The Real Cost of INDOOR Aquaponics

The Real Cost of INDOOR Aquaponics

–by Colle Davis


Aquaponics is a pesticide-free and chemical-free way to grow food. More and more people require food grown under these conditions.

Building a garden at your home gives you the advantage of controlling what you and your family eat.

The plants growing in the aquaponics’ grow tables are filled with crushed gravel. The plants receive their nutrients from the fish effluent (tilapia or catfish). Because of the ideal growing condition, the food is vulnerable to insects (ants, aphids, and mold), and the use of insecticides will kill the fish.

Aquaponics’ grow tables typically are installed in insulated greenhouses that receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day and protect from wind, rain, birds, rodents, and insects. Aquaponics systems may also be installed in well-ventilated warehouses with the addition of LED grow lights in place of direct sunshine.

Aquaponics uses air pumps, and we don’t recommend installing the systems in an empty room in a house. This caveat relates to the air pumps’ sound, along with the slight smell emitted from the fish tanks can be distracting.

However, we do recommend installing an indoor aquaponics system to grow fresh table vegetables and tank-grown fish. You can easily convert space in your basement, garage, workshop, or enclosed porch. If you have available space, you can install a grow table and fish tank to grow food and have fun.

When people contact us, they always ask, What will it cost me to get started?”

Here is the answer:

  1. The Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems Course© includes the Portable Farms® Kit containing the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems’ technology. Our online course teaches you to how to build and operate your aquaponics’ system. To learn the cost of our online course, please visit our website (right panel signup).

  1. The cost of the materials to build one module to feed eight people up to 200 sq ft [18.6m²] of grow space is approximately US$700 anywhere in the world.

  2. Full-spectrum grows lights ensure growth for the plants (both green and blooming plants), and the cost is about US$400 (price does not include the electricity required for the grow lights).

  • This total of $3,500 plus some labor includes cost variances and is in the US$4,000 range. This cost excludes anything related to a greenhouse. This quote/information specifies costs to install a Portable Farms® Aquaponics System in an indoor growing space.

Outdoor Portable Farms® Aquaponics Grow Tables  

Caveats to be aware of in this conversion process: 

  1. The numbers above apply to spaces up to 450 sq ft (42m²). Above 450 sq. ft. (42m²), you will need two grow tables, and the cost will go up, but not much on a per sq. ft. basis.

  1. Any space you utilize will require excellent ventilation to reduce the humidity. Having an indoor garden means you will be venting some oxygen and humidity into your very dry space or outside your home in most cold climates.

  2. We recommend you clean and paint the space before using it. The area needs to be clean of dirt, dust, and mold.

  3. The grow tables are heavy, so the floor underneath them must safely support 30 lbs. per sq foot (4.8k per m²) of dead load.

  1. Water gets spilled, and the floor space must be easy to clean up (preferably with a hose).

  1. Square spaces are much harder to plan and build in than rectangular areas.

The total cost to convert an enclosed space of 12ft x 25ft (3.7m x 7.6m) or a similar size is close to that described above. The cost per square foot will be in the range of US$12+ per sq. ft (4.8k per m²) approximately.

Diagram of One Module of a Portable Farms Aquaponics System

Here are the necessary parameters to determine how to utilize the space:

  1. Grow Tables usually are 5ft or 6ft (1.5m or 1.8) wide and up to 40ft (12.1m) long. The most effective way to utilize space is to subtract 4ft (1.2m) from the area’s length to see how long a grow table will fit and how many grow tables and aisles you can do in the space.

  1. A module (grow table and fish tank) is 7.5ft or 8.5ft (2.25m or 2.6m) wide. The width of the grow table plus a 2.5ft (0.76m) aisle on each side.

  1. Use the formula to find the number of modules to fit into your space. The floor space width minus 2.5ft (0.76m) divided by 7.5ft or 8.5ft (2.25m or 2.6m) equals the number of modules that will fit in the area you have available.

Fill & Drain vs. Raft Aquaponics

Fill & Drain vs. Raft Aquaponics
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis


The Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems are ideally designed for community aquaponics growing. 

One acre of land can accommodate 120 Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems’ modules installed in four separate greenhouses housing 30 modules each to grow 320,000 vegetables and 92,000 pounds of fish which will feed 960 people all the food they need to be healthy FOREVER. Plus, it only takes 12 people to operate a full acre.

