7 DIY Aquaponic Plans to Build in Your Backyard

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

Your backyard is starting to grow. Beautiful flowers and tons of fruit trees all around.

However, a vegetable garden is missing. And you can’t stop imagining how it’ll look.

But you have a little problem… THERE’S NOT ENOUGH SPACE!

What can you do in that case?

Well, a DIY aquaponics system could be your best bet. 

It’s cheap, easy to do, autonomous, and effective at growing veggies. 

Aquaponics is the BEST type of system you can bring to your backyard when there’s not much space (just like hydroponics).

Here, we’re going over some of the best aquaponic plants you can build in your backyard. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert – there’s a plan below for you to learn! 

7 Aquaponic Ideas for DIYers 

1. Mini Raft Method

The simplest and CHEAPEST of all. An aquaponic system based on the raft method could be a no-brainer.

There are many advantages to this plan:

  • It is easy to do as it requires few materials and little work
  • It is self-sufficient as the system works with rainwater (or little watering)
  • Looks excellent and low-profile on your backyard (requires little space)
  • Allows your veggies to receive direct sun exposure for quick growth

To make it happen, you won’t have to be an expert. In fact, this is probably the most beginner-friendly idea on the whole list. 

Here are some of the steps to consider:

  1. Find one or two tanks/containers. They should be large enough to fit one or two plants. 
  2. Then find a raft or table to put on top. It should either float or be larger than the container to not get submerged. 
  3. Fill the containers with water and some food (fertilizer for hydroponics).
  4. With that done, you can place the wood table or raft on top. It should have holes so you can pour some growing medium (like perlite, fiber, expanded clay, or rockwool). 
  5. Make sure to insert the plants (seedlings or seeds) inside the medium. Once they’re there, the roots should be large enough to reach the water. 

This should be enough to get those plants growing almost right away.

HINT: If you want to add a decorative touch to the aquaponics, paint the containers or wooden pallets. You’ll have a GORGEOUS aquaponics system at home. 

2. Small Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Plan 

Want to go a bit more complicated? 

Then an NFT system could be an excellent idea.

This is also relatively cheap and requires few items. Best of all, most people can get it done within hours.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large pipes or tubes (hollow so you can open holes on top and insert the veggies)
  • Growing medium for the plants (it gives structure to the plants)
  • A large reservoir or water tank where the water is held (and pumped from)
  • A water pump with a hose system for pumping water to the tubes above
  • You may also add a timer that activates the pump (for automated watering)
  • A table or frame where you can place the hollow pipes/tubes at a slight angle

Once you get these items, you should be ready to make it possible, even if you have little experience. Believe it or not, it’s no rocket science. Follow these steps to make it happen:

  1. Start by setting up the place where the plants will be located. Use the structure or table to install the hollow tubes/pipes.
  2. Make sure they’re at a slightly angled position. This should be about a 1-inch slope. You could achieve this by placing a brick or wood table under one of the table/frame sides.
  3. Once you’ve hooked up the hollow tubes/pipes, you should open a few holes on top. These holes should be large enough to hold some growing medium and the plants safely (so they don’t fall).
  4. With that ready, you should install the water container/tank below. This should have a water pump connected to it.
  5. You should place the container where the water coming from the tubes above falls into the container again (so it gets recycled).
  6. Install the pump system afterward. You should have a hose coming from the pump to the container and then another pushing the water inside the tubes above.
  7. Finish by making sure the roots from the veggies touch the bottom of the hollow tubes/pipes as the water with the plant good travels through.

Your DIY nutrient film technique system is ready to rumble. You should see your plants growing without any drawbacks.

This is a highly effective method for greenhouses in backyards.

CHECK THIS: Hydrofarm AAPW1000 Water Pump 

Hydrofarm AAPW1000 Water Pump
View Latest Price

Need a water pump for this NFT aquaponics? Pick something reliable and potent.

This water pump offers anywhere from 40 GPH to 1,100 GPH, so you can power up your aquaponics system regardless of size.

The most important part? It’s the MOST RELIABLE!

With thousands of reviews, this water pump is a GO-TO OPTION you don’t want to overlook. 

It’s easy to use and will be ready for the job almost right away! 

3. The Vertical Aquaponics

The Vertical Aquaponics

Also known as “shelfponics.” The vertical garden with water flow combines CHEAPNESS with FAST CONSTRUCTION.

And despite its seemingly straightforward design, you can still enjoy years of vegetable growth without a single drawback.

What you’ll need to make it happen? Cheap and simple items (you probably already have at home), like these:

  • A few empty plastic pipes (PVC preferably)
  • A knife or similar cutting tool (to open the holes)
  • A large container or tank for the water
  • A growing medium (rockwool or clay) 
  • A frame or structure where you can install (an old bookshelf or cabinet works)
  • A pump with its piping system to push the water through

The method may feel more complex like it actually is. As long as you have all the items, it’s actually pretty straightforward.

