So then. Aquaponics. I’d assumed it was something to do with growing underwater plants. Dead wrong.

My educative moment occurred at Disneyworld’s Epcot a couple of years ago. There’s a ride called The Land, where, after enduring a selection of creaking dioramas illustrating different US habitats, you’re taken on a little motorised punt thing on a watery track through greenhouses groaning under the weight of four-kilogramme mega-lemons, arboreal tomatoes and Mickey-shaped pumpkins.

Giant lemon, from Arild Finne Nybø on Flickr.

Giant lemon, from Arild Finne Nybø on Flickr.

At the end of the…river thing…, you’ll find a section on aquaponics. An aquaponics system creates an incredibly efficient symbiotic environment for raising food. Aquatic food (prawns, fish and the like) is raised in water. Waste products from those creatures, which in an aquatic-only environment would degrade the quality of the water, are diverted into a hydroponic system, where nitrogen-fixing bacteria turn them into nitrates and nitrites, which are used to feed edible plants. The water can then be recirculated into the fish tank.

Finesse is required. You need to be able to monitor and control temperature, drainage and pumping. Professional systems are expensive, so the enterprising aquaponics practitioner will want to build their own. Enter the Raspberry Pi. And a shipping container, a shed and some valves.

MatthewH415, the maker, has documented the whole build at Instructables. He says:

This build uses the IBC method of Aquaponics, with modifications to include a Raspberry Pi for controlling a pump, solenoid drain, and temperature probes for water and air temperatures. The relays and timing is controlled with python scripting. Temperature and control data is collected every minute and sent to for graphing, and future expansion will include sensors for water level and PH values for additional control.

All of my scripts are available at, feel free to use them for your aquaponics setup. Thanks to Chris @ for the help with streaming data to their service, and to the amazingly detailed build instructions provided at

We love it. Thanks Matthew; come the apocalypse, we at Pi Towers are happy in the safe and secure knowledge that we’ll at least have tilapia and cucumbers.


Toby avatar


Lafcadio avatar

Is it possible to build a closed loop kind of system with this method where the plants you grow feed the fish, do you know?

Max Power avatar

It depends on what you mean by “closed system.” Keeping the water chemistry in balance is difficult in a small volume like this, so you need to be able to test and adjust.
Also, if you plan on taking vegetables and fish out to eat, you need to add nutrients and protein fish food. You might be able to keep a system without much inputs if you don’t plan eat the produce.

Toby avatar

Max Power is homer simpson

Max Power avatar

Max Power!
He’s the man,
Whose name you’d love to touch!
But you mustn’t touch.
His name sounds good in your ear,
but when you say it, you mustn’t fear!
Cuz his name can be said by anyone!

ukscone avatar

4kg megalemons would be great with my 3 gallon gin & tonics that I need after a hard day modding the forums :)

Josh avatar

We want ARM v7 processors!!!

Liz Upton avatar

Raspberry Pi 2 has an ARM v7. Pi 3 has an ARM v8 – a whole extra cardinal number for the same $35! (It’s where our 64 bit-ness comes from.)

ukscone avatar

I think Liz is being a raw prawn, I say that there is something fishy about this

Matt Richardson avatar

The Land is one of those charming “take-a-break” attractions at EPCOT. It’s also nice to do while you wait for your Soarin’ FastPass time. Anyway, this is an awesome build. Well done!

Max Power avatar

Living with the Land (the boat ride through the greenhouses) is one of the few remaining parts of Epcot that still feels like the original EPCOT Center park of the 1980s. Much of the park has been changed or rebuilt, but this is still the slow-moving, educational, and inspirational attraction that made EPCOT Center.
BTW, there’s a “backstage tour” of the attraction where a guide takes you through the greenhouses on foot and you see the plants and tech up close. I’d guess the picture of those lemons came was taken on the tour. It’s reasonable ($15, IIRC) if you can deal with the punny “Behind the Seeds” name.

James Mitchell avatar

I really want to do stuff like this but need a garden! City sucks but neat project

bsimmo avatar

Nothing to stop you doing it inside, a tank setup and artificial lights should do.

Tom avatar

Cool system setup!

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