Many large aquaponics installations are designed on the ‘Virgin Island model.’ They are a raft system using a single large fish tank, heavy-duty pumps and filters, and long-shallow grow tanks where the rafts are gradually pushed from one end to the other as the plants mature. By moving the plants several times as they mature, the actual yield-per-square-foot of surface area is very high.

Let’s look at how the raft systems are designed: 

  • The fish tank(s) is very large, often thousands of gallons and the water is moved constantly by a single heavy duty pump from the fish tank to some sort of bio filter or filtration system.
  • The water often goes through an aeration system because the water flowing to the plants growing in the rafts need to have a very high oxygen content in the water for their roots or they will die.
  • The water is then returned to the fish tank with the nutrients stripped out and depleted in oxygen.

The weak points of this type of system are as follows:

  • There is a single large pump the controls the water flow out of the fish tank and if it fails, the fish die.
  • The water at the end of the grow tanks needs to be lifted back up into the fish tank, this involves more pumping and the pumps can fail.
  • The bio filter must be cleaned daily, or the waste will overwhelm the system and poison the plants.
  • The plants are handled several times, first planted in some type of pot or medium, transplanted to a wider spacing, transplanted at least once more to their final raft and finally harvested.
  • The system requires a very large amount of water to start and consumes large amounts of water because the fish tank is open on top and evaporation is taking place.
  • The filtration system has also exposed the water to the air and evaporation takes place.
  • Only small leafy vegetables can be raised in this system (mostly lettuce and basil).
  • The raft system works, and it works very well. It requires more water, more power and more labor to operate than the medium-based systems (gravel grow beds).

Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems use a fill and drain, medium based system. Here is how this system works:

grow tray 2013aEach module is a standalone system with the fish tank, clarifier and grow tray working together.

  • There is no limit to the number of modules in an installation (example, 30 modules fit into a 10,000 sq foot greenhouse).

  • The maximum amount of water in each tank is 400 gallons.

  • The maximum number of fish in each tank is 400.

  • The ‘bio filter’ is in two parts, the clarifier and the huge gravel bed. The clarifier only needs to be cleaned every two to four months and the gravel NEVER needs to be cleaned.

  • The water is lifted one time (requiring electricity) using a small pump and the rest of the time it is flowing downhill back to the fish tank (gravity and flow).

  • The plants are handled three times. For greens, the seeds are planted into inert cubes, the seedlings/cubes are planted into the gravel and then at harvest time the entire plant is removed.

  • Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, peas and other flowering plants can be grow in great quantities and harvested over time.

  • Two full time employees are required for each 10,000 sq ft installation and most of their time is taken up with harvesting and planting, not moving and transplanting seedlings.

  • IF the electrical power fails to the entire system, it is designed so well that the fish will survive 12 full hours without aeration and the plants can go a full 24 hours on the residual water in the gravel. That is a HUGE safety factor.

  • If an individual pump fails it has no effect on the rest of the installation, only that particular module.

  • Not transplanting is required.

The differences are also reflected in the water and electrical usage:

  • A raft system uses over 15 times as much water initially, and requires four-to-ten-times as much makeup water as the PFAS commercial installation.
  • The raft system has more than one single point of failure and the PFAS has no single point of failure for an installation only in each module.
  • The electrical power requirements are four to six times higher in the raft system compared to the fill and drain medium based systems.

Bottom line: Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems are ideally designed for community aquaponics growing. One acre of land can accommodate four Portable Farms® that grow 320,000 vegetables and 92,000 pounds of fish which will feed 960 people all the food they need to be healthy FOREVER. Plus, it only takes 8 people to operate a full acre. For more information on the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems contact us today.

Community Aquaponics is the HOT NEW TREND

Community Aquaponics is the HOT NEW TREND
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

The impact of a single community aquaponics system is much larger than the excellent ROI (Return on Investment) and high monthly income. The impact of multiple units has a profound effect on virtually every aspect of a community.

botswana10,000 Sq ft Portable Farms Aquaponics System Commercial Farm Installed in Botswana, Africa


Commercial and community aquaponics systems have now proven themselves over the last two decades and are becoming more effective and efficient as the technology improves. Many people are contributing to the movement and it now appears that community aquaponics has finally arrived as a viable alternative to the easily disrupted food supply and the huge increase in the demand for locally grown, pesticide free food.

