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Aquaponics System Startup Cost: A beginners Guide

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Aquaponic systems are a sustainable way of producing organic food. The fishes provide the nutrients for the plants to grow and the plants, in turn, remove compounds that, if allowed to build up, would be harmful to the fishes. 

This symbiotic relationship creates the perfect closed circuit ecosystem where any homeowner can benefit both from plants and fish. 

The cost of materials to set up an aquaponic system for a beginner can start from $1411 and go up depending on how large the system is going to be. The cost of labor and transportation will also add to the materials cost to give an overall figure.

The initial cost for starting up an Aquaponic system can be high at first, but it pays for itself in the long run. If you are here and you have been thinking about how to start an aquaponic system and what you need, then you are at the right place. 

At the end of this article, you will have a good idea of what you would need and the cost of these items. The total cost of the entire system would therefore be dependent on how large the system is going to be.

You will have an estimate on how much it would cost you to set up and run your very own aquaponic system. 

NB: Labor and transportation cost would differ depending on your geographical location. 

See our complete guide on aquaponics and what you need to know to run a successful system.

My Aquaponic setup

How much does it Cost to Start Aquaponics?

The cost of starting an aquaponics system depends on the components and the quantity required to get the system up and running. 

Aquaponic components mainly require containers and piping to transport nutrient water from one part of the system to the other. 

The fishes create the waste material which holds ammonia. Bacteria then break down the ammonia firstly into nitrites and then to nitrates which the plants then use. 

This entire process occurs within the confines of tanks, containers, and piping. So let’s take a look at the components required to build an aquaponic system. 

NFT Aquaponic system

Main components 

  • Sump tank
  • Fish tank
  • Mechanical filter
  • Biofilter
  • Planting area (Grow Beds / DWC / NFT)
  • Fishes
  • Plant seedlings

Peripheral components 

  • Water pump
  • Air pump
  • Air stones
  • Net cups
  • Plant holders
  • PVC Ball Valves 
  • 1 1/2 inch pvc piping
  • ½ inch pvc piping
  • Biofilter media
  • Water Test kit
  • ½ inch Uniseals
  • 1 ½ inch uniseals
  • Fish food
  • Backup air pump
  • Additional nutrients (iron, magnesium, phosphate)

Build your successful system with these essential and very affordable equipment from amazon, that I’ve tried & tested on my setup.

Click on the links to view on amazon

Best water pump
Best Water Pump
Best air pump
Best Air Pump
Best air stone
Best Air Stones
GROWNEER 25 Packs 4 Inch Garden Slotted netcups
Plant Net cups
Bio Balls
Bio Filter Medium
API Freshwater Master Test KIT 800-Test
Water Test Kit
Aquaponic Equipment Essentials that I use.

The list is long, and many of the larger components can be derived from recycled products. 

So here’s a breakdown of the purpose of the larger components in sequential order as they are arranged in an aquaponic system-

Larger Components –

Sump tank –
Houses the pump which is used to circulate water throughout the system

Fish Tank – 
Houses the fish and usually contains one or two air stones to provide oxygen 

Mechanical filter
Separates and removes the heavier waste material produced by the fishes 

Contains bio media which creates a large surface area to house the beneficial Nitrobacter bacteria. Here is where the Nitrification process occurs. 

Plant Area –
Here is where the plants grow, and the plant system can be of three popular types 

  1. Grow beds
  2. Deep Water Culture (DWC)
  3. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

There are other techniques like 

  • Aeroponics – spraying the roots with nutrient water
  • Wick system – using a wick to draw nutrient-rich water to the plant roots
  • Drip System – Nutrient-rich water is allowed to drip into the plant roots. 

A breakdown of the peripheral components –

  • Water pump – Used to circulate water throughout the system.
  • Air pump – Used to provide oxygen for fishes, plants, and bacteria. 
  • Air stones – distributes the air into fine bubbles in the water.
  • Net cups – The plants are placed in these and allowed to grow. 
  • Plant holders – these hold the plants in place within the net cups. 
  • Biofilter media – This is the medium that goes into the biofilter container and creates a large surface area for the bacteria to thrive. 
  • Water test kit – This is a testing kit that is used to test the water for pH, Nitrites, Nitrates, and Ammonia levels. 
  • Uniseals – These are rubber rings that create a flexible watertight seal when PVC piping and other aquaponic components are being connected together. It is an upgraded replacement for a bulkhead. 
  • Ball valves – These are used to regulate the flow of water in the system. 

The other small components not mentioned are self-explanatory

Cost Breakdown of Components in a Small Scale Aquaponic System

Item QuantityCost
Sump tank1$65
Fish tank1$430.30
Mechanical filter1$176.27
Planting area1~$100
Plant seedlings1$64.99
Water Pump 1$26.49
Air Pump1$37.25
Air Stones2$9.58
Net Cups1$12.99
Plant Holders1$8.80
PVC Ball Valves1$18.65
1 1/2 inch pvc piping5$13.22
1/2 inch pvc piping5$28.52
Biofilter media300$39.99
Water Test Kit1$22.22
½ inch Uniseals5$9.59
1 ½ inch uniseals5$16.09
Fish food1$34.29
Backup air pump1$31.99
Additional nutrients1$39.97

The overall cost for a small-scale aquaponics setup is somewhere in the range of $1400 and will range higher if you include the cost of transport and labor.

Note: This is a general guide for starting an aquaponic system, and the cost will vary depending on your geographical location.

If you are going DIY this system, you will save on the cost of labor. I will recommend that you build this system yourself because in doing so, you would get a feel of how it operates.

If anything were to go wrong, you would know how to fix it without having to call in someone else. Here you would save greatly in the cost of labor.

I made many mistakes with my aquaponic system but thankfully, I documented them with the article what I wish I knew before I started my aquaponic system so you would know what to look out for.

Using an IBC tote to start an Aquaponic system

This is a simple way of starting an aquaponics system just by using a few components.
The IBC container is also ideal for starters and has benefits such as

  • Small footprint
  • Easy to manage
  • Lesser components
  • Plants can be grown in a grow bed or DWC
  • Best for beginners and people wanting to try aquaponics for a hobby.
IBC aquaponic setup

I have written a detailed article on IBC Aquaponic system where you can find all the information required to convert an IBC tote into a small-scale aquaponics system. See Here.

Additionally, you can see another cost-effective system made with barrels, normally called barrel aquaponics or barrelponics.

Barrel Aquaponics

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