How to Convert an Aquarium into an Aquaponic Fish Tank

How To Convert An Aquarium Into An Aquaponic Fish Tank

If you’re here, you’re probably looking for a way to convert your aquarium into an aquaponic tank, which is, by the way, a good idea.

By switching to an aquaponic tank, you can greatly decrease the dependence of the system and create a self-sustainable system that requires little outer input.

Not sold yet?

In the text below, I shall share how to convert an aquarium into an aquaponic tank.

But before I do that, let’s look into detail on what aquaponics is, and what you stand to gain by switching to this system.

How to Convert an Aquarium into an Aquaponic Tank

Defining Aquaponics

Aquaponics is the merger of aquaculture, also known as fish farming, and hydroponics, the method of growing plants in a water medium.

So, aquaponics is a bio-integrated system including two main elements:

  • Aquaculture – System of rearing fish and other aquatic animals
  • Hydroponic – System of hydroponically-grown plants

Aquaponics, therefore, merges the two worlds, bringing the best of both.

How Does Aquaponics Work?

An aquaponic system allows fish/aquatic animals and plants to thrive and interact through the water medium.

The system creates the perfect avenue for a symbiotic relationship in that water containing fish waste offers nutrients to the plants, while the plant removes the excess nitrogen for more clean and purified water.

However, there’s also a third community is the aquaponics system that’s often ignored-the the microbial bacteria. It’s responsible for nitrifying the water and is normally contained in a bio-filter.

Aquaponics combines the three different living communities to create a self-sustaining system, allowing the plants, fish, and bacteria to thrive.

How to Convert an Aquarium into an Aquaponic Fish Tank

Two Major Benefits of an Aquaponic System

  1. Water Efficiency

Aquaponic leverages on a cyclical water system, which is extremely efficient when it comes to water usage.

  1. Self-Sustainability

With an Aquaponic, it’s easy to create a closed and self-reliant system that requires little input. You only have to provide food for the fish, and they’ll, in turn, create food for your plants.

Off-the-Shelf Aquaponic System

I believe there’re several design criteria every aquaponic system should adhere to. These include:


A DIY aquaponic system should be simple and straightforward, yet capable and functional.


The last thing you need with your aquaponic is dead fish, dead plants, or flood.

A good aquaponic should be reliable, safe, and redundant.


A DIY aquaponic should be affordable and cost-saving.

It should also be repairable, and the replacement parts should be easy to find.

Modular and Customizable

We all have different needs, and so, the perfect aquaponic should be flexible enough to adapt to your needs.

Now that you know everything about aquaponics and what to consider for the perfect option let’s see how you can turn an aquarium into an aquaponic.

aquaponic ponds

How to Turn a Fish Aquarium into Aquaponic

If you’ve got a fish aquarium, that would be a great place to start your fish aquaponic system.

Other necessary elements for a complete aquaponic system are:

  • Growbed
  • Piping
  • Water pump
  • Grow medium
  • Plants
  • fish

Now, let’s start with each of the individual components and see how we can customize it for the perfect aquaponics system.


The growbed is where your plants will grow, and normally, it should rest on top of your fish aquarium.

Besides offering a growing place for plants, the growbed also doubles as a biofilter for your aquarium, replacing the existing filtration system. The bacteria in the growbed will convert the toxic ammonia in fish waste into nitrate that plants can easily access.

To create a growbed, you need lining and wood. Make a wooden bow with waterproof lining (You can go with a coroplast insert lined with pond liner).

Alternatively, find a container long enough to rest on top of your aquarium.

Aquaponic Plants

So, what can you grow on your aquaponics system?

Basically, you can grow almost anything from veggies, flowers to herbs.

aquaponic pond plants

Aquaponics Medium

The aquaponics medium is anything that will hold your plants steady and drain well. It should also have an adequate surface area for bacterial growth.

Soil is not an option as it creates lots of mud and doesn’t drain well.

Gravel seems like a good option because it drains well, but it’s expensive and can easily grow heavy.

The best aquaponics materials are the expanded clay pellets. They’re light and easy to work with.

Aquaponics Plumbing

The Aquaponics plumbing system is necessary for the proper drainage and flow of water.

There are different systems you can adopt, but we recommend the continuous flood system for simplicity purposes.

You simply need to drill a hole at the base of your growbed to allow the continuous drain of water back to the aquarium. It’s a fantastic system as it ensures a good supply of oxygen to the fish and thrives of the ammonia digesting bacteria.

Either way, regardless of the plumbing system you use, ensure it offers a healthy mix of water, nutrients, and oxygen to all the living communities in your aquaponic system.

Aquaponics Lighting System

The need for supplementary light will depend on the location of your aquaponics.

If your system is inconveniently tucked away from natural lighting, then a lighting system isn’t an option.

Here, a simple LED lighting is sufficient to keep your system lighted.

However, the best solution would pull the system somewhere with direct sunlight.

Maintenance and Growing of Food

Of course, your aquaponics system will require maintenance, though on a small scale.

Outside the daily feeding and care for the fish, there’s nothing more you need to do as you would in a fish aquarium.

If anything, maintaining an aquaponic system isn’t time-consuming because the nitrogen cycle in the growbed keeps the tank clean and fresh.

The only thing you need to do is add water to the system, and if you have a timer, then the whole process will be quite effortless.

interesting aquaponics facts


As you’ve seen, transforming your fish aquarium into a fish aquaponic is easy as it gets, and you don’t need anything fancy for the conversion.

Having an aquaponics system is a great way to promote a self-sustaining system that will allow the fish and plants to thrive without much input or effort.

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This page was last modified on April 12, 2024. Suggest an edit

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