For investors looking for an ROI in the two to four year range, a construction company looking for a new arena to expand into over the next decade or two or even a Ministry of Agriculture or an NGO wanting to improve the lives of local people, community aquaponics is a viable option to address their desired outcomes to provide food and work for local people.

The large community installations employ local people on both a temporary (building the systems) and permanent basis (operating, harvesting and planting) and contribute to the local economy. The initial markets are necessarily local markets; resort hotels, high-end restaurants, foodies and specialty markets catering to the wealthy. Within the next few years, community aquaponics systems will contribute to local food supplies on a much broader scale (supermarkets and institutional growing for schools and prisons), but initially they may only contribute to the local economy through job creation.

For instance: An investor group planning to install a commercial (10,000 sq ft – 1/4 acre, 1,000m2) Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems next to a restaurant in a major US city. Here is what they are planning to accomplish with their very first installation:

  1. Showcase the use of aquaponics as a LOCAL FOOD SOURCE

  2. Deliver locally grown, pesticide free vegetables to their customers not treated with chemicals

  3. Place locally grown fresh-water healthy fish on the menu that were not treated with chemicals or any kind

  4. Reduce transportation costs for most vegetables to ZERO

  5. Serve food that was harvested on the DAY it was meant to be harvested which enhances both the flavor and the nutritional content of the food

  6. Dramatically reduces their carbon footprint

  7. Reduces storage costs because the food is harvested as needed

  8. Reduces prep time because the crops are harvested only as needed

  9. Supply their patrons with the excess production at regular store prices.

Plus the investor group will also reap these benefits:

  1. Realize an ROI of two to four years

  2. Net-net income for 1/4 acre is approximately US$100,000 or more depending on restaurant margins and the selection of crops you grow and sell to them

  3. Become their own supplier for many of the vegetables they now purchase through wholesalers

  4. Have the marketing lead to themselves in their niche for at least two years

  5. Become local spokespersons for using local suppliers and growers

  6. Offers owners ‘bragging rights’ to attract news coverage in the media. Also offers a ‘hook’ for advertising and articles about their aquaponics system to talk about on their website to boast the use of locally grown organic food that was planted, raised and harvested onsite or locally. This alone is worth its price of investment. Word travels fast and people will drive for miles to experience an innovative approach in dining and shopping.


To have the opportunity to invest in anything that has an ROI of less than five years is very tempting and when the investment comes with all of the above benefits, the long term impact for both the investor and the community continues to grow.

Multiple installations add several more benefits to the equation.

  1. The impact on local employment grows in direct proportion to each new installation

  2. The ancillary services to support the aquaponics installations creates jobs and even new businesses

  3. Tax revenue increases to better serve the community’s needs

  4. A stabilized workforce is more resilient to economic disruptions

  5. The less a community depends on imported energy and food, the more stable the community

  6. Eventually, a surplus may be developed and shipping to other areas

  7. The area could even become a net exporter of food.

The question now is, “How can an individual or group step into the community aquaponics business?”

The answer is, “Be prepared to spend some money to determine the feasibility of your chosen location and to work with engineers and experts to establish the cost and benefits for your project.”

Aquaponics for Beginners

Aquaponics for Beginners
By Colle and Phyllis Davis

There are literally millions of pages on the Internet about the topic of aquaponics.


PFAS LLC’s website has been visited several million times over the last 12 months, and we are only one of the many other sites available. To start the journey of having a working aquaponics system, the best place to start is to begin to search the Internet and devote several hours of time to do the research and then assemble your own unique aquaponics system.

Begin with one beta fish or gold fish in a bowl to support one lettuce plant. Grow your interest to feed your family and then if the stars align, install a community garden. BEGIN SMALL and grow from there.

If you’re interested in owning your own aquaponics system, your first goal is to select the size aquaponics system you’d like to operate for your own unique purposes. We always suggest to our customers that they learn how to successfully operate an aquaponics system and if it fits their needs THEN expand to multiple aquaponics modules (the sky’s the limit).

There are literally thousands of websites that can show you how to set up a small workable open-source backyard hobby-aquaponics systems without paying for the information. For those who are not able to purchase our systems, we suggest you START TODAY by working with online/open source information so you can learn about aquaponics and build your own farm. We also suggest you visit online aquaponics forums so you can ask questions you may have from other aquaponics enthusiasts. 

