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Backyard Aquaponics Made Easy – Article 1 – Sizing your Aquaponics System

Backyard Aquaponics Made Easy – Article 1 – Sizing your Aquaponics System
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

Read our “Six-Part Article Series for Backyard Aquaponics Made Easy 

- by Colle and Phyllis Davis



  • Article 1Sizing your Aquaponics System to determine how many people you want to feed.
  • Article 2Location for your Aquaponics System in your backyard
  • Article 3The Type of Building for your Aquaponics System – greenhouse, etc. 
  • Article 4The Cost and Materials for an Aquaponics System in your backyard
  • Article 5. Operations for your Aquaponics System – fast and easy!
  • Article 6. Variations for Your Aquaponics System – no two are the same.
  • BONUS ARTICLE: Nine Steps for Building a Super Backyard Portable Farm


This series of articles is your guide to installing a backyard aquaponics system and having it produce fresh greens and blooming plants round including fresh home-grown fish.

The topics we’ll cover in this upcoming series of articles will teach you the basic information you’ll need to know if you’re considering owning your own backyard aquaponics system. We won’t divulge the ‘secret ingredients’ that are required to build and operate your system because that information is all covered in our Portable Farms® Aquaponics System Course© which explains everything you’ll need to learn to actually build an aquaponics system, grow your fish and food.

The first step to consider is how to size your installation:

backyard aquaponics system2

1. Step One – Sizing: Aquaponics is a high intensity food production system that produces prodigious amounts of food year round. Here is the formula for correctly sizing your backyard aquaponics system. In a highly effective system with gravel as the medium base, a tray space of 25 to 30 sq. ft. will feed one adult their table vegetables year round – FOREVER. Use the number of people you want to feed times (x) the 25 sq. ft. required for each person and the resulting figure will be the size of grow tray space you will need.

For example: You have four people in the house (any child over the age of 11 eats like an adult) times 25 sq. ft. equals 100 sq. ft. of grow tray space. A grow tray that measure 5 ft. x 20 ft. long (6 ft. x 16 ft.) will be the perfect size. This size tray will fit comfortably inside a 10 x 24 ft. (or a 12 x 20 ft.) greenhouse.

A second example: There are 8 people you wish to feed. 8 people x 25 sq. ft. per person equals – 200 sq. ft. This creates a logistical dilemma. The required grow tray area can only be 6 ft. wide (people have a tough time reaching over about 3 ft. so with an aisle on each side the maximum width will be limited to 6 ft.) and so do you want to build a long skinny building to house the 6 ft. x 32 ft. tray (a 12 ft. x 36 ft. building) or do you use two grow trays and have a slightly wider and shorter building of 20 ft. x 20 ft.? Again this is up to you, the location and your finances.
The formula of number of people times the 25 sq. ft. required to feed them can be applied no matter what the number of people you want to feed. A commercial installation with 10,000 sq. feet of enclosed space provides 6,000 sq. ft. of grow space and will feed 240 people.

In future articles we will cover:

aug 20 interior2 aquaponics

tomatoe portable farm aquaponics system2. Finding the ideal location. Do you have six hours of direct sunlight available in the chosen location? If not are you willing to supplement the lighting necessary to have the most amazing vegetables on the planet? Can you use an existing building, or extend an existing building to save money and reduce the carbon footprint?

3. Deciding on the type of building you would select to surround your aquaponics system, and learn what is required with each type of construction. We will explore the limitations and how can you utilize the space inside for maximum yield and efficiency. We’ll also explore hoop houses, lean-to’s, commercially available greenhouses and what each type needs to have in order to be climatically adapted for year round operations.

Two frames containing plastic chicken wire suspended above grow trays to support growing blooming plants.

4. Explore the materials that are required for the grow trays and other items that are required for your system to operate at its peak. This article also covers the ratios necessary to maximize production and protect the system and what it actually cost you to build the installation and have it become a high intensity food production facility that operates and produces food, year round.

5. The actual operation of your new aquaponics installation regarding ways you can be assured that you will be operating it effectively and not kill fish or plants. We’ll also explore some basic procedures that need to be followed to keep your system healthy and productive. We’ll explore what fish to use and which plants work the best under different conditions which are all considerations for designing your system to your needs.

