Dabbling in Backyard Aquaponics, Setting up the tanks

So, my facebook friends have gotten some hints at what we’ve been up to the last couple weeks, even as I have been rather lax in writing. Which is kind of weird because I’m very excited about it. So here’s a sneak peek for you, too.

And our big project for the year is an aquaponics experiment.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have had a clue what that was.

One year ago, I thought my husband was slightly loopy.

And now I have five tanks sitting in my garage waiting for the next step.

Before I get there, however, this is pretty much what we are going for.

aquaponics tanks

See the grow bed on top? That will be full of nice garden veggies. The tank underneath will be full of fish. For the moment, we’re planning on getting catfish because we can get them locally, they do well with our climate and they handle poor water conditions. Once the system has been running for several months, we may switch to a more sensitive fish. But first we have to get it running.

The first step was getting the IBCs. These are used to transport liquids and they are big. I believe ours hold 275 gallons. Well, at least they did before we cut them apart.

You have to watch what was transported in them. Most of ours contained bacteria and enzymes to aid in the fermentation of ethanol. Nothing harmful to fish, so a good cleaning was all that was needed.

Then we decided to give our son some power tools because we spent all day building this and had to be able to count it toward our children’s education somehow. Shop? Science? Math? All of the above?

He might have been a wee bit excited about that. Maybe too much so. But after you get those top bars off, you can slide the liner out and start cutting the whole thing up.

That’s my favorite part. It is loud. It sprays a shower of sparks. And it involves power tools my husband has never used before.

Isn’t that cool?

Now, I had actually taken pictures of every step of the process, but then I thought that would get a bit tedious. After all, most of you will probably not ever actually make one. And if you want to, you’d be better off following the directions we followed.

After all, they got us this far.

planted aquaponics tanks


If you are at all interested in trying this out yourself, we got the directions and the demonstration absolutely free from Backyard Aquaponics. Here is their free e-book on setting up a backyard aquaponics system.

And the video we have watched over and over.

I can’t wait to get started on the next step!

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11 Comments on "Dabbling in Backyard Aquaponics, Setting up the tanks"

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Oh wow! That is on our next year plan so thank you for posting about it. Are you going to try Tilapia? That is what I would love to grow, but are they harder to raise?

Super exciting. I hope you post more about it as you go along.


I would love to raise tilapia. They’re super yummy and easy to raise . . . so long as you can keep their water warm. They’re tropical so start dying if the water temperature falls below 60. That’s a difficult temperature to keep outside in Nebraska. Long term plans include possibly heating the garage, however, at which point we might switch.

I like the idea of Tilapia because they’re easy to breed. 🙂


I love it! and I love catfish. Where did you get your tanks?


Thanks! We got them from someone on craigslist. These were $50 a piece. So many people are using them for different things that the prices are starting to go up in a lot of places, though. It also depends on what was transported in them. If they transported nontoxic things, they’re worth more. You should be able to tell, though. They should be labeled and you can check online to see what it is and how safe it is to use.


Great tutorial – thanks for posting it. I’m glad you mentioned (in the comments) about knowing what the IBC’s were used for prior if you are buying used. Gotta make sure they are cleaned out good before you grow your food/fish in them!


[…] the pump we needed to connect the hose to), we finally got everything we needed to finish off our first aquaponics tank made from an IBC. A little fiddling here and there and it was ready to plug […]


[…] Dabbling in Backyard Aquaponics – With a mix of text and lots of photos this article shows a family setting up an aquaponics system to grow their own fish and veggies. The article also includes a link to a helpful video on building an aquaponic system. […]


Very nice. I dabble in Aquaponics myself. My system has been running for about eight months both indoors and outside. Also chopping up an IBC for a larger sump and floating raft bed!


How long do u leave the pump on for.Also i was thinking off using solar pump.

Murray Hallam

Looking great work dear, I really appreciated to you on this quality work. Nice post!!