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Best Pipe Sizes for Aquaponics

Best Pipe Sizes For Aquaponics

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Aquaponics is more than just growing plants and fish together in a sustainable way. To make the system work correctly, each component needs to function together seamlessly. One of the integral components of aquaponics is the plumbing or pipework. Without this, the water and nutrient circulation wouldn’t be possible, and that would mean the plants and fish couldn’t exist. When you plan to build an aquaponics system, you have to think about the pipework from the start. But with so many options to choose from, finding the best pipe sizes aquaponics systems can be easier said than done.

The best pipe sizes for aquaponics will depend on the type of system you plan to use. Generally, the bigger the pipe, the better the flow rate, which is what most aquaponic growers are aiming for. In choosing pipes for aquaponics, you have to consider the following factors:

  • Size
  • Type of system to use

In this article, we will discuss the pipe size most recommended by aquaponic growers, in particular, pipes for simple setups of media bed and NFT systems.

The Importance of Aquaponics Pipes

The Importance of Aquaponics Pipes

Whether you’re planning to use media beds or NFT, plumbing is essential as it is used to transport water within your system to keep it thriving. The main idea is to properly place the pipes in a way that you can pump up water, spread it to the beds or let it flow through your channels, and then send it back down to the fish tank. 

Plumbing can be intimidating, and if you think it’s hard to pull off, you can always ask a friend to help you out and teach you along the way. Remember, setting up pipework for your aquaponics is more than just making sure the water is circulating.  Proper pipework is also about ensuring the right amounts of tank water goes up so that ammonia will not build up in the tank. At the same time, enough water should flow at an adequate rate through your beds or channels to prevent the drowning or drying out of your crops.

As for the material, pipes used for aquaponics are mostly made of PVC. PVC pipes are available in a variety of sizes worldwide. Since they’re easy to work with, they can be cut and bent, which is something you would do when connecting your pipes, especially for NFT systems. More importantly, PVC pipes are durable, long-lasting, and lightweight.

The Right Pipe Size for Aquaponics

The right pipe size for aquaponics will depend on the type of system you plan to have, whether you’ll have media beds or NFT. Both require pipes to be set up in different ways. In a media bed system, the water is transported through the pipes and circulated within the system. 

The NFT setup, on the other hand, is made up of the pipe itself, positioned at a certain angle to get the water flowing with the help of gravity. In NFT, there is no medium used, and plants grow as their roots touch the thin film of water. For this reason, getting the right pipe is essential to support the proper growth of plants.

Let’s discuss a bit more on the pipework for each system in the following sections. If you are looking for quick aquaponics pipe solutions click here.

Pipework for Media Bed Aquaponics

In media beds, water circulation depends on two pipes – one for delivering water to grow beds, and the other is for water to drain out back into the fish tank.

Generally, experts recommend for drain pipes to be larger than the one for water uptake. The difference in size ensures that water will not overflow in grow beds. The exact size will depend on your entire setup, but at least a minimum of two-inch in diameter should get you started. And as most experts say, bigger is better.

Once you get your pipes working, you should start planning for maintenance. Debris could accumulate overtime inside the pipes, which will consequently affect the flow rate. If that happens, your plants may not get the nutrient-rich water it needs. Every few months, pipes need to be cleaned out to make sure nothing gets in the way of the water flow.

Pipework for NFT Aquaponics

If you’re aiming for an NFT system, then it is recommended that you go for a four-inch pipe. This size should be enough to achieve a good water flow rate while allowing the roots to have contact with the water.

Depending on the type of plants you wish to grow, the spacing between each crop should be around six inches. The holes where your cups or net pots sit should be an inch smaller than your pipe’s size to allow proper growth. So, if you have a four-inch pipe, holes should be three inches in diameter.

Problems with NFT arise when the plants grow masses of roots. Over time, these roots can block the channels, preventing the proper flow of water. As a result, the plants will not get their nourishment, and the tank water will no longer have a flow of clean water. Both plants and fish could die due to clogged channels.

That being said, NFTs are only ideal for plants that are quick to mature or those that don’t have massive root systems. Click here to read more about the types of plants that will thrive best in an NFT system.


The best pipe size for aquaponics will depend on the type of system you have. If you want media beds, the best size will be at least two inches. On the other hand, NFT systems are better off with four-inch pipes to serve as channels. This size should accommodate the growing roots of most crops.

Keep in mind that plumbing is an important component of a thriving aquaponics system. Without it, your plants and fish will not survive. Working on the piping for aquaponics may not be easy at first sight. If you’re not confident doing the work, it’s best to get help from a professional. Need more help? View some of our other popular articles.

The Campbells love finding sustainable and fun ways to increase their independence from traditional brick and motor supermarkets. Aquaponics provides a full lifecycle food source for families and a great hobby. #aquaponicslifestyle

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