6. The sixth and final article of this series of articles will cover the alternatives and additional information available to enhance the installation to help your family be healthier, more secure and less stressed. This includes solar and other alternative power sources, use of catchment for water, seed selection, integration with other growing methods and several other topics to increase the impact your new aquaponics system will have on you, your family and the world.



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  1. Gary Briscoe

    I live in Texas where it gets extremely hot but in the winter it also freezes. What type of structure should I put my grow trays in so that my fish are protected from the elements?

    1. portfarms


      Having spent 12 years in Texas, I understand exactly what you are talking about. The term is ‘climatically adapted structure’ and this means that the temperature INSIDE the structure at the top of the Grow Table can range from 45 to 104 degrees F. This is a very broad range and through the use of shade cloth, roof vents, side vents and OCCASIONALLY swamp coolers or mister you can successfully install and operate a Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems anywhere in the world.

      The AU Course actually covers this subject in great depth so you can build an appropriate structure after completing the Course.

      We trust this information is helpful in moving your project forward.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  2. Nick


    I have a building that I would like to install an aquaponics system in and would like your feedback of things I should be aware of. 32′ x 32′ with 10′ ceiling. Very well insulated (8″ walls) and has in-floor heat that is hooked up to an indoor wood boiler. I live in NW Wisconsin but would be able to keep it heated well during the winter. There are several windows but do not expect it would be enough natural light and expect grow lights would be needed. What I would like to do is take advantage of the ceiling height and build vertically. One question I have is on average how much room is needed for the grow bed, plants and lighting?


  3. Elle

    Want to convert half of our 2-car garage to a portable farm producing enough veg for 4 people. The intention is to install two huge skylights to bring in natural light, grow lighting for better production year ’round and insulation as appropriate, rather than build a separate building. I’d sourced you guys a while back, but am now going through the course information. I’ve a question.

    You stated that the fish are a renewable resource. If the offspring are “mules” how are they renewable? Also, how much more space will be required to grow the fishes food? Our interest is in becoming completely food production self-sufficient within your system but without reinvesting large sums in fish, fish food, gravel, etc., FOREVER. Can we achieve that with your system? Thanks.

    1. portfarms


      Your installation will work fine. Make sure you have enough grow lights to have 12 hours of ‘sunlight’ each day.

      The fish are not ‘mules’, they are incredibly fertile. The hybrid used is nearly all male so there is no breeding in the tanks. Purchasing a small colony for breeding will insure a constant supply of fry to add to your system and LOTS left over to sell to other aquaponics enthusiasts. Raising fish food is pretty straight forward, the trick is to teach the fry to eat the vegetable matter when they are very young.

      Your idea of being self-sufficient sound great, but the real devil is in the details. Good luck.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  4. Mitch Gertz

    Which are the other countries that the Portable Farms™ Aquaponics Systems’ Modular Aquaponics Systems is good in?

    I live in Thailand.



    1. portfarms


      The Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems can be installed anywhere a climatically adapted structure is available. They have been installed in Alaska, Canada, the Caribbean, several countries in Africa and in South America. We do not ship to countries where intellectual property rights are ignored.

      We trust this information helps.


      Colle Davis – Inventor

  5. Douglas

    Do the grow beds need to be separate or could you make a u out of the two beds & use one pfas system?

    1. portfarms


      The reason the Grow Trays/Modules are separate is for ease of construction. As long as the entire Grow Tray is level in all directions it can be any configuration you want. Most people are not skilled enough at carpentry/cabinet building to pull this off. For the PFAS as long as the Grow Tray area does not exceed 200 sq ft and your can reach to all parts of it, then the configuration is up to you.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  6. Douglas

    I would like to build a 20×30 greenhouse with three beds 2 3×26 & 1 6×26, how many systems would that require?

    1. portfarms


      Here is a suggest that will give you a better utilization of the space. Use two trays 6’x 26′ with aisles on each side. This layout will yield over 50% coverage in Grow Tray space for the total footprint of the building and only require two PFAS Kits. It will also save you lumber, time, effort and the cost of the ‘third’ PFAS Kit.

      Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

      Colle Davis – Invento

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