10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Built An Aquaponics System

1. Measure Twice Cut Once 

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Aquaponics System
Measure Twice Cut Once!

Really measure it 5 times. Especially don’t assume that what you designed on your graph paper, google sketch-up or even CAD software is going to be the same once you actually place your equipment. Stuff just fits differently in the real setting and you want to place all your pieces where they will be, measure your plumbing and your cuts, measure it again, and you know what measure it again just for good measure. The amount of time and money that can get wasted from cutting a board an inch too short or a pipe a half in too short would shock you. Don’t get stuck spending half your day running back and forth to home depot for more PVC. Measure twice, cut once! 

2. When In Doubt, Oversize Your Plumbing

If you don’t want to break out the calculator and figure out flow rates or even better if you are like me as a newbie and don’t know the first thing about flow rates, just way oversize your plumbing and try to reduce bends and turns as much as possible. Oversizing also helps prevent clogs and if you ever expand your system, you have plumbing that will be able to handle a higher volume of water turning over every hour.

3. You Will Lose Fish

It’s going to be awful when it happens, but fish will die. It may be a human error, it may be the result of a mechanical error, fish on fish attacks, or it may have no explanation whatsoever. Once in a blue moon ill see a floater, check my water chemistry, my equipment, my flow rate, and everything is where it should be but one still kicked the bucket. It’s a living creature, your whole system is living, the plants the fish and the microbes. Treat each like a pet and you’ll have great success but sometimes something will die. It’s a part of life and we move past it. If we made a mistake or had a failure we learn from it so it doesn’t happen again.

Aquaponics is an overwhelmingly positive experience but it’s never easy losing fish. But if our fourth graders can handle it and still love their aquaponics systems so can you! Don’t let a fish death stop you! You are not evil, and your fears of repeating a mistake shouldn’t stop you it should motivate you and drive you. Learn from it, take preventative measures and take solace in the happy life they lived under your care.

4. Even If You Want To Build A DIY System, Don’t Do it Yourself

Just because you want to learn with first-hand experience and build a DIY system doesn’t mean you need to make avoidable mistakes or suffer from a poor design. Aquaponics is a small but thriving community that grows year after year because of all the wonderful people out there willing to help, to educate, and to share their failures for others to learn from. Join the Facebook Groups, watch the youtube Videos, listen to the Podcasts, join the Forums and don’t be afraid to ask for help or a second opinion on a design or experiment.

5. Food Will Never Be The Same

“Fresh” food will be forever ruined. Embrace never enjoying lettuce or strawberries or anything else that you’ll grow in your system from anywhere else again. It will simply never compare to your salads made from things you harvested seconds ago. And it’s a beautiful thing!

6. Aquaponics Farming is still farming. It needs daily attention.

Just because it’s aquaponics doesn’t make it effortless. At the end of the day you are still farming, it’s still hard work. Its still a 7 days a week 365 days a year endeavour It’s fun and it’s worth it and it will prove to you that you are capable of more than you thought, but as much as we like to tout the ease over soil farming or gardening, it’s still going to take a significant commitment from you especially if you are trying to grow for more than just fun/ small hobby.

7. It’s Addictive!!!!

“Hi, my name is Kieran and I’ve been an aquaponics addict for 5 years.” All joke aside you have no idea how addicting this is going to become! Get ready for it to take over all other passions in your life. You’re going to be like the atheist at the party that can’t shut up about God not being real to anyone who makes eye contact with you, except you’ll be spreading the gospel of aquaponics. You’ll be talking peoples ears off until they get that glazed over look in their eyes and you’ll want to stop but aquaponics is so freaking awesome you just can’t!

8. You Will Flood Something!

You will forget to turn a hose off, it may even run over night, it may even almost drain your well and it will be despite your best efforts to not let that happen. You set timers on your phone 99% of the time but at some point something will distract you, you’ll walk away thinking it’s just for a second and 45 minutes later you’ll say, ‘oh fiddlesticks the hose!’ and run back to have water overflowing out your system. Make sure you have a plan in place for the worst and don’t put a system anywhere you aren’t worried about the floor getting wet once in a while. 

9. ‘So tell me again about this Aquaphonics thing you’re doing’ – Every Relative Every Holiday.

At least 1 in ten people are going to call it aquaphonics. That’s ok, get them hooked on aquaphonics!

10. Don’t put your system on a desk that’s next to your bed.

Don’t put it next to your bed! This may seem obvious but when Spencer and I first got started we were in college and short on space. Being in college we decided we could live without our desks, who needs space dedicated to an education you’re paying for when there’s aquaponics experimenting to be done! Unfortunately for Spencer, our mistakes led to a couple floods in the bedroom and with the desk/system above the bed’s height and the room is the size of a postage stamp so the bed and desk were squished against each other.  You want your fish poop in your grow bed not your human bed. Place your system with intention. Take the time to understand this is essentially a river shed ecosystem in a container and make sure it’s in a place you won’t freak out over if something goes horribly wrong. Let’s just say, fish smells are not on the list of top ten smells for the bedroom. Learn from us!!


The big thing to remeber. is always be having fun. Aquaponics is what you make of it so just go at it in whatever way makes you feel comfortable. Connect with others who are interested in aquaponics so you can commiserate over the good (and the bad) times and share your journey to better health, better food, and better fun!

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