Single Barrel Aquaponics - Part 1 of 5

Part 2 : Here  Part 3 : Here  Part 4 : Here  Part 5 : Here
14th November 2010 update : Here

I have been wanting to try out Barrel-ponics system by Travis Hughey , this system which make use of recycle plastic drums for Aquaponics are among the early setup widely tried by Aquaponics enthusiast everywhere.

If you check out Travis site, their barrel-ponics make use of half barrels as growbed.., fish tank using barrel and water feed using a barrel with toilet cistern type flood and drain.

The one I am making may be on a different approach toward barrel-ponics where I am just using one barrel making the entire setup with it. This approach is already done by others, the one I saw uses loop siphon so I am making this one with my mini siphon.

Additional Note : 
I am downloading the Barrel-ponics Manual to check whether this setup I made is actually a Barrel-ponics system, because from what I understand Barrel-ponics is a system and not just by using these Barrel as containers it could be classified as Barrel-ponics. 

After having read through the Barrel-ponics manual, I concluded what I build here is not a Barrel-ponics system.. its just a Siphon Flood & Drain Aquaponics using a barrel.

Bought a blue barrel from local scrap yard for RM 35.00, that about USD 10.00. It may be a bit overprice but I just wanted one and I've never bought any before. BTW these barrel are widely use here as pontoon, so the guy that sell me this ask whether I am making a pontoon. It will takes half a day to explain to him about Aquaponics, so to cut the time short.. I said yes making a pontoon.

This barrel already been washed internally but have a bit of a smell, Blue barrel normally use for storing non poisonous chemicals. The black color barrel is the one we should stay away from.

Barrel cut to my required size, let it dry out in the sun. Its been very hot and will continue later on with cutting the access on the lower barrel and drill hole for my siphon on the growbed part of the barrel.


Cannot go anywhere today.. its rain so I proceed in doing a bit more on the setup.

I've make cutouts on the lower barrel for access and stack the growbed part on top of the lower barrel.  I use cable tie to hold the top part to the lower half. These barrel are made to be stackable so not much of a problem here to have it this way.

I may have made the cut out slightly lower then necessary,, this will make my water level low and may at time fill to the brim.. well just have to see and find out.

Additional note : 
I should have cut the access hole the size of A4 paper one on each side, its better as compare to this one which is slightly bigger.

Mini Siphon stand pipe in place need to adjust it height next, its more to the side then in the middle, this is due to that uneven part running across from either barrel outlet. A flat place is essential for siphon stability so I have no choice but to have it here.

The point marked "X", I am thinking of making a hole for water inflow feed. I am still contemplating on making this hole or just have the water feed coming from the side to top of growbed.

Bottom of growbed, this show the siphon outlet.. its my mini siphon .. and due to its small size this setup will need a very small pump... I may use existing pump the 1000 L/hr rating and have a bypass for excess water returning back to tank.

Since this part of the barrel will be the growbed... its best to seal the two barrel inlet with a good sealer. I use Selleys' All Clear Multipurpose Co-Polymer Sealant for all my Aquaponics sealing needs... I believe its an Australian brand... so far I can say its the best I can find here in Malaysia.

Put everything loosely in place to test it. I use 1000 l/hr pump with lots of leak at the pump output giving a slow trickle in flow to the growbed.

Water in,, and slowly filling in the growbed, mini siphon is a rough installation. I need to adjust its length to cover the growbed height.

Not much of a guessing game on the siphon it flush first time, the more important is whether it cut off the flow.

Yes it does cut off without problem, this is the water level when it cut off. I need to redo just on the siphon and water feed inlet. Its a temporary installation which I need to redo later. In the mean time I will let it cycle and may put mild detergent to clean this barrel further.

It quite a simple thing to make, and took me approximately four hours to get to this stage, that inclusive of the time to make my mini siphon.

Total cost so far up to this point RM 80.00 thats about USD 22.00

Next will be putting gravel and let it cycle.


  1. We are already raising chickens and rabbits here in Baltimore City, and this year we are going to try fish. Thank you for this blog, it looks amazing!

  2. Great, its a good addition to what you already have.

  3. Affnan. This is great. Where can I get these blue barrels? This got me thinking about releasing my water feature filter system with some hydroponic bed and plants. What would you recommend I try to plant?

  4. @Rem, where are you located I'll can give you the coordinated and phone number, these barrel is RM35.00 a piece. Becareful when purchase, don't ever buy the black ones.

    Recommended Dark Green or dark Blue. The thickness varies. For Aquaponics we need to use the thicker ones.

  5. I'm in Penang. Always wanted to build a wormery but never looked hard enough to find these barrels.

  6. @REM, these barrel normally available from scrap dealer. I'm sure in Penang they will have plenty.

  7. Replies
    1. Tak jual, saya cuma galakkan sapa sapa yg berminat supaya buat sendiri.

  8. Hi! affnan, i would like to ask about this project of yours. any update?

    1. Hi Nyleus, thanks for the comment. This set was given away to a student for his Aquaponics demo project. This kit is a single barrel kit its day to day operation no differ from any normal flood and drain set.

      I am thinking to make another set for my own demo purpose.

  9. Salam Affnan,

    Been following your blog and youtube videos, very interesting and thanks.
    Is there any way that you could let me visit your place to have a look at your
    set up as im really interested in aquaponics and have been for a long time.


    1. For the time being, I cannot accommodate any visit due to my busy schedule.

  10. hi affnan,where did you go get these barrels?And the rice bran you feed the fry is it powdered form if so can i get it form aquarium shops?thanks!!

    1. Barrels can be obtained from most recycle dump, they sell these for about RM 50 each. On rice bran you can get from Aquarium shop, they have the powder feed.

  11. Thanks very much Mr Adnan for your info. I have been trying to get my hand on these barrels for a long time. I just can't find them in Klang. Maybe if I try harder.I have tried to set up a bell siphon system using mineral bottles and pvc pipe. problem is it work for sometime and then it just keep on draining water. shake the bottle a few times and it is back to working condition.Can I send u the picture for you to see? Where can I send it to?


  12. Salam Affnan,.. amazing blog! Where can we get this barrel in KK, Sabah? tq

  13. let me know the dimensional details of cut barrel.volume of the water in bottom barrel and how many tilapia fish can be grown

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