Cost and Operations of An Aquaponics System

Cost and Operations of an Aquaponics System
by Colle and Phyllis Davis


The majority of daily tasks include planting, harvesting and feeding the fish.
Repeat the next day.

aug 20 interior2There are two assumptions that will be made here regarding the operations for a backyard aquaponics system:

1) your installation is, or is similar to, a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.

2) You have built a medium/media based (not a raft based) aquaponics system. Operations include the steps that are necessary for you to keep the fish and plants alive and healthy. 

Here are the daily tasks for operating a Portable Farms Aquaponics System,
plant, harvest and feed the fish.




A backyard farm that feeds 8 people generally takes about ten to fifteen minutes per day to maintain. This includes feeding the fish, planting seedlings and harvesting. Operations are NOT time consuming but they are DAILY operations that cannot and should NOT be skipped.

When you’re dealing with living aquatic animals, they require daily care, attention and yes, even affection to remain healthy and grow to their full size. If your fish are ‘stressed’ for any reason, they won’t eat – – – – and if they don’t eat – – – – they don’t poop – – – – and if they don’t poop, your plants will not be healthy.  So, if you’re going to be gone for longer than a day or so, ask a friend or neighbor (that you trust) that will take care of your aquaponics system.

Here’s the full cost breakdown of a backyard aquaponics system: READ ON . . . 

  • Greenhouse: Must be able to keep the interior temperature between 40 and 104° F. The costs are dependent on your choice of design
  • Wooden or concrete floor/slab – from $100 to $300
  • Insulated stem wall to set the greenhouse on top of for more height – 2×4’s and plywood – $250 to $350
  • Fish tank – sometimes known of as a livestock watering trough  – $150
  • Lumber for the Grow Tray – 2×4’s, 2×6’s, plywood, etc – between $800 and $1,200
  • PVC pipe and fittings  – $100
  • Misc – $250 

You may even have some of the materials on hand or have access to recycled materials at a reduced cost. Even if you have to pay full retail price for everything, an operating aquaponics farm is a fantastically good deal. Plus, a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System is infinitely expandable because of it modular design. You can expand it and begin selling the excess to create a small income.

tilapia Oreochromis mossambicusOperational tasks include:

1. Maintaining adequate levels of water in the fish tank at all times.

2. Feeding your fish a high protein fish feed each day (singing to your fish is optional but they do enjoy human contact and they do enjoy the sound of talking and singing)

3. Always wear disposable gloves when preforming tasks in the building
4. Keeping the pH balanced in the fish tank

5. Stocking the appropriate number of fish in the fish tank that is in balance with the area of the grow tray

6. 24/7 aeration provided for the fish at all times (bubbles).



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    • Joseph on 2019-12-18 at 12:33 am
    • Reply

    We live in Phoenix AZ and as you know the temperatures can exceed over 115 degrees in the summer for over 3 months. Even at night time the temperature doesn’t drop below 90 degrees. Are the plants able to survive? We do have solar on our house so if I have to adapt cooler air or swamp cooler that’s ok because of my lower electric bill. Does a swamp cooler or smaller a/c unit hurt the plant environment?

    1. Joseph: Happy Holidays. Yes, it does get very hot in Phoenix, AZ., and because of that, you will need to build an acclimatized greenhouse with a swamp cooler, fans and sun screen/fabric hung overhead. The average temperature in the greenhouse should not extend 90 degrees. The swamp cooler does NOT hurt the plant environment as long as there is a fan inside the greenhouse to keep the plants dry. In fact, your plants will not survive without it.

      The closer to the ‘ideal’ temperature the better for the plants to grow. The ideal temperature for plant growth is, interestingly, 73° F at the leaf surface or about the same temperature as humans enjoy.

      In installations using elevated medium (gravel in Portable Farms®) filled grow trays, the medium can very quickly heat up to killer temperatures for the plants if not protected from the direct rays of the sun. The advantages of the waist high gravel filled grow trays has to be tempered with the need to keep the gravel relatively cool.

      In a climatically adapted greenhouse, temperatures are regulated so the maximum temperature the plants can comfortably tolerate is never reached and the lowest temperature that the particular plant can grow at, produce the best possible conditions for growth.

      We have farms in many hot climates including Southern Florida, Mexico and South Africa that are very successful.

      I hope this helps. We’re having a two-for-one sale January 10.
      TWO Portable Farms® Kits and tuition for TWO seats for our self-paced online aquaponics course for the Price of One: $1,995.00.

      Each graduate of the online aquaponics course receives a diploma from Aquaponics University and a Portable Farms® Kit.

      Generally, it requires students twelve to sixteen hours to complete the online course. Students have one year to complete the course after initial enrollment.

      Make Your New Year’s Resolution to Own a Portable Farms®
      Aquaponics System in 2020.

    • Katrine Martin on 2019-02-09 at 12:28 am
    • Reply

    Please clarify: $140 is the shipping cost of each kit if outside the U.S., or outside the continental U.S.?

    1. Hello Katrine: Yes, all 50 US States qualify for free shipping. If you have anymore questions, please contact us. Thanks! Phyllis Davis, President, PFAS LLC

  1. I live in Ontario Canada, do you have any customers this far north and can I contact them?

    1. Angela,

      We have students all over North America who have Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems in operation. Part of our agreement with everyone who purchases the Aquaponics University Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems Course© is that we will NOT SHARE their information with anyone without their permission. In the seven years we have offered the PFAS for sale, no one has yet given us permission to share their contact information EXCEPT the one installation in Oro Grande, CA. Those with the PFAS installations do not want to have people on their property, their insurance company will require extra insurance if they do and there is nothing in it for them to have strangers look at their farm.

      We are honoring the wishes of our students and customers on this issue.

      Even though this is not what you wanted to hear, it is reality and a reflection of today’s world.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

    • Chris on 2013-06-25 at 10:32 pm
    • Reply

    Smokers can’t maintain a viable aquaponic system? Is it that fragile?

    My wife smokes. She raises fish, and she loves gardening. This looks like something that suits her right down to the ground unless being a smoker kills everything off. Will it still work, or will being a smoker (not smoking in the garden) kill everything off?

    Also, she is particularly fond of decorative koi ponds. Can the water from one of these be pumped into the garden area, or does it have to be fish enclosed in the garden?


    1. Chris,

      Tobacco virus is a very virulent disease and smokers and other tobacco users CAN spread it. Because the greenhouse is a contained space, once the virus is inside it is very hard to get rid of. It does not kill fish, only your prized plants.

      Koi can be use very successfully.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

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