How to Create a Hydroponic Growing Aquarium

Aquaponic aquariumGrowing plants hydroponically is a method of growing plants in water with no potting soil. The best and most simple way to begin growing plants hydroponically (other than purchasing an Aerogarden) is to set up a growing aquarium indoors under a light bulb (if you don’t get much sun inside) or next to a bright, southern-facing window. You can grow fresh herbs and vegetables to use in the kitchen, so if you have any space on the kitchen counter, a growing aquarium will fit in perfectly.


What you’ll need:

  • A 10-gallon aquarium
  • An air pump, air-line tubing and an air wand bubbler (go to the aquarium fish section of a pet store for this)
  • Rockwool or oasis cubes
  • Aquarium fish or hydroponic nutrients (one or the other – don’t add both!)
  • 1-inch thick polystyrene board

Starting the seeds. Before setting up and planting your hydroponic growing aquarium, start your plant seeds in rockwool or oasis cubes. Once the seedlings have sprouted, they will be ready to be in holes on a polystyrene board.

Setting up the aquarium. Set up the hydroponic growing aquarium next to a southern-facing window or underneath a grow light. Set up the air pump, tubing and bubbler so it can circulate the water. Fill the aquarium with water, and either add hydroponic nutrients or for more fun, add several aquarium fish. If adding fish, do not add any fertilizer for the plants. The fish will eat and provide nutrients to the plants with waste. The plants will suck up nutrients for the water, acting like a filter. If keeping aquarium fish, make sure to not keep more than five to 10 small fish in this aquarium, and do not add all of the fish at once. Research the nitrogen cycle that occurs in aquariums and how to add fish safely to a new aquarium before purchasing any animals. You will need to do water changes with hydroponic growing aquariums including fish. When choosing the type of aquarium fish you want, keep in mind that most will need a heater and a thermometer to make sure the temperature of the water stays in the correct range. With fish, it is better to grow the plants under a light rather than by a window, which is an area that can experience wide temperature swings (this can kill your fish). Fish such as white clouds and zebra danios are easy fish that do not require heaters. Also NEVER use pesticides or any chemicals in a hydroponic growing aquarium with fish.

Planting the plants. Insert the polystyrene board so it floats on top of the water. Cut 1-inch square holes in the board about 6 inches apart. This allows you to grow six different plants in the aquarium. Insert the rockwool or oasis cubes with your seedlings into the holes, and you’re done!

Maintaining the aquarium. Each week, top off the water and either add a half dose of the nutrient solution or test the water and see if the fish need a water change. If you are using the nutrient solution to fertilize the plants (and not fish), empty and wash out the aquarium after each growing season.

Check out these great plants you can grow in this hydroponic growing aquarium setup.

Additional information