Welcome to Backyard Aquaponics Central – Everything you need to know to build your own backyard aquaponics system!


The interest in aquaponics is on the rise, and we are here to help you understand what aquaponics is and how you can build your own backyard aquaponics system.

A Brief History of Aquaponics

Aquaponics is centuries old, but when it actually first started no one is quite sure. Many ancient civilizations utilized a form of this system for growing plants. The Aztecs used islands in shallow lake waters to raise plants. Asian cultures farmed rice in patty fields that included fish as a source of nutrients.

The recent rise of aquaponics is attributed to the work of Dr. Mark McMurty at North Carolina State University.  His work inspired other research institutions to follow suit and lead to the development of deep water culture grow beds by  Dr. James Rakocy and the University of the Virgin Islands.  Dr. Nick Sadivod and his colleagues in Alberta Canada discovered that a system can run well on a low PH level. Click here for more information about the history of Aquaponics. 

What Exactly is Aquaponics?

Basically, aquaponics combines aquaculture with hydroponics in a harmonious environment. Aquaponics is raising fish, or other aquatic animals in a tank. Hydroponics is raising plants in water. While in hydroponics the waste and secretions from the fish can cause toxicity which is harmful to the animal, in aquaponics this waste is broken down into nitrates which is used to by the plants as nutrients.  The water is recirculated back through the system from the plants to the fish and the process starts over.

For your backyard aquaponics system you will need three  basic things, fish, beds to grow your plant(s) in, and a pump to circulate the water. The water in the fish tank will be pumped into the plant bed. This water is full of nutrients that will aid in the growth of the plant(s). The plant will filter and clean the water, which is then pumped back into the fish tank.


Now that you have the basic idea, what exactly can you grow? The short answer is basically anything. You are limited more by space than by anything else.  The most popular plants are vegetables. Cabbage, basil, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach can give you the start to a delicious salad. You can also grow cucumbers, snow peas and cucumbers.  Even flowers such as roses and melons can be grown with your backyard aquaponics system.  The best time to plant isn’t when you first set up your system. The reason is the fish have not had enough time to produce excrement, which will them be transformed into nitrates, your plant’s favorite food.  This process can take up to three months, so carefully monitor the water to make sure it’s ready for plants.


Your system will use freshwater fish. Recently a new branch of aquaponics have found that saltwater fish can work, but you probably want to stick to freshwater for your system.  Your decision really rests on if you plan to eat the fish or not. If you do want to consume the fish, then tilapia is the most common fish used. If you don’t plan to eat the fish, then goldfish or koi would be your best bet. Other species are Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, Chinese Catfish, Largemouth, and Bluegill. One thing to keep in mind, some states do not allow all types of fish to be grown. Make sure you check before you buy.  Taking care of your fish is a priority. Whether you choose fish to eat or fish that you enjoy looking at, if you don’t care for them they can’t do their job.

Benefits of having an aquaponics system in your backyard

Setting up your own system will not take a lot of your time or money. You can start small and build up. This means you really have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain, from setting up your own aquaponics system. The materials required to get started are relatively inexpensive.  Once you have it set up, the time to maintain it is low, a few minutes each day. You need to feed the fish, plant the seeds, and then enjoy our plants once they are grown.

You can set up your system in the backyard, or you can set it up on your back porch. If you don’t have a lot of space, you can use your house or garage given that you have enough sunlight for the plants to develop.  Because it is so easy to set up you will not have to pay someone to do it for you. Even better, if you do move you can take it with you!  Just make sure you harvest all your plants before you disassemble your system.

You no longer have to buy your produce from the store!  How easy would it be to go in the backyard and harvest what you want for dinner that night? The best part is you will be eating organic plants that taste better and are cheaper than what you can buy in the store.  You not longer have to pay so much for organic vegetables.

No longer will you need to use chemical fertilizers to grow your plants. With the aquaponics system, the plants grow much faster with the natural fish “fertilizer”. This offers your plants enough nutrients to grow, and grow fast.  This saves you money as you don’t need to buy any additional “plant food”.  You save time also as you don’t have to feed your plants every day. Just make sure your fish are healthy and doing what they should, and your plants will thrive.

You may decide to have your aquaponics garden in your house, on a very small scale. You can set this up as a source of fresh vegetables and as a means of decorating your house.  Have fun choosing the fish you’d like in your home and the different kind of plants that you enjoy. Plant you seeds at different times of the year and enjoy the different maturing plants all year long. This combines aesthetics with practicality!

There you go, the basics of aquaponics!  As you can see it’s can be a relatively simple process to get your own backyard aquaponics system up and running.  First, determine where you want to put your system. The backyard may be the best place for most people, but if you are limited in space you can use a porch or deck, the garage or even in the house if there is adequate sunlight.  What kind of plants do you want to grow? Do you want to supplement your store-bought vegetables with some home grown lettuce and peppers? If you love Italian food you may want to consider starting with basil. If you are new to any sort of gardening you may want to start small and focus on one type of plant.

Next, decide if you want the fish you use to be for decorative or consumption purposes. If you are starting your aquaponics system in the house you may need to focus on a more decorative look and use goldfish or koi. If you are building your system outside and want to include fish you can eat, then smallmouth bass may the answer for you. Remember, when you do get your system set up you need to give the fish three months to produce the right amount of waste for the plants to get enough nutrients to grow.

You can find plans to build your own system or there are some very good aquaponic products you can purchase. Aquaponics 4 You is a step-by-step digital guide on how to build your own system. This program takes the guesswork out of getting your system up and running.

Now you are ready to start your own backyard aquaponics system! Have fun with it and if you have any questions please leave a comment.