IBC Tote Aquaponics System

Aquaponics is a system of growing fish and plants together in a symbiotic ecosystem using a recirculating pump system to utilize the fish waste to provide nutrients to the plants while the plant system filters and cleans the water for the fish. These systems often use a soil-less media for the grow beds.

What to use?

One of the popular ways to build these systems is to use an IBC tote. IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container and is used to transport liquids and other substances in the shipping industry. They typically come in 275 and 330 gallon sizes. If you use one of these to build an aquaponics system, you want to be sure and use one that has not had hazardous chemicals in them. These are called Food Grade containers. One container is cut into two pieces, the top is flipped over and becomes the grow bed. This is a system called “chop & flip”.

This is the classic “Chop & Flip” Aquaponics system

Pricing for a food grade IBC tote can vary widely, but the seem to average $100ish. I managed to get a deal and got two of them for $65. One had already been chopped and used as grow system prior to my purchase, the second one is intact. Here’s what I ended up with.

My two totes, the night I got them home

The tote that had already been cut wasn’t really done quite the way I want it, but the price was hard to beat. The “cage” from the top was disposed, so I don’t have that and the base was removed, so I’ll have to set this one on paver stones instead of it being free standing (TBH, I’d probably use pavers anyway)

Framing work

First thing I did was remove the wood that was previously installed on the frame and built my own frame for it using wood from my scrap pile. Nothing like “free” stuff. Anytime I can upcycle my old scraps, I call it a win. Not beautiful but functional. Here’s what that looked like.

Team Colors

A coat of paint. Will need another coat or two. Of course, had to go with OSU orange. Go Pokes!!! The frame may get a coat of this too if I have enough left over. Again, a jar of paint I had sitting in the shed, so still at zero added cost.

Pistol Pete would be proud!

Time to turn loose with the cash

Time to get serious now. Off to Lowe’s to spend some money…. plumbing pieces I need and don’t have. Below is what I built. The cost:

2″ PVC Cap $1.78
2″ -> ¾” threaded Tee $3.18
(2) 2″ coupler to threaded (adapt to pool hose)$1.80
2″ coupler$0.90
Various PEX fittings – already had them… Probably about $10
Tube of Silicone to attach coupler to the IBC tote$4-ish

Started putting it all together… oh crud moment… my PVC glue was dried up. Road trip to store. Buy a bottle of glue for $5… I’m sure that one will be bad next time I need to glue PVC. The stuff is made to go bad once it touches air.

All Together Now (No, not the Beatles song)

Here it is assembled, ready for water and a test run.

Fire it up at last!

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