Please do all the research you need to feel comfortable moving forward with your aquaponics project. Some quick numbers that will be helpful:

  • IF you place your small system inside, as in garage or basement, be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars on the very smallest system that will be a joy to show off to your friends and enjoy a few vegetables each year. Indoors, if you build a larger system (4 x 8’ grow tray size) be prepared to spend a little over $1,000 and that will help feed one and a third people. More fun and more bragging.
  • If you go absolutely crazy and put up a greenhouse or ‘big’ installation to feed 4 to 8 people then you are looking at an investment in the US$3,500 to US$8,000 range (depending on your choice of greenhouse).

farm 8 18 2012 aquaponicsWe call this process of starting small and expanding the size of your aquaponics system ‘getting your hands wet’ because even if one possesses all the knowledge in the world about a topic (in this case aquaponics), it will not feed a single person; only ACTION GROWS FOOD and in this case several steps are required before it creates food that nourishes someone and that action has an impact.  Start with research, build a small aquarium and dish pan system, move up to garbage cans or IBC totes, go crazy and build a ‘real’ system so you can kill fish and plants. Oh, sorry, you may not want to hear that, but that is what will happen. That is how one learns, by making mistakes.

aquaponics back yard farmIn the world of makers and successful businesses there is a motto: Fail fast and fail often. This means you will try things and if they work, keep them, if they fail, try something else. Side note here: we have killed thousands of fish in our 45 years in the field of aquaponics. Some we ate, some were our own dumb mistakes coming to bite us and some were out of unintended consequences.

Back to getting a running start in aquaponics. Start somewhere, at some level, now. Modern aquaponics is a brand new field because it encompasses recent technology and innovation along with successful techniques from the past. Aquaponics is evolving rapidly and slowly becoming main stream. The commercial side of aquaponics may take another ten or twenty years to accept on par with hydroponics, but it will happen.

It is the hobbyist, gardener, cook and home owner who are leading the charge on this ‘new’ technology, not the big companies, governments or NGO’s. Aquaponics is up close and personal as only eating can be and it is the opportunity to eat the best food on earth, every day, for a long as you live.

The important part is to get started NOW. Have fun, make mistakes and eat great food.

The Economics of Aquaponics 

The Economics of Aquaponics 
By Colle and Phyllis Davis, Inventors,
Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems

The information in this article focuses on the economics of aquaponics. We explore the financial aspects as well as people’s desire to learn about the aquaponics technology that allows them to grow food year-round.

PFAS LLC has offered our Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems
for sale to the public since June 2008.

    • We have sold both backyard farms and commercial farms in 25 countries, all 50 US States and throughout Canada.
    • We have also conducted private tours of our farms to more than 7,000 people who traveled from all over the world to see our technology and the food and fish we grow.

A small backyard aquaponics installation is not a good investment from a business standpoint. For example, if you were interested in growing and selling the food from your aquaponics system, the ROI (Return on Investment) would be 5 to 10 years or even longer. It’s a wise move to invest money where you receive a faster rate of return. On the other hand, the value of your installation increases each year even if you sell none of the productionJun

Backyard Aquaponics Systems

Those who buy a Portable Farms Aquaponics Course and Kit or build their own style system are interested in the following factors.

  • They want to learn about aquaponics growing. [Many have an interest in expanding their backyard farm into a larger operation with the idea of selling their produce and fish. For those, we recommend a minimum of ten Portable Farms® modules 5’x40’ or 6’x32’ to create a reasonable ROI for their time and investment.]
  • They want to involve family members in a hobby that teaches everyone the process of growing vegetables and raising fish.
  • They are interested in growing fresh, healthy and delicious food year-round to become more self-sufficient and sustainable.
  • They want to share their interest in aquaponics with family, neighbors and friends. Did someone mention bragging rights? Yes, they did.

