ideal but costly. Rock/gravel is cheap and labor intensive. Expanded shale has been used by others and worth investigating. Lava rock has lots of surface area and is light but is sharp and can damage roots and worms from movement. The black lava rock is preferred as the red powders out more; both usually come with a lot of dust and dirt. Both are damaged by a lot of mechanical handling, like using a powered rock washer.

Here is a good picture of large plants in a rock system Murray Hallam

Murry Hallum Bolg

Murry Hallum Bolg


Trough Liner

Trough with Liner

Trough with Liner

Make sure your trough liner is food grade, Ex: LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) and Food grade. Don’t use EPDM as it outgases stuff you don’t want in your plants or your stomach. HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) is good but is expensive.

Thickness of 20 mills or more is good. Liners with reinforcement is better, like fiberglass etc. I used the Home Depot pond liner sheets, 11’ by 6’ size I think it was. Their website shows which are LDPM types. Get the part number and look for it at the Store, or just order it on line.

Note: The Home Depot liner works well but is black on both sides, making it very hard to see the bottom of your troughs. Hold out for the with liner, at least for the inside color.

Two kinds of liner Friendly Aquaponics has used successfully are 23-mil P2000 by Inland Plastics Company, and 20-mil DuraSkrim R20WW by Raven Industries.

Quote from FAP newsletter:
“Raven Industries is now selling trough liner in small quantities directly to aquaponics end-users. Their product 20WW is a 20-mil, LDPE, white string-reinforced, plastic sheeting containing UV inhibitors and thermal stabilizers to assure long outdoor life.  (LDPE = Low density polyethylene)”

I have heard this is used by several local APers, but make sure of what you are getting.

Frank Morgan found another local to Dallas source for the 2″ Dow Square Board, May 22, 2012.
The Site is:  and they regularly stock this 2″ board and charge $35.42 per sheet.  They are a subsidiary of Southwest Vault Builders and are located at 596 Bennett Ln in Lewisville, Texas.


Grow Bed Construction Questions

Raft System and Shade Frame

Several people have discovered that finding the right materials for the Micro 64 to be a challenge. Here is some feedback that might be useful to others.

Q1: Did you use Borate (HiBor) treated wood for your system and if so, where did you find it?

Couldn’t find it, just used good quality outdoor plywood for the base sealed with good outdoor primer

Used good quality 1x2s on top of raft tanks and painted everything with 2-3 coats before assembling.

Q2: What type of paint to you recommend for the wood and did you prime it before painting?

I used Benjamin Moore paint from Ace Hardware. Great paint, but expensive. Bear brand of primer and out door paint from Home Depot works well too.



I used Blue and White paint. The white reflects the suns heat and the blue is just cool!

Q3: I noticed that people say treated wood needs to dry before painting.
Did you find this to be a problem, or did you just start painting right away?

If it is freshly made, the chemicals in it leach and the paint peals off. I did not use treated wood. Be sure to seal it well all over, especially on the bottom edge.

Q4: Did you use ACX plywood? I’m finding that it isn’t easy to come by.
Could I use another type of plywood or do you know where to find the right stuff?

Legs for raft tanks:
Also, I added two short upright 2×4”s on each corner, of the raft tanks, between the top 2×4 and the ground. They act like legs and also keep the 1/4 plywood edges together.



Leveling raft tanks:
Be SURE to level the tanks and place them on solid footings, like undisturbed ground, so they don’t settle and your water go over the side or be low. If you have soft ground, or you have to disturb the packed soil, you might use round concrete pave stones to support the four corners.

Make sure they are smooth with the surface of the ground so the liner won’t get damaged, perhaps put a couple layers of ground cloth over them for protection.

Ground Cloth:
I put ground cloth down under everything. It has helped control the weeds a lot!
If you cut it to bury the pipes around the tanks, which I would recommend, be sure to patch it well. I used “U” shaped metal (thick wire) to stick it to the ground.

