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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

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