The Economics of a Family-Sized Aquaponics Greenhouse

  • The highest cost of a backyard yard aquaponics system is the greenhouse structure. If year-round production is the goal, then a climatically adapted structure will be 60% to 70% of the total cost. Building a food-protection facility for your family is expensive, but the payback is worth the investment.
  • The cost of a head or bunch of lettuce in the summer is low because it is readily available from many sources. The cost of that same head/bunch of lettuce in the winter can be up to three times the summer cost.
  • How valuable is having your produce fresh and available year-round? What dollar value is there in knowing the routine is to plant, harvest, and feed the fish—no weeding, no spraying, no insects, no rotting vegetables.
  • The ROI on a backyard family aquaponics farm is difficult to measure in terms of money. It is easy to understand the value of enjoying the best food on the planet readily available. A small solar electrical system and some supplemental heat means you can survive most disasters. There is a satisfaction in knowing you are providing for your family even in hard times.

Commercial Aquaponics Installations

On a larger scale, commercial installations (3,000+ sq. ft / 279 m2) have an ROI’s in the one-to-three-year range depending on these factors:

  • The successful operation of a commercial sized farm is dependent on the skill of managers and operators of the farm.
  • The choice of seeds and crops (vegetables and fish) they grow in their farms.
  • The marketing skills of the manager of the farms to sell and deliver the food to their customers in a timely manner so the food is harvested and delivered at the peak of perfection.
  • The success of the structure (greenhouse) to 1) maintain moderate growing temperatures, 2) provide safety and growing-level conditions within the farm to protect the plants from weather, birds, insects and other predators (squirrels, etc.), 3) a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day, 4) Plants can only utilize approximately 70% of direct sunlight. Shade cloth is vital for crop protection for UV and heat sensitive plants.

The larger the facility, the faster the payback. Several large installations will pay themselves off at a rate that allows the income to fund more installations.

Caveat: This article is not about commercial aquaponics, if you want more information read our definitive book on the subject, Commercial Aquaponics GOLD .

Greenhouses to House Your Backyard Aquaponics System

This 10′ x 16′ greenhouse frame is large enough to hold one 5′ x 12′ grow table
capable of feeding two people table vegetables FOREVER.

Assuming you are ready to build the greenhouse, the next step is where to place it. The building needs 6 hours of direct sunlight each day for the best results. Or you will need supplemental lighting to reach full production levels. Shade cloth is also necessary and made movable to maximize the growing season.

If you’re interested in a lean-to greenhouse on the side or back of your house, we’ve provided a link to a free plan and tutorial at the bottom of this page.

  • South of the 37th parallel latitude, (Mason/Dixon line in the US) the best results are realized using a north/south orientation of the long measurement of the building. This layout spreads the sun over the interior more effectively and makes the use of shade cloth more efficient.
  • North of the 37th parallel, it is best to use an east/west long measurement to build on. This layout allows for more insulated areas and better heating in the winter. It also makes cooling more efficient in the summer because of the prevailing wind direction.

The ROI on backyard aquaponics systems is immeasurable. They have an intrinsic value to you and your family. Knowing food is available, having some long-term storage foods as a backup, and knowing how to fix nutritious meals for loved ones brings peace and satisfaction in these troubled times.

Make Money with Your Own Aquaponics’ Business

Make Money with Your Own Aquaponics’ Business
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems

Aquaponics is easier and more productive than organic gardening or traditional agriculture and uses 95% less water. Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems also use less electricity and less labor than any other aquaponics system in the world.

Start somewhere, at some level, now. Modern aquaponics is a brand new field because it encompasses recent technology and innovation along with successful techniques from the past. Aquaponics is evolving rapidly and slowly becoming main stream. The commercial side of aquaponics may take another ten or twenty years to accept on par with hydroponics, but it will happen.

It is the hobbyist, gardener, cook and home owner who are leading the charge on this ‘new’ technology, not the big companies, governments or NGO’s. Aquaponics is up close and personal as only eating can be and it is the opportunity to eat the best food on earth, every day, for a long as you live.

The important part is to get started NOW. Have fun, make mistakes and eat great food.

Another benefit of the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems is their wide range of temperature tolerance. Space at the Grow Table level needs to stay in the range of 45 to 104° F (6 to 40° C). The Fish Tank is heated to a constant temperature and helps maintain the temperature inside through the timing of the water cycles. ­

Heating the space can be as simple as adding a small space heater that is placed on the floor. It can be electrical, propane, city gas or even fuel oil powered. Exhaust from combustion needs to be vented as in living space. There are installations measuring 20’ x 36’ (6 x 11m) in Minnesota that only require a small thermostatically controlled electrical heater to keep the space above 45 degrees. There are larger installations in Wisconsin, Oregon and New York heated with wood-burning stoves. These stoves are a lot more work, but work they do in producing great vegetables.