The PVC pipes will stay connected very well, with out glue, at least most places used and most of the time. By leaving the pipes unglued at key connections, it makes it a lot easier to remove a clog and clean out the algae, etc.

I buried most of my pipes around the raft tanks. This is bad if you need to work on them and good if you want to keep from stumbling over them all the time, and keep the water in them at a more stable temperature, like winter freezing issues.

I find it immensely useful to include a faucet near the pump and over the edge of the raft tank. I made mine tall enough to get a 5 gallon bucket under it when setting on the edge of the tank. No plants are planted in this location, so the unused water from the tap can go thru the hole in the raft and back into the system. I use this water to wash off the top of the rafts and plants as needed, to pull water to first water my seedlings, etc. The upright pipe is supported with a “T” type fence post, cut off and driven into the ground next to the trough. The pipe is tiew rapped to it.





The filters Friendly Aquaponics recommends work well, if you make them correctly.
See Tim instructions on his  FAP site for details. Ex: Newsletter #77  Filter Image

Filter Construction for your Fish Tank:

To build a filter use a piece of  PVC pipe(Ex: 1&1/2″) or a Union fitting for the base, depending on where you will be trying to connect your filter to your system. For the top end of the filter use a PVC cap. Cut a piece of /2″ ridged plastic screen cloth about 10″ x 14″ in size. Using the shorter dimension, rap the 1/2″ plastic screen around the PVC pipe/union and secure it with a hose clamp.The 1/2″ stiff screen makes the filter rigid and too porous.
Add an outside second layer of finer (ex: 1/8″)  mesh screen. This is cut to about the same dimensions.

Wrap the finer screen over the 1/2″ screen and secure both using the hose clamp used previously.

Now  insert the PVC cap in the other end of the screens and attache them with another hose clamp.

this completes your filter for use in your fish tank.

Here is a shot of the filter in the fish tank, made the way Tim Recommends. The T shape would not work here as well as a straight one, as the bulkhead fitting is close to the side of the tank and the filter would be short on one side of the T.

Note: Be sure to mount your filter so it does not come loose and sink to the bottom of the fish tank!. I used a small course threaded nylon screw, screwed into a hole I made with a drill bit. It stays in place until I remove it.

Trough Filters

I would recommend that you use filters for the in and out pipes in both/all of the troughs. This will keep your mosquito fish from swimming up/down your pipes as well as keeping big pieces of stuff out of your pump.

I recommend that the filters be constructed as a “T”. This is basically two filters on one PVC fitting with a PVC cap in the end of each filter.  This allows for better flow and less clogging, as well as better mechanical strength when mounted. Also, the filter is parallel to the end of the trough rather than sticking out directly under the roots of the plants on the raft.

Bulk Head Installation:
When installing the bulk head pipe fittings in the raft tanks, consider drilling the hole a little lower than recommended, which is half way between the top of the water line and the bottom of the tank. My bulk head connectors and therefore my filters are centered top to bottom. They get in the way of the rafts and roots more often than I like. Also, mounting the filters lower gives better water flow low in the raft, which I surmise mixes the oxygen and water better. The flow is not fast enough to disturb the good bacteria on the liner, etc.

Liner Bulkhead

Liner Bulkhead

Shade Frame:
Link to article

Water Levels:

Q: They say to have the fish tank above the troughs. Does this mean the bottom of the fish tank needs to be higher than the trough or will it work on the ground as long as the bulk head fitting in the tank is higher than the bulk head fitting in the tough? I’m not sure if I need to build something to put the fish tank up on.

A: The water level of the fish tank needs to be higher than the water level in the troughs for it to flow though them into the pump at the end of trough #2.

As long as this is true, the water will flow. If you want the water to flow faster, keep the outflow pipe in the fish tank short and/or larger diameter. I used 2” and ran about 25 foot to my first trough. More water flow is better as it aids moving fish solids, and getting air circulated through the system.

