I've always been a fan of aquaponics gardening ever since I saw something on facebook about it. The almost closed loop (or at least the possibility of a closed loop system) is very interesting. Of course once I saw a vertical hydroponics system I immediately wanted one. Being the frugal DIY guy that I am I didn't want to pay the nearly $1000 for one plus I didn't like how it looked. So I made my own.
1 Wood Planter or what ever style you want to hold the water
1 5"x5"x8' White Vinyl fence post
1 Top cap for the fence post.
1 3/4" pvc elbow and pipe to attach pump hose.
Plastic sheet to line the inside of the Planter.
16 3" 45 degree PVC elbows
1 3" PVC pipe
Fountain pump - I used a 320GPH but depends on your needs
Grow lights - I have 2 Sun Blaster CFL's. one 4 foot, one 3 foot.
Timer's for both lights and pump.
Poles to attach the lights to. I'm using bamboo poles I found on a ski hill.
Some wire to hold poles in place
Wood to cover plastic on top of planter and act as a clamp for wire holding lights.
Rock for growing medium
Rockwool cubes for starting plants and to act as a filter.
Step 1: Preparing the Tower
Cut the 5x5 fence post to your desired length. I made mine about 6 feet as there were square holes at either end of the post for it to attach to other fencing parts. I chose the best side that would be in the water and allow the fish to swim through the post.
Measure how far apart you want your holes for the plant holders (3" 45 deg elbow) and then stagger them on each side. I used a 3" hole saw and started my first hole about 3" from the top of the planter box and the next hole 12" from the first.
For the plant holders I wanted to use rock as my medium so I needed a tray to connect the elbow's on each side. I measured in between the elbows when they are inserted into the fence post and cut the 3" pvc pipe accordingly. Then I cut a section out of those pieces, using a sawzall and a bench vice, to open them up and allow them to fit into the elbow's. Drilled 4 holes in the middle of each piece in a cross pattern to allow the water to drain at a steady rate. This took some testing to determine how many holes to drill to get the water to drain fast enough.
At the very top I drilled a 3/4" hole in the middle of the fence post and used a 3/4" pvc elbow and pipe to get the pump to send water into the top planter.
Step 2: Preparing the Box
There happened to be some poly sheet left over from another project so I used that to line the wood box. I did about 3 layers of it to make sure it wouldn't leak. I stapled the sheets to the top and cut off any excess. I cut 4 pieces of wood to cover the plastic and to use as a clamp for the wire holding the light poles. For wire I just cut up some coat hangers and bent them into a loop and to 90 degree angles.
As you can see in the pictures I used the bamboo poles to secure the tower in place and keep it from falling over. Just centered the tower, measured the space in between the tower and the inside of the box and cut the poles to fit.
Step 3: Putting It All Together
With everything prepared I put it all together, filled the box with water, the elbow's and pipe with rock and rockwool and attached the pump to the 3/4" hole up top. I cut the bamboo poles to length and attached the lights using twist ties.
After some testing and getting the water to cycle (waiting for the bacteria to convert ammonia to nitrites and then to nitrates) I then added my fish and planted some seeds. The aquaponics side of things is a whole instructable in itself.