Aquaponics is an ideal business opportunity for young adults, men, women, those currently employed full time or part time, older adults, retired people, and those with disabilities. This is NOT a get-rich-scheme; it requires dedication, start-up capital and a sense of humor to grow any entrepreneurial venture to success. 

Portable Farms® customers say to us almost every day,I want to start small with a backyard farm and then grow into a larger system, maybe even to a larger size commercial aquaponics operation fairly quickly. Can I do this using your system?”

QUESTION: Can a person or family or small group start really small (for example, one single Portable Farms Module in a greenhouse) and then grow into a commercial success in a reasonable amount of time?

ANSWER: ABSOLUTELY, YES! Let us teach you what we know.

Launching your own aquaponics business involves leveraging the most efficient aquaponics system in the world into a money-making business plan for personal wealth and security. PLEASE NOTE: aquaponics is NOT a get-rich-quick plan for creating wealth. In fact, it requires a capital outlay and the return on investment is dependent on your ability to grow, market and SELL the food you raise. Growing vegetables and fish is the easy part.
There are several distinct steps for making a nice living with aquaponics and maybe even becoming wealthy after a few years of focus and hard work. The best part is that the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems installations are doing most of the work with the owner planting, harvesting and selling their healthy food to eager markets.

Launching your own aquaponics business involves leveraging the most efficient aquaponics system in the world into a money-making  business plan for personal wealth and security.

There are several distinct steps for making a nice living with aquaponics and maybe even becoming wealthy after a few years of focus and hard work. The best part is that the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems installations are doing most of the work with the owner planting, harvesting and selling their healthy food to eager markets.

Origins of Aquaponics

Origins of Aquaponics
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis


Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems are easier and more productive than dirt gardening or traditional agriculture and uses less water, less electricity and less labor than any other aquaponics system in the world.

Please note that aquaponics does not grow ‘field crops’ such as rice, wheat, corn or root vegetables, but it DOES grow table greens and many blooming plants (not all, but some) such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans.

Phyllis Davis holding a single head of Bok Choy grown in a Portable Farm.

Aquaponics with Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems 

 — Build, own and operate your own backyard aquaponics system.

— Feed a family of eight year round with one module of Portable Farms® Aquaponics System.

— Start a commercial aquaponics installation by installing twenty to thirty modules and sell the food you grow.

The Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems duplicate what nature has been doing for billions of years. The water, containing the fish waste, is pumped out of the fish tanks to a settling tank, where the solids settle to the bottom of the tank while the nutrient-rich water then flows, by gravity, through a series of trays where the plants are growing, and then back into the fish tanks. The small amount of separated fish-waste water in the settling tank is drained off at regular intervals, and can be used to fertilize crops such as trees, ornamentals or lawns. The cycle of the water flowing through the system repeats itself several times each day. Some make-up water has to be added at regular intervals to compensate for the water used in the settling tank cleaning, and for the water used by the plants for growth (transpiration). And, that’s how the system works. Simple, elegant and with very little energy to produce high quantities of locally grown food.

Learn more about owning your own Portable Farms® Aquaponics System

Aquaponics has been explored for several decades as a possible solution to the foregoing environmental, energy and food shortage problems.  Aquaponics combines the art of growing aquatic animals (fish), known as aquaculture, with the modern technology of hydroponics in which plants are grown without soil. In aquaponics, fish and plants are grown together in an integrated closed loop re-circulating system with a very low rate of water usage or water loss due to evaporation. This symbiotic relationship between the fish and the growing plants is the goal of aquaponics by creating a sustainable ecosystem in which both fish and plants can thrive and as a result, produces safe, fresh protein and healthy vegetables.

Oreochromis Mossambicus Tilapia. This is the male tilapia used in aquaponics systems in the Northern Hemisphere.

To work efficiently, Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems require ‘warm water, fresh water fish’ of some kind to provide the essential waste and their nutrients for your plants. Generally, aquaponics systems use warm-water fish instead of cold-water fish (like trout) because the plants don’t like the cold water.