Drisco Pipe:

Q: In the FAP instructions under miscellaneous supplies it says you need “3/4′ drisco pipe long enough to to connect back to your water source from your hose bib at the fish tank….” I’m not understanding what this is for.

A: It’s unclear. I think they are talking about hooking up a water hose to the fish tank for filling it and if you need to later, draining it.
I installed a “water faucet” on the drain pipe coming out of the bottom of my IBC fish tank. I use it when I want to drain off some of the crud on the bottom of the fish tank or let out water due to rain overfilling the system.

Thanks to Chris Miller for some of the questions. Chris is building a Micro 64 system here is Texas.


Best First Aquaponic System

CHOP Rock System

I hear this question being asked a lot, along with many different answers. Likely the best answer is to found by doing some research (Google), see several functional systems in your area (, Yahoo Groups, etc.), gatherer data, then decide which Aquaponics system you like the best.

I’ll get you started with your research by giving you my opinion.

A: The best aquaponics system to start with is the fill and drain system built in an IBC container. Also called an ebb and flow, CHOP (constant height one pump), Chit-Pist


This is what you use for the fish tank, one grow bed, and the stand and supports for both.

An IBC is short for an Intermediate Bulk Container. It is an about 4 foot square plastic jug in a metal cage on a pallet and with a lid on the top and a drain on the bottom front side.

These are used to transport and store liquids used commercially, like soap for car washers, Karo syrup, barbeque sauce, hydraulic oil, weed killer, etc. Obviously, you want a food quality container, which means it has only been used for storing foods.


You can build your system with the following:

  1. One IBC
  2. tools to cut it into two pieces
  3. wood as a support for the grow bed that will go on top of the fish tank
  4. small water pump
  5. PVC pipe for water flow, drain or siphon
  6. over flow stand pipe
  7. 2 bulkhead fittings
  8. media
  9. Fish
  10. Plants
  11. Water
  12. Electricity
  13. A place to put your system


The grow bed is where the plants grow. Most often this is gravel (rocks). Media sized three quarters of an inch to one half inch diameter smooth rocks work best, but no limestone or marble as they dissolve and affect the system pH.

Other media is commonly used as well; clay beads (Hydroton ), expanded shale, lava rock, and decorative stone like rainbow rock. The gravel is the cheapest but may require sorting  for size or sifting out the large dirt and debris, and washing out the dust and powered clay.

Why an IBC System

  1. Large enough water volume to make the biology easy to start up and  keep balanced
  2. Easy to build and use
  3. Reasonably easy to get the IBC
  4. Reasonably priced container
  5. Lasts a long time, durable
  6. Room for expansion, just add more grow beds and plumbing
  7. Often used so you will have access to feedback relevant to your system construction


This type system cost can vary widely and are available pre-built, as kits or as parts and pieces.

Expect to pay $150 for parts and $400 to $600 for assembled systems.

Example Systems

Commercially available home starter system example


Jerry Jones Builds

This system is a handmade system taught at the local meeting in the Dallas area by Dave Pennington.


Dave's Aquaponic Home System

My fill-and-drain system is shown below before any rocks (media). It was built following plans from Murray Hallam’s “DIY Aquaponics” DVD. It was later is painted with plastic primer and paint to avoid Algae, see first picture.

Bob's Basic CHOP System

Other type Systems

The fill and drain system is called a Constant Height One Pump (CHOP) system (also called Chift Pist). Another popular system is the deep water raft system. It is good for plants that are not tall or heavy and that do not grow large heavy crops like tomatoes, melons, etc.


I think the best aquaponics best system for use in Texas is the fill and drain system built in an IBC container. Be sure to do your research and leg work.


