How to Build a Mini Aquaponics Systems: Desktop Aquaponics

Do you want to learn how to build a mini aquaponics system? Aquaponics is a great way to produce your own food, and it can be done on a small scale with a desktop aquaponics system. In this blog post, we will walk you through the steps of building your own mini or desktop aquaponics system. We will provide you with all the information you need to get started, including tips on choosing the right components and setting up your system. Let's get started!


The Aquaponics Cycle

What is Aquaponics, and Why is it a Great Way to Garden Indoors? 

Aquaponics is a method of growing plants without the use of soil. The word "aquaponics" is a combination of "aquaculture" (the raising of fish) and "hydroponics" (growing plants in water). It is a sustainable form of food production that combines these two methods to create a closed-loop system. In an aquaponics system, fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and the plants act as a natural filter for the water. This means there is no need for external inputs, such as fertilizers or pesticides.

Aquaponics systems can be used to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. They can be used to produce food for personal consumption or sale at farmer's markets or local grocery stores. Aquaponics systems are also a great way to garden indoors, as they do not require a lot of space.

What is Desktop Aquaponics System?

A desktop aquaponics system is a small-scale aquaponics system that can be used on a desk, table, or countertop. It is a great way to get started with aquaponics, as it is relatively simple and inexpensive to set up. A desktop aquaponics system can be used to grow a wide variety of plants, including greens, herbs, and flowers.

Why Should You Have Desktop Aquaponics System?

There are many reasons why you should have a desktop aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a great way to grow your own food, and it is very efficient. With a desktop aquaponics system, you can grow a wide variety of plants in a small space. Additionally, aquaponics systems are relatively easy to set up and maintain.

Here are the benefits of having a desktop aquaponics system:

  • Desktop aquaponics systems are easy and inexpensive to set up and maintain. 
  • They do not require a lot of space, making them perfect for small apartments or homes. 
  • Aside from adding beauty, having an indoor desktop aquaponics garden also allows you to grow plants on a tabletop in your kitchen.
  • A desktop aquaponics can easily be placed on a tabletop, which can be used for educational purposes in a classroom.
  • You don't need to invest a lot of money on desktop aquaponics since you'll use small tanks. 
  • The maintenance cost for desktop aquaponics is cheaper than standard aquaponics systems.
  • A desktop aquaponics is perfect for beginners in aquaponics who want to try a hand at aquaponics before setting up a bigger system.


Desktop Aquaponics System

The Best Plants and Fish for a Desktop Aquaponics System

One of the great things about aquaponics is that you can grow various plants in your system. Below is the list of plants and fish that grow best in mini aquaponics systems.


The plants that can be grown in an indoor desktop aquaponics garden are:

  • Lettuce, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • Herbs such as mint, basil, chives
  • Kale, spinach, arugula, swiss chard, etc
  • Microgreens like radish sprouts and arugula. You can check our article "How to Grow Microgreens in Aquaponics" for more information on growing microgreens in indoor aquaponics systems. 
  • Houseplants such as dracaena, anthodium, dieffenbachia and philodendron.


Many types of fish can be used in an aquaponics system. However, it is essential to choose a fish that is well-suited for living in a small space. Some of the best fish for a desktop aquaponics systems are:

  • Fancy Guppy
  • Betta
  • Tetras
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Pencilfish

Different Desktop Aquaponic System Designs

There are many different designs for desktop aquaponics systems. The most common type of system uses fish tanks and grow beds stacked on top of each other. The most important thing is to choose a design that will fit well in the space you have available. Some of the most popular designs include:

Penn-Plax Aquaponic Betta Fish Tank Planter and Fish Habitat (.5 Gallon)
  • Mini Aquaponic Ecosystem: This mini aquaponic aquarium includes everything you need to get started with your aquaponic system. This self-cleaning aquaponics ecosystem requires 50% less cleaning than traditional fish tanks. 


Back to the Roots Water Garden, Mini Aquaponic Ecosystem
  • AquaSprouts Garden: The aquasprouts garden includes a standard 10-gallon aquarium fish tank, and a grow bed, making it the perfect way to grow fresh herbs and vegetables or beautiful ornamentals anywhere.