Aquaponics is the growing of fish, or other water-based animals, along with land plants in a controlled environment, to maximize the use of the energy and nutrients in the system in order to harvest the greatest amount of vegetables and fish protein from the system.

The word aquaponics comes from words aquaculture, which is the cultivation of fish or other `water- based animals, and the word hydroponics, where plants are grown in a sterile medium or completely in water.

By combining the fish, water and plants, Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems use an integrated environment to produce vegetables and fish in very small space, with very little water.

Aquaponics has its roots in ancient China and parts of the aquaponics system were developed in other areas of the world where high concentrations of people lived who were observant of the relationships that existed naturally in their environment.

In China, farmers knew that land livestock waste could be added to their fields or ponds to increase production of vegetables and fruit bearing plants. They also noticed that different fish had different tolerances to the level of land-animal waste in their water. For example too much pig or chicken waste caused many fish to die (the modern explanation for this is lack of oxygen) so they were careful about balancing their system for maximum yield and minimum fish loss.These Chinese farmers were able to refine their systems so they could grow chickens in pens above pigs, (with the waste dropping through along with any spilled food) who were in a pen over a pond with carp in it, and then the water flowed to another pond with other less tolerant fish such as catfish, and perhaps other aquatic animals and certainly other water plants were grown and harvested. These systems were so called flow-through systems, meaning that water was used once through the ponds, and then released to the local paddies, streams, lakes or ocean. The sludge from the bottom of the ponds was used on the fields and some of the water was used in the paddies for fertilizer before it was released.

dry-riverbedIn the twenty-first century, the world faces an environmental crisis, issues related to climate change (drought and flooding as well as record-setting heat waves) and an energy crisis. In addition, many parts of the world face severe food shortages. Twentieth century agricultural techniques have harmed the environment and consume an inordinate amount of energy and water. Many countries lack the large amounts of arable land and water needed to sustain growing human populations. Developed nations use large amounts of pesticides and artificial fertilizers to grow their grains, fruits, and vegetables. At the same time, they use huge amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel to power their farm machinery, large amounts of electricity to process their food, and enormous amounts of fuel to deliver the processed food to grocery stores. The raising of farm animals, particularly cattle and swine, is notoriously inefficient in terms of the amount of land and energy required to raise corn and other animal

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).


Is Aquaponics in City Centers in the Future?

Is Aquaponics in City Centers in the Future?
By Colle and Phyllis Davis

According to Food Empowerment Project, Food Deserts in inner-cities make it difficult
for many to source and purchase fresh food.

“Food deserts can be described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance. For instance, according to a report prepared for Congress by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, about 2.3 million people (or 2.2 percent of all US households) live more than one mile away from a supermarket and do not own a car. [1] In urban areas, access to public transportation may help residents overcome the difficulties posed by distance, but economic forces have driven grocery stores out of many cities in recent years, making them so few and far between that an individual’s food shopping trip may require taking several buses or trains. In suburban and rural areas, public transportation is either very limited or unavailable, with supermarkets often many miles away from people’s homes.”

Urbanization of the world is continuing and over half the people on Earth now live in cities. The countryside is depopulating, and the skills of growing food for local consumption is being shifted away from large country farms to small or even tiny urban plots. There are urban or suburban farmers with less than half an acre now producing over US$100,000 annual income. The technologies they have embraced are the use of cold frames, hoop greenhouse covers, greenhouses, and high intensive cultivation methods.

In the days before massive food distribution in refrigerated trucks, many of our grandparents had family gardens that grew food to be canned or pickled for winter months. Today, urban farmers have learned to extend harsh winter climates thirty to ninety days, urban farmers gain a twenty to fifty percent increase in their incomes. Anchoring a small plot or even a rooftop (as many in Asia have done, with a greenhouse and surrounding it with high-intensity gardening) has freed these urban farmers from the need to work for others.

Do you have a deck, a patio, a small back or front yard? [Greenhouses in the front yard are a red flag to certain types of neighborhoods’ home-owner associations, be forewarned.] Perhaps a balcony, flat roof or a parking space, can be converted into urban gardens. YouTube is a fantastic resource for information and how-to videos in the area of intense farming. The newest planting equipment is expensive, but the payback is less than one season.