IBC container sources, people who sell them.
Dave Pennington sells them
Adam Cohen

Plans Murray Hallam’s DVD “DIY Aquaponics”

Example of a CHOP system operation  and

Summary Year One

Jack and Mary Zumwalt asked if we have any advice for the Texas APers. Seems they visited “Friendly” HI and are planning on planting in Texas soon. I thought the best answer for that might be a year one summary mixed with advice. My attempt to that end follows:

First Squash 26Oct11

First Squash 26Oct11


We have a Friendly Aquaponics “Micro System 64”, Deep water trough (raft) system with 72 X 2 (i.e. 144) two inch net pots and any seed we could find that was supposed to grow locally. We wanted a lot of “root” experience quickly. System description at end of article.

Our summer temps were over 100 degrees for 70 days or more, so our AP start in July made any plant growth unexpected. Many seed didn’t even germinate, others tried and withered.

Sun and Shade:

Shade Frame with Cloth

Shade Frame with Cloth

Use shade cloth/frame when hot to help cool and protect from strong sun, also helps keep algae down. The sun cooked what plants did grow in July and August. The sun grew one plan unbelievably well, Algae. I think it has a 4 hour life span and reproduces 3-4 times a day, then dies to become sludge to deal with.



I built a shade frame to slide over one trough which helped a lot! I’ll likely use it as a mini green house to protect the plants in the cooler weather with plastic vs shade cloth on top; that’s if my fish and plants make it into our unpredictable fall/winter weather mix.

Due to hail storms and winds, our AP plants are pretty beat up now, late October.

The temps are in mid to low 50s at night so Mozambique Tilapia will likely die soon, if we don’t eat them first.

We got minimal eatables from our growth July – October, did get lettuce, squash, cucumber, peppers, some tomatoes, and Taro.


System layout: Make sure the ground you build troughs on is level and firmly packed, especially where the troughs touch the ground.


Bury the pipes but include clean outs strategically, screw in plugs work well. Do not over tighten PVC to PVC threads. Oversize the pipes to ease water flow. Keep plumbing short. Use curved 90 degree turns rather than 90 degree bends.

Water Faucet:



Consider installing turn off valves strategically placed. Add a faucet that you can connect a hose to near the pump, in the PVC. It makes it easy to access system water for seedlings, washing rafts off, moving system water when you have heavy rains, etc.


System Levels 27Jul11

System Levels 27Jul11

Keep good records when you start. Read your system levels at least – every other day for the first month and then every third day for the second month. I charted my readings to better understand the Nitrogen cycle and would have misunderstood it had I not done so.


Temp 111

Temp 111

It is helpful to be able to read the water and air temperature. I read it at about ½ down in my 4 foot of water in the IBC fish tank.


First Plants

First Plants



Homemade Seedling Trays

Homemade Seedling Trays

Start seeds indoor under cheap grow lights or window seal a few weeks before planting time.

Get Seeds in the system earliest spring date seed packet recommends

When wind or storm comes, cover to protect, especially when you have taller plants


Keep filters on pipes in trough


First Tilapia

First Tilapia

I started with 10 pounds of Mozembique Tilapia, from a local breeder, RS. They were almost a pound each.

Mosquito Eating Fish

Mosquito Eating Fish

Keep mosquito eating fish, during warm weather especially, in trough, and perhaps fish tank or sumps if other fish not large enough to eat them. Research having algae eater fish in the troughs.  Ex: Plecostomus (I plan to have some.)

Fish Food:

Fish Food Label-Rangen

Fish Food Label-Rangen

Feed fish food recommended or equivalent. 1/8 Rangen floating catfish food 35% protein, 5-5-10. I can’t get it without paying shipping from mid America plant so I use Purina equivalent.

Any food fish don’t eat, remove from fish tank after say :30 minutes, otherwise it goes to pollute water.

If your food is good, your fish process it and poop cleaner waste, which dissolves and processes into nitrates.


Air Stones

Air Stones

Keep extra air stones and change out often, say 4 weeks, less in summer Algae time. Soak and clean over night.

Keep backup air pump. Fish die quickly without air.


