Welcome to the long overdue part 3 of my Arduino powered aquarium and aquaponics controller. In this post I am going to outline some major design challenges I faced, the resulting changes I had to make and detail getting some simple data logging running. Before we continue, if you have not seen the earlier posts in this series be sure to check them out so you can follow along. Here are the links for Part 1 and Part 2.Continue reading

There have been a raft of changes to this tank since I got it. I have drilled the bottom to install a sump, several aquascaping changes and a few new fish.

The sump I am using was the bottom tank in my previous set-up. It is a 3’x1’x1′ tank that I have partitioned about 1/5 of for the pump and an automatic top up system.  The rest of the tank is filled with the expanded clay I was using in the grow bed of my previous set-up. The automatic top up system is using a cistern float connected to my main water supply via a tap next to the sump. I have also installed an overflow from the sump into a pond outside which I plan to use as an auto water change system. The plan at this stage is to set the cistern float height so that the sump always overflows a small amount, meaning that I am doing a constant water change. Once I have ironed out the bugs in the top up system and sump I will make a post about it.Continue reading

Welcome to part 2 in building an Arduino powered aquarium and aquaponics controller. In this post I will look at putting together and testing the hardware we discussed in part 1. Speaking of part 1, if you have not read it yet, I suggest you check it out.

The Equipment

Through this blog I will be using the following equipment:

  • Arduino Uno with USB cable
  • Adafruit CC3000 and Data Logging Shields
  • Waterproof DS18B20 temperature sensor x 2
  • 4.7k ohm resistor x 2
  • HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Ping sensor
  • 4 core cable
  • Soldering Iron and Solder
  • 3 and 4 segment plugs (Optional)
  • Pins for the end of the cables into the shields.

Continue reading

Arduino Powered Aquarium Controller

I thought I would write a few blog posts on an Arduino powered aquarium and aquaponics controller that I have been planning for some time. I have tried to start this project a few times now with various micro controllers, but each time I reach a point where I had some sensors logging to a SD Card and then the project falls over. With my recent desire to learn more about the Arduino community, I figured why not try again but this time document my success (or failure) for the world to see.

To start off, I will take a look at the hardware options, the ones I have chosen and why. Bear in mind, especially if you are new to electronics, that there is no right or wrong way to do things. If you see merit in another way then do it. Make it your own project. You will learn far more than just copying me. If you do go another way, then let me know. I would love to hear why you went a different route and how successful you have been.

Initially I will just be looking at a simple system, looking at water and air temperature as well as the water level in the aquarium. I plan to add more to the system over time, but I wanted to start simple and actually get something working. With that in mind lets dive into the hardware.Continue reading

It has been about a three weeks now since I put the new plants in my aquaponics system and the new small dirt garden. It has been interesting to see the growth difference between the two. This has been the first time I have completed a side by side comparison myself.

Of course it should be noted that this is by no means a scientific comparison. The dirt garden and the aquaponics have both been getting regular doses of Seasol or Maxicrop (depending where you live), a little Charlie Carp and little Chelated Iron. I have also sprinkled some slow release fertiliser on the dirt garden. The aquaponics has been getting its regular dose of fish feed while the silver perch are still hitting the feed, although at a slower and slower rate.

So far the results have been surprising for me. While I expected the aquaponics system to outperform the dirt garden, I was expecting to see at least some growth in the dirt. There has been plenty of rain and watering in the dirt, so I don’t believe that lack of water is the culprit. I also think that the aquaponics system gets less sunlight, so I don’t think that is the cause. Thinking about the causes i have come up with some possibilities;

  • The potting mix used for the dirt garden was very cheap. You have to question the health and nutrient content of it.
  • It has been getting quite cool at night. The aquaponics plants will not be getting as cold due to the thermal mass of the water.
  • The dirt garden is definitely seeing some kind of deficiency. I suspect it is either nitrogen or iron, hence the Charlie Carp and Chelated Iron additions.

In the next few weeks I am hoping to make a small greenhouse for both systems in the hope that it will encourage growth. I expect that the tomato will be lying on the ground before I get a chance to string it up as well. It has been quite a while since I have seen such successful growth in my aquaponics system which has been most enjoyable. As always, stay tuned for more updates. Hopefully with more photos this time!


New house so… New aquarium??? Sure, why not!

Within a month of moving to the new house I had my eye out for a new aquarium. I wanted a larger one but more importantly I wanted one that was a bit more aesthetically pleasing. Keeping an eye on the classifieds on some local club forums I spotted this tank and stand up for grabs for only $250. A bargain in my opinion considering the tank is a 4x2x2 and the stand is custom made. To make things that much sweeter, it was only a 45 minute drive away to pick it up. The only thing I had to buy in addition to the tank was a canister filter. In order to try and keep things looking good I have moved away from the aquaponics style of filter I was using previously.

I painted the rear of the aquarium black to try and hide all of the hoses etc behind it. This alone has made a huge difference to the look. Putting together this system was a bit of a rush job because I had a very small amount of time to get it all running and my fish in there. So I wont detail the system too much but to give a brief idea; there is a lot more drift wood which came with the tank in there, all the plants I had before and the previous occupants.

Things I want to do in the short term:

  • I want to use an overflow and a sump rather than just the canister I am using now.
  • Use a better substrate for the plants.
  • Remote logging so I can keep an eye on the system at work. Parts have been ordered, so keep an eye out for a future post.
  • Add a few cichlids into the tank. More room means I can keep bigger fish.