AquaSprouts Garden 


No matter what type of system you choose, ensure that it is well-ventilated and has plenty of light. Aquaponics systems need a lot of oxygen to succeed, so make sure your system has good airflow. Additionally, plants need light to photosynthesize, so make sure your system is located in a bright spot. 

How to Build a Desktop Aquaponics System

There are pre-made desktop aquaponics systems available in the market today. However, you can also DIY your mini aquaponics system if you want a system made to your specifications. Building a desktop aquaponics system is relatively simple and can be done with a few basic materials. You will need: 

Main Components

  • Fish tank: can be glass, plexiglass aquarium, or plastic container. It should be 3-20 gallons, although you can go for a larger tank if you have enough space. The larger the tank, the larger the grow bed you can support.
  • Grow bed: Sits on the top of the fish tank and must be slightly larger than the tank. You can use a plastic container as your grow bed, but it must be between 3"-" deep. 
  • Water Pump: 3-4 watt pump (100/gal/hour). A small circulation or fountain pump is ideal. The pump will pump the water from the fish tank into the grow bed. After being pumped to the grow bed, the water will flow back by gravity into the fish tank.
  • Air pump: A small aquarium air pump is ideal. The air pump is connected to the air stone to blow air into the fish tank.
  • Airstone
  • Clay pebbles or gravel: 2.5 lbs for every 5 gallons of water in the fish tank. The clay pebbles or gravel serve as the home of the nitrifying bacteria that converts fish waste into nutrients for the plants. Be sure to wash your clay pebbles or gravel before using them.
  • pH test kit
  • Fish
  • Plants

Optional Components

  • Aquarium heater
  • Grow light


  • Drill (with 1/4" or 3/16" bit and 1/2" bit)
  • Electrical tape
  • Scissors


  1. Drill holes (⅛") at the bottom of the grow bed every 2 square inches to drain the water into the tank. Drill a ½ hole for the water pump's tubing to pass through in one back corner of the grow bed.
  2. Place the water pump in the fish tank, then set the grow bed on the top of the tank. On the ½" hole, feed the tubing from the water pump. Leave enough tubing to extend about ¾ height of the grow bed and loop it around the inside of the grow bed. Cut the spare tube and fold the end over. Seal the folded piece with electrical tape.
  3. Wash the clay pebbles or gravel thoroughly and fill the grow bed to just under the top of the tube. 
  4. Drill holes every 2 inches in the section of the tubing that loops in the grow bed.
  5. Fill the fish tank with water. Plug the water pump to ensure the water is pumped into the grow bed and flows down through the grow media and into the fish tank. Depending on your tank, grow bed, and pump, you can adjust the water flow.
  6. Connect the air pump to the air stone with the air tubing. Place the air stone in the tank and plug the air pump to provide a steady stream of bubbles through the water, providing oxygen into the tank.
  7. Test the water's pH and ensure it is free from chlorine and other chemicals before adding it to the fish tank. Adjust the pH if high or low; the ideal pH for an aquaponics system is 7.0.
  8. You can begin fishless cycling and start adding fish and plants to your desktop aquaponics system. Ideally, you should wait until your system is established after a month before adding plants to your system, but if you are eager to plant, just add a few plants and fish and increase the density later.

Your system is now complete! Once your plants and fish are in place, you can sit back and enjoy your very own desktop aquaponics system! Make sure to choose well-suited plants for aquaponics and fish that are well-suited for living in a small space.

How to Care for Your Mini Aquaponics System

Caring for your mini aquaponics system is relatively simple. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Monitor the water level in the fish tank and make sure it is at least two inches below the top of the grow bed.
  • Feed the fish regularly and remove any uneaten food from the tank.
  • Clean the filter monthly and replace it every six months.
  • Test the water quality regularly and ensure that ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are all within acceptable ranges.
  • Ensure that the air stone is working correctly, and that there is good airflow in the system.
  • Harvest your plants when they are ready and replant them as needed.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your mini aquaponics system will be successful. Desktop aquaponics is a great way to grow plants and fish in a small space, and it can be a fun and rewarding hobby. I hope you found this guide helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Happy gardening!

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