Keep a light on the circuit with your pumps so you can see that power is on easily. One goof with cord unplugged or a breaker off can be costly.


IBC Container Bottle

IBC Container Bottle

Keep a backup tank you can pump water into for various uses: de-chlorinating water, storing rain water to replace evaporated water, temporary fish storage. I also keep 5 five gallon buckets to use for various tasks. Often I keep water in it a couple days to vent the Chloramine, then add it to the troughs to replace the water evaporating.


My First Fish

My First Fish

Keep a small fish net to use for cleaning things out of the water,

Keep a large fish net with long handle for “fishing” out fish from the water.


Bucket Filter Mount

Bucket Filter Mount

I filter my fish tank water as Algae builds up on the sides of the raft, and gets on plant roots, and there is lots of poop in the tank.

I had issues with the fish tank water getting lots of solids and turning medium green. Because it is designed with a small screen filter on the Fish tank, it got clogged a lot. I built a 5 gallon 4 stage mechanical filter to go into the Fish Tank drain line. It needs to be cleaned every 3-4 days. I understand that the system design does not need to be filtered (in HI), but I was uncomfortable getting any more fish poop into the troughs. Maybe Texas fish poop more, cause everything IS larger in Texas!

Media – We tried these:

  1. Hydroton
  2. Grodan – Fiberglass plugs
  3. Rapid Rooter plugs
  4. Coconut coir
  5. Vermiculite and Coconut coir (from bricks)
    Coconut matting, rolled


Hydroton works

Hydroton works

Hydroton Helper

Hydroton Helper

Hydroton is made in Germany from extruded clay pellets fired in a very hot oven. They expand inside and form a hard raw pottery like exterior, some float from the porous centers. They are light, about ½” diameter, marble like, and expensive.

They do not support plants well, but work OK with self supporting plants that spread out onto the raft, like Lettuce.

Grodan – Fiberglass plugs:

Stayed moist easy, grew seeds well, easy to tear off of a plant to transplant, but did not have the mechanical strength to support vertical plant growth. Too small to fit into 2” net pots. We added Hydroton beads around it to hold it in the net pots. Fiberglass plugs worked well for sprouting seedlings for the “rock” media system.

Rapid Rooter plugs:

These are about 1” diameter by 1&1/2” tall and came moist. They fit into mating little nursing trays with a water tray underneath and clear lid. They grey seeds well, but did not work in the net pots, plants fell over when they got large. Even adding Hydroton around the plugs when planted, did not provide adequate for taller plants.

Rapid rooter plugs worked OK for Lettuce, etc. in the raft system and worked well for sprouting seedlings for the “rock” media system. We purchased the rapid rooter plugs from Sylvia at

Coconut coir (from bricks):

Coco Coir

Coco Coir

Coconut coir from “small” dried bricks. It turned the water brown and washed out of the pots into the system.

Coco Coir Mess

Coco Coir Mess

Vermiculite and Coconut coir (from bricks)



Same as with brick coconut coir, dirty brown water and media washed into system. The vermiculate floated away quicker than the coir.

This is the media that Friendly recommends be used, but I had no luck figuring it out. Perhaps Friendly will post a picture or video of the raw materials they use for planting and how the use it to plant seedlings.

Coconut mats, trimmed into 1&1/2” by 9” strips, rolled and stuffed into net pots, Seeds were rolled in or added in the middle. This worked the best of all media tried. It was a lot of time consuming hand work, and likely will become too root bound to reuse.

System Description:



Friendly Aquaponics “Micro System 64”, Deep water trough (raft) system

Square Edge Blue Board

Square Edge Blue Board

Two about 4’ by 8’ grow beds with 2” Corning Blue Board Styrofoam rafts, each with 72, 2” holes filled with 2” net pots, planted with seeds.

Fish Tank: 250 gallon Fish tank is an IBC (Intermediate (Sized) Bulk Container).

Fish Tank

Fish Tank

Pump: Danner Manufacturing Supreme Classic Model 3 (350GPH) water pump. Pipes are buried in ground with clean outs.