Producing protein on tiny plots presents exciting challenges. Chickens, rabbits, and fish are the top choices because they are easy and cheap to raise and there is a ready local market for them. There are US jurisdictions where restrictions apply, and urban farmers are learning how to pressure for changes in the zoning and livestock regulations. Chickens are sometimes noisy and hard to hide from neighbors. Rabbits and fish are quiet and less apt to draw attention.

The fish raised in aquaponics are a bonus and provide a fantastic fertilizer for the rest of your intensive garden plot. Applying the fish waste, a nontoxic, no burn fertilizer, encourages the growth of most plants. A garden plot of three by ten feet can utilize the waste load from an aquaponics system of fifty square feet of Grow Table space. Other plants on the property or nearby will benefit from its magic.

Alternatively, as a last resort, the liquid can be sold as a natural, pesticide-free fertilizer that will not burn or harm plants. The price can be as high as US$15 a gallon. Oh, another income source. A one-hundred-gallon fish tank system supporting a fifty square foot Grow Table will produce thirty gallons of ‘waste’ every three months. Let’s see, if we sell half, that is 60 gallons times US$15 or US$900 per year. That money adds extra money for paying bills or for luxuries.

Sign up today for the Aquaponics University Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems Course© and lead the way to a safer, happier and more secure urban living.

Warehouse Aquaponics? Yes, Here’s How . . .

Warehouse Aquaponics with Portable Farms®? Yes, Here’s How . . .
– by Colle and Phyllis Davis

How to keep a warehouse clean in four steps

We cracked the code so you make money faster and easier and with LOWER ELECTRICAL COSTS to increase your ROI for warehouse aquaponics! You’re welcome.

Greenhouse & Warehouse Aquaponics GOLD

This ebook discloses the facts, figures and formulas necessary for successful greenhouse and warehouse aquaponics growing.

The main advantage for using greenhouses is to modify the microclimate and to extend the growing season for a wider variety of crops. The protection from the weather has a huge positive effect on the plant growth and is very cost effective. The main disadvantage, in most cases, is that the greenhouse is being used in the same-old-ways of intensive farming methods that are used in regular growing. The water is applied to the plants and the excess water flows into the ground and is lost forever. Even if watering is done with careful irrigation even drip irrigation systems, the water is lost forever and, in some climates, increases the humidity inside the structure. 

Those huge empty warehouses seem to be begging to be repurposed again in some productive and sustainable way. The enclosed space runs from tens of thousands to millions of square feet of usable space. There must be some way to turn that empty space into a money maker.

How about making this available warehouse space into a huge aquaponics setup using some special grow lights to grow plants? It sounds so reasonable and straightforward. Every week PFAS LLC receives requests from all over the world from those interested in making use of abandoned warehouses in their area. They dream of converting the interior space of warehouses into a high-intensity food production facility to grow, sell and distribute food locally and make lots of money.

Greenhouse advantages:

  1. Controls pests, diseases and predators (birds, small animals, etc.) from the natural surrounding environments

  2. Protects plants and fish from extreme weather conditions (except for tornado, hurricane or major flooding)

  3. Enables ability to provide shade cloth to protect from too much sun for maximum production

  4. Extends growing season

  5. Provides pleasant, comfortable, quiet work environment for workers

  6. Offers ideal conditions for growing plants and fish

  7. Creates a space for the option of installing Grow Lights above grow trays for year-round maximum growing conditions.\The physical building needs to enclose as much air space as possible to help regulate the temperature. Buildings with taller roofs are much easier to keep cool and interestingly, they are easier to keep warm when using the PFAS Technology


Below is the process that nearly all warehouses must go through in order to be ready for Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems:

  1. Obtain the use of the building through leasing or purchase or whatever means of legal transfer is required to secure the right to use the space.
  2. Obtain the necessary permits to make changes to the electrical, HVAC, surface water diversion, sewage hook ups and security systems. This may also require a zoning change.
  3. Permission from Fish and Wildlife Department in the local jurisdiction.
  4. Permission from the electrical utility to ‘up the load coverage’ to keep the grow lights on.
  5. A thorough cleaning. Steam cleaning and even sand blasting walls and floors may be necessary to make the space clean and usable for growing plants and fish.
  6. Painting all surfaces and using an epoxy coating on the floors.
  7. Replacing or updating the entire HVAC system.
  8. Installing an effective grow light system first before installing the aquaponics’ Modules.