How to Make an Indoor IKEA Aquaponics System

How to Make an Indoor Aquaponics System


  • Setting up the frame
  • Plumbing
  • Part 1: The standpipe
  • Part 2: The bell siphon and media guard
  • Part 3: The ball-valve bypass
  • Finishing up
Aquaponics is a method by which you grow plants and nurture aquatic animals together in a system that recirculates the nutrients produced, to the benefit of both plants and animals. The aquaponics approach is gaining in popularity as a sustainable gardening method and if you’re curious to try it out for yourself, there are some great hacks for building your own system. This article is one such example using commonly available components from IKEA and a few extras from your local hardware store. The system looks good enough to keep in your living room or bedroom, just to keep your family happy!

Step 1 of 5: Setting up the frame

Visit IKEA to purchase the frame. You’ll need the Antonius frame from IKEA for the main frame. It will be combined with one or two wire baskets and two of the plastic containers. Use the 50 liter (13.2 US gal) container for the fish tank at the bottom, and the 25 liter (6.6 US gal) container for the growbed at the top. Assemble all the parts based on the accompanying packaging instructions.

Use the wire basket as support for the 25 liter (6.6 US gal) plastic container that will house the growbed. It is not strictly necessary to have the 50 liter (13.2 US gal) plastic container fish tank at the bottom if you just put the container on the floor. You may want to trim the plastic lip on the top container to ensure a better fit; in this tutorial, the handles have been cut off the ends of the container as well. However, this is not strictly necessary. To cut the plastic, use a small saw or some standard wire pliers. 

If you want to personalise the system to fit in with your home decor, now is a good time to do it. The photo shows an example of a fish tank that has been decorated with a strip of PVC plastic sheet:

Step 2 of 5: Plumbing Part 1: The standpipe

The plumbing for the aquaponics system is not too complicated and you can rely on a few basic principles to help make the system as efficient as possible.

Use a small 600 lph (litres per hour) electric submersible pump in one corner of the fish tank which takes the water up to the growbed. The water flows through the growbed and exits in the opposite corner to which it entered. As the water then flows back to the fish tank, it pushes any solid waste over towards the pump, ready to pulled up into the growbed.  Use a bypass ball-valve on this system. This item diverts some of the water from the pump straight back into the fish tank. This lets you control the amount of water going into the growbed, and the diverted water also creates some water movement in the fish tank, as well as providing additional aeration. In this tutorial, 1/2inch PVC pipes were used throughout. Initially, it’s recommended that you too start with the growbed and the siphon used here. 

Obtain male and female threaded adapters. Drill a hole in the right place in the growbed––you need to make sure that the female adapter will fit between the wire mesh squares. Make the hole about 6 or 7 centimetres (2.3-2.7 inches) from the edge of the container in each direction; the hole should form a snug fit with the threaded male adapter.

Place the male adapter through the top of the growbed. Then fit a rubber O-ring onto the threads. Next, screw the female adapter onto the male adapter until you have a nice snug (and waterproof) fit. You can add some silicon to the bottom if you want to, but it’s not strictly necessary. Finally, use a reducer on top of the male adapter. The one shown here is a 1 inch to 1/2 inch reducer.  This whole piece is called the standpipe and this is how the water will exit the growbed. You want the overall height to be about 1 inch (2.5cm) under the top of your growbed media; thus, you will need to cut the pipe down so that it is the right height for you. At this point, let the silicon dry if you have used it.

Step 3 of 5: Plumbing Part 2: The bell siphon and media guard

The bell siphon is a very effective method of slowly flooding the growbed and then draining the growbed quickly. It does this with a non-mechanical action, and has no moving parts to break.

Observe the 1 inch-1/2 inch reducer on the far left of the photo shown below.This is where the water will exit the growbed.

Place the 1 inch bell siphon in the middle. This is a 2 inch piece of pipe with an airtight cap on the top. The pictured bell siphon shows some pieces cut out of the bottom as well as some holes drilled in the side––you want these holes to be no higher than about 1 inch (2.5cm) from the bottom of the pipe. The water will drain down to this level and will then stop.

Finally, the 2 or 3 inch media guard, shown on the far right, is simply to keep the growbed media out of the bell siphon. This has holes drilled or cut out of it to allow the water to come in––and to keep the roots and the media out! The cap is optional, but helps to keep things out of the bell siphon.

Ingenuity Innovations simpler bell syphon.

Bell siphons can be tricky to get working. The mechanics of a siphon is relatively complicated, but you are really only concerned with the practical application of siphons to allow you to quickly empty a growbed into either a sump tank or fish tank using a simple mechanical method with no moving or electrical parts.

Step 4 of 5: Plumbing Part 3: The ball-valve bypass

Add the ball-valve by-pass. This whole setup allows you to control how much water flows into the growbed and so it’s an important addition. The ball-valve bypass also allows you to divert some water back to the fish tank, providing additional aeration and water movement into the tank. This improves the health of the fish.

In the picture below you can see the small 200 gph (gallons per hour) pump with a small piece of 1/2inch pipe coming from it. This then has a T-Bar attached and then the 1/2inch pipe continues up to the 90 degree elbow at the top, which empties the water into the growbed. Coming off the second part of the T-Bar is a simple ball-valve that controls the flow of water that is diverted back into the fish tank.

Step 5 of 5: Finishing up

Once you have all the framework, the containers, and the plumbing set up, add water into the fish tank and start the pump up. Test to see if everything works properly, and to see if the system is watertight! 

Fill the top container (the growbed) with some sort of growing media. This could be hydroton, lava rock, perlite, river stones or other similar matter. Use something that allows the water to flow through the growbed and is non-toxic.


Once this has been done, you are ready to add the fish and to start putting plants into your system. Initially, add only a couple of small fish, just to start producing the ammonia needed to kickstart the system.

Read up on aquaponics for more details. Setting up your system is just the beginning––you’ll need to keep learning more about the use and benefits of the system to make the most of it. As such, it’s recommended that you check out additional information on how to actually run your system and to gain a thorough overview in how aquaponics works properly. You can search for more resources online, purchase books about aquaponics or visit your local library to request further information.

If you would like to source all the parts from us here at Ingenuity Innovation Center,

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