Indoor Aquaponics – Basic Guide to Indoor Aquaponics Systems

| Last Updated: February 25, 2021

In our ever expanding world, saving space has become the name of the game. So why not bring your aquaponics indoors to add some usefulness to that dusty corner, and brighten up the room at the same time? Sounds like a pretty good idea, right?

Lot's of people have fish tanks in their homes already as decoration, why not figure out a way to get a little more use out of those lazy swimmers and get yourself some fresh veggies! That's what we're going to help you accomplish in this article.

We'll go over what you're going to need to add to your already set up aquatics area, or if needed we'll walk you through how to set up a new one with a more relevant purpose.​

What is Aquaponics and Why Does it Need to Move Indoors?

We understand that some might be completely new to self reliance and the art of providing for yourself and your families through what seems like uncommon means. So let's walk through the basics before we throw you into the deep end, pun intended.

The simplest definition we can muster while still holding onto the complexity of it is that aquaponics is combining two separate farming techniques into a super farming technique. The first is fish farming, or aquaculture,​ when you raise fish in a controlled environment for the purpose of harvesting them later, and hydroponics, which is soilless growing of plants.


So you're probably wondering "If aquaculture requires fish and water, but hydroponics ALSO requires fish and water, doesn't that mean you'll need two tanks of water?" The short answer is no.

Aquaponics combines the waste produced by the fish and their need for water based plant life with the plants need for minerals and their edible roots, and makes a complementary ecosystem. The plants grow their roots into the mineral rich water from the fish's poop, and the fish get nutrients from fish food as well as the roots from the plants above. They were basically made for each other as you can see.

How Does Aquaponics Make Life Easier?

Aside from not having to stress your back pulling out weeds, rotating fish in aquaculture tanks, maintaining mating patterns of the fish, and eliminating the need for expensive fertilizer...not much at all actually.

That was a little sarcastic and we apologize, but seriously the benefits of aquaponics, whether it's indoors or outdoors, makes life many times easier.​

Aquaponics can accomplish the same yield of a soil based garden with one tenth of the amount of water used over the life of the plants. And instead of using highly expensive fertilizers that are often toxic, you get to use the excrements of the fish as a natural nutrient dense fertilizer for your plants. Seems like a win for everyone.

Why Does This Need to be Indoors?

Control is the word to focus on here. While sunlight and rainwater are great in natural environments, anyone who's had a pool or balanced the PH of an aquarium knows the struggle.

Man tries to exercise control and mother nature laughs.

So bringing this operation inside is the best bet for controlling what goes on in the ecosystem you'll be creating. Otherwise you'll spend most of your time with a PH stick in your hand and not a lot of free time.​

What Fish Are Best For Indoor Aquaponics?​

Not all fish are suited for this type of operation. The limiting factor is going to be the available space and water to house the fish.

Fingerlings or Smaller Fish

Our suggestions is that you lean more towards smaller bait fish ​that could be used to feed the other fish or to fish with on the river. Fingerlings can also be raised in an indoor controlled environment and relocated once they're grown enough to need a bigger space.

This is the most useful way to use indoor aquaponics, otherwise you'll need to have a few 55 gallon drums​ and that might not be the best living room or bedroom accessory. Unless you just don't have many visitors in the first place, and then it's no worries at all!

What Will You Need to Start an Indoor Aquaponic Tank?

The great news is if you're a handy guy or gal this shouldn't be much to worry about. You'll need the same supplies you would to build a standard frame. Two by fours, nails, a drill, and you'll need some hoses for the water pumps. 

This is the basic idea of what a finished indoor aquaponics set up would look like. Nothing too fancy, just enough to transport the water and fish "donations" to the plants.

The Fish Tank

Typically a fish tank needs one gallon of water per pounds of fish. So since you're not going to be growing tuna and marlin indoors, a simple store bought fish tank will work. Remember that we're growing the fish indoors that will likely be used to feed the fish that are grown outdoors once your operation grows, if you so choose.

However there is a method we're going to mention that you can get done on the cheap.

And for that method you're going to need an Antonius frame from IKEA, two wire baskets, and two plastic drums. One of the plastic bins will be 25l and that will be fore the pants, the other will be 50l for the fish of course.

The grow bed liners, soil mediums, and pumps and hoses will be the same as the other examples.

The Grow Bed and Soil (Soil Optional)

Your fish have a home, so now it's time to give your plants a bed to lay in.

All kidding aside, what you're going to need for your plants is just as simple as for your fish if not a little more simple. You'll just need a plastic bin that you can buy from Home Depot that hasn't been laced with harmful chemicals.

Water resistant (obviously if you're going hydro), 6-10 inch deep plastic bins should do the trick.​ You can line them with some pond liner if you're unsure of how safe the plastic is or if you've chosen to used wooden crates instead of solid plastic.

As for a growth medium you'll want to go with perlite or a fine gravel, which is what the pros use. Or if you're really ambitious you can combine perlite, gravel, and coco coir which will be the absolute best planting medium you could give these plants.

Pumps and Pipes

Above all else you want to have control of how much water is going in and out of your aquaponics set up. The best way to accomplish this is to use a valve that allows you to control the LPH (Liters Per Hour), the best option is a 600 lph valve. Used with a T connector and 13 mm pipes.

For a more detailed explanation be sure to check out this source of our info.

For the fish pump you're going to want to go with your commercial pump. You just need something that's going to keep the water moving and somewhat filtered. After all the water doesn't need to be too clean otherwise the plants won't have much benefit from the fish in the first place!

Setting it All Up

Our buddies over at instructables have a piece that ties all of this together with some of the most seamless instructions. So rather than confuse you with how we set ours up, check out this link to see how the professionals do it on the cheap!

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