Here’s how to make it happen:

  1. Start by modifying the shelf or structure. Open some holes on top and below, so you can insert the plastic pipes through (make sure they aren’t too broad or too thin).
  2. Prepare the pipes now. The general rule is to open a few depressions across the pipes. Then push the top portion of the recesses in (this will build support for the plant on top). 
  3. Now insert the pipes through the holes. Leave a portion of the bottom hanging (there shouldn’t be a single thing under it, so the water dropping falls into the container). Secure the pipes with wires, glue, or nails as needed.
  4. Then it’s time to place the container/tank below. This tank should be large enough to hold at least 20 gallons of water (it will be recycled, but it should be enough, so it doesn’t get dirty too fast).
  5. Finish by installing the pump and its hoses. The pump will draw water from the container below and pump it directly into every pipe. This will water down the plants as the water reaches the bottom.

As you can guess, the system whole’s purpose is to pour water from the top and let it fall down until it reaches the container again.

It is pretty self-sufficient and saves TONS of space. If you don’t have much horizontal space to work with, this would be a PERFECT choice.

WHAT TO CONSIDER: Kimisty Karma Hanging Shelf

Kimisty Karma Hanging Shelf
View Latest Price

Let’s say you don’t have a shelf at home to use. 

Well, don’t panic. And don’t waste your time buying unnecessary large and expensive shelves either.

GET THE KIMISTY KARMA INSTEAD!

This is a hanging piece, easy to install and use. And more importantly, it comes with boards and open holes ready for you to insert the pipes. 

Secure everything, and it will be ready to get your vertical aquaponics working. 

PLUS: It looks AWESOME! Your backyard will look stunning with this one. 

4. Biobed Aquaponics

A traditional aquaponics method, perfect for those who have a lot of space: the biobed.

You can compare a biobed to a garden bed, but for herbs and vegetables. 

It is super-effective at growing, keeping plants safe, and reducing the amount of work you have to do. 

Best of all: it’s relatively simple. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A water container (or various ones) where you’re placing the growing medium and plants.
  • A support structure (preferably made of metal) if you want to add a foundation to the container, so it doesn’t lose its shape over time.
  • A quality growing medium (clay pebbles or gravel are perfect for this)
  • A plumbing system (connected to a water tank or backyard hose)
  • A water pump (optional)

Once you gather all these items, it will be a piece of cake to build. Follow these steps:

  1. Start by looking for a flat space to place the container(s). Set the structure or foundation first, then l the container inside. Make sure it fits firmly.
  2. Now install the plumbing system. If you’re using a water tank with a pump, set that one first. Otherwise, connect the plumbing to your own backyard hose or watering system.
  3. The plumbing should reach the container(s). Preferably directly into the growing medium.
  4. Test the watering system, make sure water reaches the container(s). If so, then you can insert the medium and plant the seedlings or seeds. You’re done.

It is crucial to keep the water flowing through the system. And if you can filter the water from time to time, the containers don’t get too dirty.

DON’T MISS THIS: Hydrofarm GMC10L GROW!T Clay Pebbles

Hydrofarm GMC10L GROW!T Clay Pebbles
View Latest Price

The best medium for this aquaponics system would be clay pebbles BY FAR.

These are ultra-safe due to a stable pH and keep your plants’ roots ALWAYS humid as they absorb water well. 

But if there’s something that stands out is the ability to drain quickly. Whenever you open drainage holes or filter the medium, these pebbles will help you enormously.

WHAT’S EVEN BETTER: You get up to 40 liters of pebbles per bag. That’s enough to fill several containers.

5. The Floating Raft (DWC Method)

The Floating Raft

If you don’t want to waste any time building an aquaponic system, look no further than the DWC (Deep Water Culture) method.

Also known as the raft system, it is easy to build that even a beginner can make it happen within a couple of hours. Sure enough, it’s also cheap.

Here are the things you’ll need:

  • A raft or wooden pallet to install on top (with holes)
  • A growing medium (preferably rockwool)
  • A set of floating baskets or pots 
  • A large container or water tank to place everything
  • A structure or table frame (sturdy to hold several gallons of water)

As you can see, there’s nothing here that requires too much money or time to find. Once you have these items, you can proceed to:

  1. Install the large container or water tank over the table or structure. Ensure to secure it, so it doesn’t tilt to the sides as you pour the water (or later).
  2. Once the container is on top, fill it with water. Pour some of the plant food into the water if you want. Then let it assimilate.
  3. Install the raft or wooden pallet on top of the container. If the raft or pallet doesn’t have holes, open them. These holes should be sufficiently large for the floating pots to fit in.
  4. Insert the pots or baskets inside the holes. Then pour the growing medium and the seeds/seedling inside. That’s all.

As the plant grows and the roots reach the water in the container, it will start absorbing nutrients. Of course, it is a pretty self-sufficient process and requires no installation of complex hoses or pipes (so it’s worth a try).