Air: Two Tetra Whisper AP300 Aquarium air pumps, one in fish tank, one in troughs.

Air Pump for Fish

Air Pump for Fish


Note: We also have a separate flood and drain system fashioned after Murray’s design with large gold fish and one grow bed full of rocks and plants.


Training, University of Virgin Islands

Training, Friendly Aquaponics

Aquaponics Book = “Aquaponic Gardening: A Step by Step Guide to Growing Fish and Vegetables Together” by Sylvia Bernstein


Systems & Resources:

Micro System 64 & 128

Apartment sized system

Toteponics Murray Hallum ebb and flow, rock for media system


Manual, Barrelponics_manual.pdf

Everybody likes a free meal:



Nitrogen Cycle

The Nitrogen Cycle

  1. Fish produce Ammonia (NH3  is Nitrogen + Hydrogen) from their gills, and poo and pee.
  2. Nitrosomonas bacteria breaks down the wastes from the fish, by converting Ammonia into Nitrites.
  3. Nitrites are then converted into Nitrates by Nitrobacter bacteria
  4. The plants absorb the nitrates as plant food
  5. The water is now clean and returned to the fish

The best graphic of the Nitrogen Cycle I have found is from

nitrogen cycle

The Nitrogen Cycle

Fish Tank IBC

Here is a picture of the 240 gallon fish tank we made out of an Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC).

Fish Tank IBC

Fish Tank IBC

When I started building my first Aquaponics system I bought a DVD and plans from Murray Hallam for his CHOP2 system. He uses IBC containers for the fish tank and the grow beds. Right now I am not using the grow beds because I got stuck deciding on what media to use. Hydroton was out of my price range and getting rocks I liked, the right size, and at a reasonable price delayed me.

While I was shopping for media, I discovered Friendly Aquaponics (FAP) and really liked their grow beds and some of the short cuts they are using to save money. They have about 5500 gallons of grow beds and sell Organic Lettuce to Costco in Hawaii.

Their systems and growing processes are the only ones that are certified organic, which will bring you 50% to 100% more for the same produce on the wholesale market. This got me excited!

So I for my first system I am using 2 each of the FAP 4’x8’x 8″, deep water raft grow beds and the CHOP2 IBC 240 gallon fish tank for my system. All my construction and system design follows FAP’s plans.

FAP Micro System 64 and 128. The plans cost $99 and come with great info about aquaponics and system DIY.

More info on my site about FAP Micro System 64 and 128.

Make sure you use a food grade IBC, so that you know the liquid that was in it was safe to consume by you, your fish, and your plants. Often these are used to ship corn sugar, honey, and other eatable liquids.

These are referred to interchangeably as TOTES and TANKS.  IBC Totes are large tanks which are used to store and transport fluids and other bulk materials.

IBC Tote Container

IBC Tote Container

IBCs come as either a 275 Gallons IBC Tank or 330 Gallon IBC Tank, depending on your make and model.  Some of these bulk containers may hold less material, but they are less common.

These shipping container are used for shipping liquids and consist of 3 parts:

  • IBC Plastic Container Bottle
  • IBC Metal Cage
  • Container’s Pallet (made of Wood, Plastic, or Metal)
IBC Container Bottle

IBC Container Bottle


IBC Metal Cage and Pallet

IBC Metal Cage and Pallet


Length is 48″, width is 40″ and height is 46″ for the 275 gallon IBC
Length is 48″, width is 40″ and height is 54″ for the 330 gallon IBC

Typical costs:

I have seen IBCs for sale from $75 to $110 for a 275 gallon, only used once container.

The 275 gallon IBC containers I purchased cost $75 each for 4 plus $30 for delivery.
I purchased from OutlawBob at
and found Bob via Craig’s list. He delivers in the DFW area.

Make sure you as for food grade IBCs and ask for a record of what was in the container.