Total Pageviews

Saturday, September 3, 2011

3 - Setting Up the Tanks

Tanks and materials for the 365 Aquaponics System

The first thing you need to have in an aquaponics system is a way to hold water.

In order to achieve system stability and grow an interesting quantity of food and fish, you’ll want to shoot for a water volume of 250 gallons. That’s a lot of water.

There are a lot of options. Concrete ponds, International Bulk Container (IBC) totes, 55-gallon drums, wood structures lined with plastic. For the 365 Aquaponics system, I chose stock tanks.
Here are my reasons for using stock tanks.

They are an existing and proven product. Stock tanks were designed to hold water for cattle, sheep, and other large livestock. They were designed to withstand day to day abuse from such livestock and the elements in which the livestock lives. Because plastic stock tanks are rugged, large capacity, and constructed from food grade plastic, they are often used by restaurants for food storage and preparation. Perhaps most important, they should be locally available.

When you’re buying something this big and having it delivered to your home, you’ll pay a hundred dollars or more just for shipping. If you can get it in stock from a local agriculture store, the shipping to the store has already been covered by the store as part of the cost of doing business.

They require little modification, if any. Grow beds in the 365 Aquaponics System have a single easy to drill hole (1” if using ‘English’ units, 25 mm if using metric). Beyond stacking some cinder blocks and planks, I don’t need to build support structures.

So here’s a video clip showing me preparing the stock tanks for the 365 Aquaponics System.


  1. Ace Hardware often has these Rubbermaid tanks in stock, or they can special order them to their store with no additional shipping charges. Best deal I've found and Ace Hardware is a co-op of locally owned and operated stores so more of your money stays local.

  2. Good to know! I got my tanks via Southern States, which is the local agricultural coop.

  3. How many fish can you get in one of those tanks? Everything I've read says a 3 foot water depth is best but I have seen so many designs where 1.5 feet is average.

  4. hi meg,

    when u say 250 gallons that the total of the two grow beds and fish tank .....50 gal + 50 gal + 150 gal = 250 gal ?

  5. The gold standard is to have a system that contains roughly 250 gallons of water (1000 liters). It turns out that when the grow beds are full of rocks (gravel, clay beads, etc.) that they can hold about 1/4th the volume of the grow bed in water as well. So this system with its two 100 gallon tanks and four 50 gallon tanks in fact could hold 250 gallons.

    I personally like having a fish tank and sump tank that together could hold 250 gallons when the power is off (i.e., the grow beds are drained). But as long as it's close to 250 instead of close to 60, you'll be pretty OK.

  6. Did you say that you have the "specifications" for the 365 system on a pdf file? If so where can I get a copy?
    Thanks and God Bless:)

    1. Hi Holly,

      I ended up getting tapped to write The Complete Idiot's Guide to Aquaponic Gardening, and the plans for the 365 system are in that book, in Chapter 24. It's pretty easy though - drill a 1" hole in the bottom of a 50 gallon tank (near one end), install a bulkhead fitting made from threaded 3/4" PVC electrical conduit connectors (#18 o-ring optional), add 3/4" standpipe, bell siphon, and media guard, put a drain pipe under the bulkhead fitting with a 45 degree elbow with another short length of pipe, support the grow bed so it just barely overhangs the 100 gallon tank beneath (cinder blocks and lumber works well, or heavy duty 2' x 4' shelving). Fill growbed with rocks, fill 100 gallon tank with water, add a pump (~400 gph), and let her rip. There are other ways to plumb this all up. These videos show a system where there is a sump and four grow beds. I've seen other systems that use the same capacity pump (1000 gph) to irrigate nearly 10,000 gallons worth of grow bed (media and floating raft).

      Though the 365 system plans aren't available on the free preview on Amazon (and, I think the websites have the first several chapters of the book available as a free preview. Rather than just copy what I did here, I suggest you read the first 2-3 chapters to get an idea of what *your* system should look like, then proceed accordingly.

      Good luck!

  7. I already bought the book, but what you are doing here is more like what I am building, also I will have to review, but I thought the book just tells how to build the components-not how to set the tanks up. Also it does not tell about the amount of water. Do you have to have the same size grow tanks as you have for your fish-ie: if you have a 100 lb fish tank-you have to have two fifty pound grow tanks or four twenty five lb. grow tanks? Yes it's a good think the book is for dummies because I don't understand much about this whatsoever. Thanks and God Bless:)

  8. Hi Holly,

    For starters, I recommend you have the same grow bed volume as you have in your combined tanks (e.g., sump tank and fish tank). You can adequately filter your fish water even if your grow beds have a bit less volume than your fish/sump tanks. With enough fish, you can add more grow bed volume. Many people talk about having twice as much grow bed volume as they have in their fish tank/sump.

    Good luck!