Running Your Aquaponic Home Garden System


There are a few common methods of running your aquaponic home garden system. You can flood and drain it by using a timer on the pump to switch the pump off and on, while a standpipe in the grow bed controls the flooding level. You can flood and drain it using an auto siphon within the grow bed and running your pump continuously. You can also run the system with a continuously flooded grow bed using a standpipe in the bed. We have been running some trials of these three different methods.

At the time of writing this our trials have been running for over 12 months and in reality there’s been little difference at the end of the day between the three different systems. There were some differences in the early period but after 12 months there really is very little difference between them. This being the case I would recommend running your IBC system continuously flooded as we have set up our IBC system on this website.

Chift Pist

Chift Pist systems are popular amongst the aquaponics DIY sector with many people. Water is pumped from the sump tank into the fish tank, this causes the water level in the fish tank to rise, flowing out into the grow bed. The Easy DIY Aquaponicsgrow bed then drains into the sump tank before being pumped back to the fish again. Uses either an auto siphon within the grow bed to flood and drain the grow bed or run with the grow bed constantly flooded.

A SLO (Solids Lift Overflow) is normally incorporated into these systems, This means that the overflow pipe in the fish tank goes right down top the base of the fish tank where it will draw solids up from the bottom of the tank and deposit them into the grow bed.

Not often set up with timers on the pump unless you have a very large sump as it requires a large capacity to top the fish tank and fill the grow bed in a pumping cycle. Not the simplest method of setting up a system because you have to incorporate a sump tank in your design.


  • Pump is in sump tank away from fish and wastes
  • Water level in fish tank remains constant
  • Great if you have a tall fish tank
  • Larger water volume because of sump


  • Extra equipment required (sump tank)
  • Must have tall fish tank or stand
  • can take up larger footprint
  • limited running methods (no timer possible)

Simple Flood and Drain

Simple flood and drain can be done a couple of ways, you can either have a standpipe in the grow bed and timer on the pump, or you can use a siphon in the grow bed. The debate over which method is better is a hotly debated topic and I think the answer is fairly simple, that each has advantages and disadvantages. Personally after playing with siphons on a few different systems I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to use them, so all systems I make, use standpipes.

Easy DIY Aquaponics


  • Simple Design
  • Only two major system components
  • Great if you have a tall fish tank


  • Pump in fish tank
  • Water level in tank fluctuates a little

What are standpipes you might ask?

A stand pipe next to a drain fitting, then sitting in the drain fitting. By changing the length of the standpipe you can adjust the flooding level in the bed. If you want to flood the grow bed to make caterpillars or slugs come up out of your media, then slipping a slightly longer piece of pipe over the end, or just a coupling fitting you can enable the bed to flood, causing all the pests to come up out of the media. If your media level in the bed drops over time then you can cut a little off the stand pipe, lowering the flood level in your bed.

There are two small holes in the bottom of the stand pipe, this allows the water to slowly drain out of the bed when the pumps off, hence the flooding and draining action.

Constant Flood

Looks a bit similar to the one above? Yes that’s because it is basically the same as the flood and drain system above, except that when you remove the timer from the system the grow bed remains constantly flooded.

Most importantly if this is getting a little confusing for you don’t worry about it, it can be difficult to conceptualize exactly how these things work, if you follow through our simple building and installation steps you’ll be able to build yourself an IBC aquaponic system in no time. If you ‘d like to learn more about the different methods of setting up and running your aquaponics system, then join the forum, you’ll find lots of information on the forum.

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