I’ve had my aquaponic garden for about 5 years now and I absolutely love it.  I’ve always been one to try cool DIY’s and tinker with things.  My mother suggested I try aquaponic gardening as a hobby.  After doing some research, I decided to give it a try.

After years of tinkering with it and experimenting, I feel confident to give an overall review and instructions on how to set one up.

The focus of this site is gardening in urban settings.  Well, one viable gardening option in tight spaces is aquaponic gardening.

What you will learn?

  • What is aquaponic gardening?
  • How does an aquaponic system work?
  • Pros & Cons of an aquaponic gardening system
  • What plants can grow
  • What types of fishes to put in your system

What is Aquaponic Gardening (AQ)?

Aquaponic gardening is a closed system which uses fish waste as nutrients for plants. The plants (mostly beneficial bacteria) help to purify the water and return it to the fish. The concept is nothing new, agricultural civilizations have been using this principle for hundreds of years.  However, the use of it for small scale farming and gardening has skyrocketed in the last few years.

aquaponic gardening what is AQ

Graphic courtesy of fix.com

How does it work?

It all starts with the fish…

The fish produce ammonia which is extremely toxic to them (and humans).  A water pump, pumps water into the grow bed which is usually located right above the fish tank.

Beneficial bacteria which colonize the pores in the grow media consume the ammonia and give off nitrogen which is essential to plant growth and is a key nutrient for all plants.

The water (now ammonia free) is returned to the fish where the cycle begins again.

Aquaponic gardening how it works

Graphic courtesy of fix.com

Pros & Cons of an AQ system


  • completely customizable – make it as big or as small as you’d like
  • can be used practically anywhere – just be sure to have a light source
  • low cost – other than fish food, supplies are bought one time
  • low maintenance – I check my aquaponic system about once a week
  • organic – no chemicals needed at all
  • pretty darn cool – many friends have been impressed
  • saves water – water is recycled within the system
  • efficient – contains beneficial bacteria and nutrients
  • zero waste – absolutely no waste


  • needs an energy source (electricity)
  • need to purchase fish food (unless you can produce it yourself!)
aquaponic gardening pros of AQ

Graphic courtesy of fix.com

What Plants Can I Grow?

An aquaponic system provides the basic elements for all plants to grow.  It allows for plants to receive water, nutrients, and oxygen – all of which is needed.

However, there are certain plants that tend to thrive because of the high nitrogen content.  Plants that tend to do best, from my experience are leafy greens.  Lettuce, spinach, and kale were the staples of my garden.

Although my garden consisted mostly of leafy greens, I’ve also grown tomatoes, peppers, and soybeans.

Plants I’ve Grown:

  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Green onions
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Hawaiian chili peppers
  • Soybeans
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet peas
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
    aquaponic gardening veggies

What Types Of Fishes?

All fishes produce ammonia through waste.  The trick is finding fish that can survive in the conditions that your aquaponic system will be in.

For example, if you live somewhere with cold winters you will need fish that can survive those conditions.  Just the same, if you live in a region with extremely hot temperatures, you will need a fish species that can do well with that.

aquaponic gardening Tilapia



Tilapia are great fish because they can withstand extreme temperatures and endure stressful living conditions.  Tilapia are known for their hearty nature and the ability to survive.  Tilapia are the best fish to stock your aquaponic fish tank with.

I’ve also had Koi, Pleco (suckerfish), and other small aquarium type fish.  Any fresh water fish should be fine just as long as you take into account the living conditions that are needed for that type of fish.  For example, I would never use a cold water fish like trout here in Hawaii, but in colder climates trout may be just fine.

All my fish got along great and I had no problems with fish attacking other fish or jumping out of the pond.


An aquaponic system can be a great addition to a garden to help give it a modern and “scientific” look.  It also provides a great organic gardening option for a low cost.  There’s also a variety of plants that you can grow in your system which can sustain you and your family with a healthy diet.

Inforgraphic Source: Fix.com Blog


Author: Brennan Young

Thank you for stopping by! I started The-Urban-Farmer.com to share my love for creative gardening, healthy living, and home DIY’s. If you enjoy the content on this site, I encourage you to follow The-Urban-farmer.com via social media (below). I’d also love to hear from you so feel free to contact me!