What is the Barrel Aquaponics System?

A barrel aquaponics system is simply an aquaponic in a barrel. It is usually made of a 55-gallon drum and can be run on just 40 watts of power, which makes it ideal for aquaponics beginners who do not have a lot of space available or don’t want to spend too much money on building an aquaponics system. This blog discusses the barrel aquaponics system as your guide to creating your own system.

Why Choose Barrel Aquaponics System?

One type of aquaponics system popular with DIYers is the barrel aquaponics system or barrelphonics. A barrel system will allow aquaponics enthusiasts to delve into aquaponics with little space available and without spending too much money. 

The barrel aquaponics system needs only inexpensive and readily available materials that can be found in any hardware or gardening shops or online. It is a simple setup, easy to manage, and does not require more space. 

Here are some of the advantages of a barrel aquaponics system.

  1. The barrel system is easy and cheap to build.
  2. It has more extensive and deeper grow beds (if cut lengthwise).
  3. It does not require ample space to set up.
  4. The barrels are solid and durable, so your system will last a long time.
  5. It is excellent for aquaponics beginners who want to learn the in and out of aquaponics before upgrading to a larger system.
  6. It is easy to set up indoors as it does not require a large space.
  7. A barrel system can give growers a year-round supply of fresh vegetables and fish.

What Do You Need for Barrel Aquaponics System

1. Barrel

Usually, a 55-gallon food-grade barrel is generally used in this aquaponics system. However, you can use one or more barrels. The larger the barrel, the more number of fish can be grown in it, and the larger the growing bed for the plants

Where can you get barrels?

You can find a 55-gallon blue barrel near any hardware or garden supply store. You can also try searching online or through your local Craigslist to get the materials for your barrel aquaponics system. You can also use recycled barrels from industrial companies that deal with liquid stuff. Just make sure that the barrels are not used for storing harmful chemicals.

2. Grow Media

You can use clay pebbles, expanded shale, gravel, and other inert grow media to hold plant roots and house the nitrifying bacteria.

3. Grow Bed

The grow bed is placed on the top of the tank and has to be larger than the tank’s width. This is where your plants will grow.

4. Pump

The water pump is used to suction water from the fish barrel to the grow bed. The water pump’s size will depend on your desired tank exchange rate, and several grow beds.

5. Air Pump 

The air pump supplies air to the plants in the grow bed and fish tank. An air tube connects the air pump to the air stone at the bottom of the barrel.

6. Pipes or tubing

The tubing goes from the outlet to the pump to the top of the grow bed and forms a circle within it.

7. Bell siphon

A bell siphon is required to flood and drains the media bed system.

8. Airstone

The air stone is connected to the air pump to help provide oxygen into the fish tank and grow bed by creating a stream of bubbles in the water.

9. Water testing kit

A water test kit is essential for monitoring your water quality parameters.

10. Nitrifying bacteria

The nitrifying bacteria converts fish wastes into nutrients for the plants. The water from the fish tank fed to the plants contains a lot of ammonia from fish wastes that are converted by the bacteria (nitrifying bacteria) into nitrites and nitrates through nitrification. Plants use these nitrates to thrive.

11. Fish

Fish play an essential role because their waste becomes the natural fertilizer for plants. To achieve a maximum growth output from your fish, select a hardy fish best suited to your location, climate, and needs. 

The most common fish raised in aquaponics systems are:

  • Edible fish: tilapia, carp, catfish, trout, largemouth bass, salmon, yellow perch, bluegill, jade perch, barramundi
  • Ornamental fish: goldfish, koi, tetras, guppies
  • Other aquatic animals such as shrimps

12. Your choice of plants

Plants also play an essential role in cleaning and oxygenating the water. Plants also filter the water and absorb the nitrates, thus cleaning it before recirculating back to the fish. Growing plants organically is why many want to set up their own aquaponics system.

Choosing the best plant to grow in your aquaponics system is essential for your system’s overall success. So select plants that are easy to grow and well suited to your location.


Barrel Aquaponics Designs

The barrel aquaponics system comes in two designs that usually differ in size, space required, materials needed, costs, and ease of building and maintenance. These designs are categorized into two types, the split and chop and flip barrels aquaponics systems.

1. Chop and Flip

This aquaponics system gets its name because of how you build it. From a single 55-gallon barrel, you build both a grow bed and a fish tank. You do this by cutting the barrel in two and flipping it over to create the grow bed that will sit on top of the fish tank. Features of a barrel aquaponics system:

  • It uses only one barrel for the fish tank and grow bed.
  • It has a simple layout.
  • Cheap and easy to build.
  • It uses few materials.

2. Split Barrels

The split barrels system is a little more complicated than the chop and flip system because it uses three or more barrels. It can be a larger system composed of two or more grow beds and a larger fish tank. Features of a split barrel aquaponics system.

  • It is composed of three or more barrels.
  • Usually, the barrel is cut lengthwise for larger grow beds.
  • The system requires more materials than the chop and flip system.
  • The materials involved cost more than the chop and flip system.


What is the Best Fish for Barrel Aquaponics?

Goldfish are the best fish to raise in a barrel system because they require less space to grow. Goldfish are hardy fish and are not bothered by lower water temperatures during winters, so that a 55-gallon drum will be a great home for them. However, to ensure their health, you must provide them with chlorine-free water and maintain the good water quality of the system at all times. 


What Plants Grow Best in Barrel Aquaponics?

Almost all plants can be grown in a barrel aquaponics system. However, choose plants suitable for your climate and location to ensure you reap the full benefits of your aquaponics system. Also, if you have an indoor system, ensure that the plants are provided with enough light to thrive


Beginning with a simple barrel aquaponics system is a great way to start while you’re still learning the ins and outs of aquaponics. You can quickly expand later on, anyway, if you want a more extensive system. By doing a barrel system, you don’t only enjoy a fresh harvest of your favorite vegetables.