NEED SOME HELP? Get the G&B Aquaponics Floating Planter

G&B Aquaponics Floating Planter
View Latest Price

These plants are perfectly designed to fit in rafts and pallets, plus THEY FLOAT.

What’s the advantage? Well, you don’t have to worry about your vegetables drowning. 

And because the baskets in the floaters reach sufficiently low into the water, your plants will keep FEEDING the entire time.

Do we forget to mention the floaters are cute? THEY’RE IMPOSSIBLE TO NOT LIKE! 

6. Wicking Aquaponics with Water Bottle

Who said you couldn’t go FULL RUDIMENTARY?

That’s what a wicking system is all about: simplicity (like the old times).

It’s not only as easy of an aquaponic system as it seems, but it’s also convenient.

Your plants will grow super-healthy, and you have to do little to no maintenance. 

There’s not much to consider about this one. Here’s how to make it happen:

  1. Find a container. A 5-gallon water bottle cut in half gets the job done. The bottom half will work as the water container, and the top will work as the planter.
  2. Now, find a wick. Cotton or rope wicks, large enough to reach the top of the planter side would be ideal. 
  3. Proceed to find a growing medium, preferably something that absorbs water well (like rockwool or coco coir). 
  4. Here, you should pour the growing medium on the planter side. Make sure the wick is in the bottom (the bottle mouth). The medium and wick should mix together, so the wick can bring the water up later. 
  5. With the wick and the growing medium installed, you can now test the system. But first, pour some water with nutrients in the bottom part of the cut bottle. Then place the planter with the wick side down.
  6. You should see water flowing up and keeping the medium wet. If that happens, then you’re ready to plant the seeds/seedlings in. Wait and let it grow.

This aquaponics system is so easy that you won’t believe it’s actually useful. Once those veggies start growing, you will be mind-blown.

BUT DON’T RUSH! Get the AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients

AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients
View Latest Price

To keep the aquaponics system thriving, you’ll need quality nutrients. And for that, nothing beats AeroGarden. 

These affordable yet long-lasting bottles contain 33 ounces of total nutrients. That’s enough to feed your wicking aquaponic plants OVER 100 TIMES!

And what’s even better, it contains all the nutrients necessary for a wide array of plants. So alongside the pH buffering, you’ll have safe and sustaining growth for LONG!

7. A Bathtub and Sink Aquaponic

A Bathtub and Sink Aquaponic
Image: inhabitat.com

Have an unused bathtub and sink that are old but still get the job done?

PUT THEM TO WORK WITH AN EBB AND FLOW SYSTEM!

It’s a great way to get those pieces an afterlife.

This is probably the most complicated method to install, but it’s still relatively easy, super cheap, and highly effective at growing veggies.

But before going into the nitty-gritty, get these things:

  • A sink (it doesn’t matter if it is slightly broken). You can use other types of containers if you want. Just make sure to open a draining hole
  • A bathtub (it shouldn’t be broken as it will hold the water with food)
  • A growing medium (clay pebbles or gravels are usually fine)
  • A water pump with hoses (to connect the container below with the ones above)
  • A table, frame, or similar object to hold the sinks/containers.
  • A timer to automate the watering process (optional).

The installation process is not as easy as the other methods above, but it’s still relatively straightforward. If you have some experience building aquaponics, this will feel like a piece of cake.

Follow these steps:

  1. Install the sink(s) in the frame/table. Make sure they are stable, firmly attached. Then prepare the growing medium and pour it on the sink(s).
  2. The sink should have a bottom section, preferably a tube where the water that drops inside can filter down to the bathtub. 
  3. Proceed to install the bathtub under the sink(s). It should be directly below so the water dropping down the drain gets inside. Fill it up with the water and plant food as needed. 
  4. Now you can install the pumping system (water pump and hoses). It will be pump water from the bathtub into the sink(s). The hoses should pour water directly into the border of the sink(s).
  5. You’re now almost ready. Test the system and make sure the water flows from the bathtub to the sink(s) as needed. Similarly, check whether the water drops down the drain into the bathtub.
  6. If the system works well, then you can plant the seeds/seedlings in the growing medium. It’s now time to wait for the sink to fill up and stay moist. After that, your plants will start growing right away.

There’s not much to worry about this system, as the water will keep flowing from bathtub to sink consistently. 

It is now ready to get your backyard vegetable garden growing full-throttle. 

Get Those Vegetables Growing with Aquaponics NOW!

With these AMAZING DIY aquaponics plants, you should have no excuse to avoid installing one.

Sure, they will all require at least a few hours of work. But believe us, THEY’RE WORTH A TRY!

Once you get those aquaponics systems working, you’ll have a self-sustaining and rapidly growing garden. 

The result? JUICY AND BEAUTIFUL VEGETABLES GROWING IN NO TIME!

So, what are you waiting for? 

Leave a Comment