Nick Rosen |

You live in a small urban dwelling – an apartment with a balcony or rooftop, or in a house with a tiny yard. So how can you make a small step towards self-sufficiency?

We’re here to tell you it is possible – but don’t take our word for it: ask Aquaponics Steve.

Aquaponics is defined as “sustainable food production system that combines plant-growing with a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish). It was Steve’s years working in a pet shop that gave him the know-how. The secret is in breeding the bacteria from fish waste – sounds yucky but it works – with no need to use creepy chemicals.

He shows you how to make a tiny greenhouse and stock it full of plants for just $50. However if you want to spring for a solar panel, car battery and pump then you can go the whole way to a full aquaponics set up.

The greenhouse is made from found lumber to create the structure which can be any shape and size depending on the dimensions of your balcony or yard. The covering is transparent plastic.

The water is held in plastic candy jars from a dumpster behind a supermarket and the water feeds through bamboo straws into moss, then down through the moss, through a layer of roofing pebbles down to crushed coral which provides calcium and minerals for the Crayfish that Steve is breeding in there and will eventually eat – if he doesn’t fall in love with them! He insulates the containers with sytrofoam packaging material.

By running the water through black tubing (IV tubing from from a medical supplies store), he can tru the water temperature from cold to tepid – which is what crayfish need.

He does not say where got the earth, but the compost presumably was from a Garcen center. He has strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes.

There is venting for the summer months to avoid the plants wilting.

And here is a tider set-up specifically designed for a balcony.

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18 Responses to “Aquaponics greenhouse for $50 – DIY”

  1. CL Parks

    I have a silly question (at least it seems silly to me) – Is this something that can be done indoors or in the garage during the winter? I had a major fail with my very first attempt at growing food. With the heat so bad in MO this year, my tomatoes were tiny (turns out I’m not supposed to eat them due to food allergies), my lettuce went bitter, and my Okra was crushed by the back screen when it fell. I’m really trying to guide my family into self-sustaining and much less waste, but I keep running into obstacles with living in the middle of nowhere.

  2. Andrew Vandermeer

    If you’re interested in more info on aquaponics you should check out Murray Hallam’s “practical aquaponics” videos or go to where they have information on how to build systems out of IBC containers (really good free “how to” pdf on there as well)

  3. Libby Cameron

    I also live in South West England (between Bude and Bideford) I would be interested to meet up and discuss aquaponics project with Jaqueline. I’m keen without much practical know how.

  4. Greenthumb

    Hey thanks for this I didn’t realise an aquaponics setup could be as simple as that. Definitely will begin experimenting with these as soon as I can.

  5. Larry burue

    I live on a small farm, completely off the grid. Just to address the aspect of composting, I have no septic tank. Rather, I employ a method that has been used in third world countries forever. The ‘self-composting’ toilet. Of all the successes I HAVE had, this one proved so immediately with no ‘bugs’ to work out. (pun intended) Though there are myriad ways to accomplish the same result, I use sawdust, which I throw in on top of my waste, in a five gallon bucket. When full, or a little over half way, I take it to my compost pile, add some already nutrient filled compost, then place that in a large vat with ‘working’ compost. I move it in stages (3) till it eventually ends up in the final compost pile, more rich than any compost I have seen. When it reaches this stage of composting, I have no problem putting my bare hands in it, as it is fully composted soil now. I challenge anyone to find any harmful bacteria withing my compost at this stage. There are NO pathogens what-so-ever contained in it’s rich loamy soil!
    The concept can be applied to ANY home, from rudimentary to a very complex system. In fact, there are systems out there on the market that sell for several thousands of dollars, intended to give the bathroom an aesthetic appeal, as well as keep the odor away. Mine is outside in summer and inside in winter. My system inside, consists of a bucket with a top! Oh, and I have become a little fancy, as I also use an actual toilet seat, which fits on top very nicely. I live in a very small cabin, and I assure you, there is no odor that comes from it, once I cover it with the sawdust and employ the top. (which I made from wood and not what one would consider ‘hermetically’ sealed.

  6. Jennifer

    Very misleading photo. Not a very honest way to bring people to your site. shame shame. :(

  7. Jen

    Thank you for posting this info! I’ve been hearing more an more about auquponics lately and your article and sample system really made it easy to understand the parts of the system and the roles they play. I’m so excited to build my own small system.

    Do some freshwater fish work better than others?

  8. Nicole Herrington

    Thanks for your inspiration:-)

  9. Judy Barraball

    I would like to receive news from your site, please and I would like to build one of these on my patio. Since I don’t have printer ink at the moment I can not print this out. It sure looks interesting and doable

  10. Roger Roy

    I’ll have to look into this one. “Transition” groups like “Transition Cornwall” should be very interested.

  11. greg draiss

    nothing like the pic everyone is posting. great idea but a misleading photo

  12. jorge

    i wan to start my own

  13. Janel

    That was super cool. Thanks for sharing

  14. polo lemaitre

    me gustaria aprender a hacer acuacultivos. me pueden enseñar? donde encuentro información al respecto? Gracias!

  15. Lawal


  16. jacqueline

    I would like to know more. I live in southwest England.

  17. Rick

    (4:57 of the ~second~ video, that is…)

  18. Rick

    In response to “the compost presumably was from a garden center”: I was thinking watching the video that vermicomposting would be the perfect way to ‘close the loop’… and at 4:57 he takes the dead green onion and says, “give those to the worms.”