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Barrel Aquaponic Systems

Have you wanted to delve into aquaponics but didn’t want to spend too much money? Did you want to try aquaponics but just don’t have a big area in your yard to set up a large system?  Here’s the perfect opportunity to dip your toe into the aquaponic life for only a very small outlay with a neat little barrel system that you can make yourself.

Here at Backyard Aquaponics we’ve always wanted to provide as much information as possible to help people get into aquaponics themselves. Someone just the other day came into our display centre saying that he was building a barrel system but he made a real point of the fact that it wasn’t an exact copy of one of our systems. Sue pointed out to him that we wanted people to copy our systems, we want people to build simple system that work, whatever system can fit into their lifestyle, budget or available space, whether you buy a system or kit from us, or you make one that’s a copy. Brilliant, always good to see people get into aquaponics however they can.


We released the IBC of Aquaponics almost two years ago now and it’s been downloaded tens of thousands of times, if you haven’t already downloaded it, give it a go, it’s a free manual with over 180 pages of information and examples of aquaponic systems built using IBC’s, it’s a great source of information for the DIY aquaponics person.

The original manual is an interactive PDF, this means that you can use the index to jump to any section of the document instantly, you can then click on individual systems to jump straight to the forum and check out the latest details of individual systems. There’s 3D Google Sketch up models you can download to play with yourself and youtube videos showing people systems as well as step by step instructions on how to build a simple IBC system.


After the huge popularity of the IBC manual we decided to convert it into a website. As a website it’s easier to maintain and update with new information So check out our IBC of Aquaponics website, and from there you can download the manual if you like.


But enough of that, I’m getting sidetracked. I was here to talk about barrel systems. I’d had an interest in barrel aquaponic systems since I first read about Travis Hughey and his Barrel-Ponics system. Travis released a free manual many years ago, it was one of the few documents available at the time about aquaponics. I created one of Travis’ Barrel-ponics system myself by following his manual and it worked well, I kept it operating for many years until I decided I needed the space for other systems. Since then Travis and I have become good friends and we often correspond about aquaponics even though we are opposite sides of the world. This started a “barrel” phase in my life and led to this system being built.

Oh yeah, that’s one crazy barrel aquaponics system. I had a notion to create a system that was built predominantly from recycled materials, while being able to produce most of the fish feed required within the same space as the system. The fish tank is a buried IBC up in the back left corner, a pump from here pumps in two directions one feed goes to the media filled barrels on the right. The other feed from the pump goes to the top set of barrels on the left before draining into the barrels below, and then back into the fish tanks. The dual layers of barrels on the left had yabbies (crayfish) growing in them with duckweed on the surface, while the beds on the right were gravel filled plant growing beds.

Under the system were half barrels to grow worms, that would help to substitute the fish feed. The plan being that the duckweed from the yabby tanks would be feed for the fish in the buried IBC, along with worms from the worm bins. I’d still need to supplement the feed with pellets because as I take food out of the system to eat, the minerals and nutrients need to be replaced. The system was starting to do reasonably well, however it was about this time that I opened the Backyard Aquaponics display centre and when you’re open 6-7 days a week there’s just no time to keep all of your systems at home going.

Which brings us to more recent happenings here at Backyard Aquaponics. Nat works for us here at the display centre and as he only has a small balcony at his flat, he’s limited to very small aquaponic systems, and this got him started with barrels. Perfect recipe for coming up with great ideas. We have lots of barrels, fittings, tool and space, he has the creative mind and interest in barrel systems so let the playing begin.

These are just a few of the experiments to see what’s possible with using just barrels to build a system. As with everything we do, we like to test things very well before recommending them to anyone else, so this is the back area where Nat can trial different aspects to ensure the designs are up to the task.

We now sell two different barrel kit systems, the i-barrel and the T-barrel, and they’ve been surprisingly popular, we’ve sold over a dozen T-barrel systems in a little over 6 months. So now following on with our belief in sharing as much information as possible, and helping people to get into aquaponics in any way they can, we’ve made a set of instructions for building the small single barrel aquaponics system.

Soon we’ll include the T-barrel instructions on the website as well, but for the moment, check out our step by step instructions on how to build the single barrel system, it’s a great project for a weekend that takes up hardly any space and costs very little.