Things I want to do long term/cash permitting:

  • CO2 injection for even better plant growth.
  • Make a hood to hide all of the lighting.
  • Breed some fish, species unknown at this stage.

There is still a huge amount of work left to do on this tank. This post was just an introduction to the new tank and few plans I have. I will try and get some decent images of the setup in the coming weeks rather than these smartphone pics.

Finally a chance to update about my IBC system! It has been a long few months for the system including upsets, travelling, tragedy and no end in sight.

With the purchase of a new house taking up much of my time the system had been poorly neglected. The brahmi had taken over almost the entire grow bed, with the garlic chives and a few chilies being the only plants struggling to break through it. The silver perch were getting getting irregular feeding until I sorted out an auto feeder. It was a sorry state of affair for the entire system.

Finally it was time to move the system, so using another bulky, I cut out a section off the top for an access hatch to make a tank that wasn’t going to leak during transit. The idea was to put this tank on the back of a ute, fill it with water, add the fish and drive the 4.5 hours to the new home. I used a battery operated air pump that should last more than long enough for the trip down. Plans always work better before they are initiated… Unfortunately the ute that the fish were on had an overheating issue. It seemed that the IBC on the back, a furniture trailer and and Australian summer were all a bit too much for it. This resulted in a few hour long stop over half way and an air pump that run out of puff. The results? A lot of dead fish unfortunately.

Onward and upward. I roughly set up the system in a temporary location until I complete the earthworks for the new location. I filled the tank with water and put any fish that looked like they might survive the move in. At the end i had a total of six fish survive the move, so given what happened I am pleased to still have a few silvers in the tank. I suspect that the final COD for the silvers was a lack of oxygen given the elevated temp of the water, no air being pumped in and that all the survivors were the smallest of my silvers. The following day I threw in the plants that made the move and the system was left like this for a few weeks while I was away at work.

Around a week and a half ago I finally got the time to go and purchase some seedlings. The new plants include lettuce, english spinach, beetroot, capsicum, basil, tomato, rosemary and garlic. Just a few of the staples that we use regularly to help reduce the nitrates from my few silver perch. I expect that the tomato will use up any free nitrogen in the system before long, so I may need to start adding some additional ammonia to the system while the silvers slow down over winter. I am still hopeful of sourcing some Tandanus tandanus catfish this year. They will be much more active during the cooler winter months that the silver I hope, keeping the system powering over winter.

Yesterday I had 60 seconds spare so I grabbed a few quick photos. I have included a few from a small dirt garden that got the same seedlings at the same time to compare them. When I get a chance to go out and grab some decent photos I will, instead of these smartphone pictures.


Just a small update on the aquarium system, given it has been so long. I have put a plant growing fluro tube in the light above the grow bed. This has allowed me to have a bit more luck growing succulents. Everything has been ticking along ok, although the tank is not looking anywhere near its prime. Once I have moved house I am hoping that it will be getting back to its prime.



A few weeks ago I harvest a couple of rather large beetroot from my Aquaponics system. You can read about the harvest here. I decided the best way to make use of such a large amount of beetroot was to pickle it. A quick google search later and I had found a recipe I wanted to try. It took quite a few hours to boil the beetroot untill it was soft. Eventually it got there and I sliced it up, cooked up the pickling juice and threw it into some jars.

Now that I have tasted it, all I can say is that it is a fantastic recipe. It is not super sweet like the store purchased beetroot and has a beautiful flavor. Mildly acidic and full of flavors that come from boiling the spices in the vinegar. It is so good that it was enjoyed by non-beetroot fans! You cant get much better a recommendation that that!



  • 4 Large Beetroot
  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • 1 1/2 Cups White Vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Peppercorns
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 Cloves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt



  1. Wash beetroot thoroughly and boil in water until tender.
  2. Cool and remove skin. (Either by hand or with a knife.)
  3. Cut beetroot into slices or julienne strips.
  4. Place all other ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  5. Simmer for five minutes and then strain.
  6. Pack beetroot into hot sterilized jars and top up with vinegar mixture.
  7. Seal and store in a cool place.


That’s all there is too it! It’s that simple.

I found this recipe on the www.bestrecipes.com.au. If you enjoy the recipe please head over the website and give it a positive comment. A big thanks to Kaye for sharing such a great recipe. Finally, I am in no way affiliated with www.bestrecipes.com.au, nor do I know Kaye, I am just sharing a great recipe.


By Ryan Sevelj

Just a quick update on the IBC system. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time, so there are not too many photos. Just the end result 🙂

The brahmi had almost completely run over the IBC grow bed. It was out of control. Nothing a rather harsh cut back couldn’t solve though! I also figured that the garlic chives needed to be cut back a bit too, so I removed about half of them. I also removed the dead bean plants, which I had failed to string up in time before they got knocked over by the wind. The capsicum was also trimmed up, leaving it much more tidy and hopefully will be a stronger plant in the coming months.

A new Habanero chilli and a Bih Jolokia (also known as the Ghost Chilli) were added. Some more spinach seeds and some coriander seeds were sown into the peat balls that were left from the previous seeding attempt. I have also tried seeding a green and a gold zucchini directly into the grow media.


By Ryan Sevelj