Thursday, March 20, 2014


Aqua....what? Yes Aquaponics. Funny word = amazing results! I'm not really sure when I found this amazing idea online but once I did it was full steam ahead! Of course, I did my research and daydreamed about how this would all come together. Now that my walipini was under construction I was positive that I did not want to plant in the dirt. I need something bigger, better and of course ORGANIC!

Aquaponics is aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. More info for Aquaponics

During my online searches I was surprised that there was not a lot of information on the what and how to build these systems or even buy them for that matter.  Sure there is a company here and there that want your arm and leg as payment for these systems but that's not my style. I wanted a larger system so that I could provide not only for my family but also sell fresh organic produce to my friends. 

I finally ran upon a site that made an aquaponics system out of 55 gal barrels! This system is know better as a Barrel-Ponics system. I thought what a cool idea! Not only can I get these for a little expense but I'm also recycling. After MORE research I finally located my Food-Grade 55 gal plastic barrels in Longmont, CO.

Cut them in 1/2 with a jig saw.
Now on the Barrel-Ponics site you can download a copy of this guys instructions on how to make a 2 bed system out of barrels. This was a great start for me but later found that I just had to improvise and use some solutions from my problem solver brain. We cut the barrels in 1/2 and really scrubbed them out well. Next added a frame to the barrels and finally all the plumbing. (Thanks to the horse barn my plumbing skills are above average)

10 grow beds with pea gravel

After I got the system up and running and all the fine tuning was done I was ready to plant.  In the barrel-ponics manual he said you could use pea gravel as a planting media. BIG mistake! The plants did start to grow in the gravel. However, I tried everything under the sun to lower my constant PH problem. After about 2 months my plants started to suffer from the effects of high PH. I first though this was my well water and finally determined that it was the pea gravel its self that what the issue.
Barrel-Ponics in a walipini

How to test your gravel...simple. Get a 5 gal bucket. Fill it with your tap water. Test. Adjust your PH if needed. Let sit for 24 hours. Retest. If PH has not moved its not your water. Then add your media to the bucket of adjusted PH water. Test after a couple of hours. If your PH has moved then your grow media is NOT PH neutral and you will have constant problems with it.

Green Beans in pea gravel
Once I knew it would no longer benefit me to have the gravel in the system I had no other choice but to replace the grow media. In my search for grow media that was close to me I found a place that had not yet opened but was going to in a couple of weeks. The Aquaponics Source WAS my new friend and not to far...50 miles but worth the drive. I added the clay pebbles to the system and have had no issues since! It was also nice to chat person to person who knew what I was talking about.
Grow beds with clay pebbles

Transplanted the green beans from the gravel to see if they would make it.

600 gal Fish Tank

Flood tanks
In Total my system has a 600 gal fish tank which is big enough for 20 grow beds.  I only used one fish tank for the whole system and I'm still happy with this decision. This wouldn't have been possible without the help of my family. I hope to blog this year about how the system is working and what I would change.  I look forward to your comments.



  1. Kaydi - It looks amazing! I'm glad all of your hard work is starting to reward you. Misty

  2. Hi Kaydi I just want it to say,what a great job you did with your walipini aquaponic.
    I m looking ford to start building one.
    Thank you for all the sharing pis and info

    1. Hello Sandlimitedusa, Thank you and I'll be looking forward to seeing your pictures in the future! Best of luck!