Zero to Hero Aquaponics Design Plans



This is the page for ordering and downloading the Zero to Hero System Construction Manual.

Big enough to allow you to raise 35 tilapia or trout at once and grow 66 plants with good spacing, you can build this simple 4×8′ aquaponics system in a weekend from soup-to-nuts for $730 (shipping included).

When you checkout, you’ll be taken to the checkout page where you can enter your information and get the link to download.

If you enter your email address, I’ll send you updates if products are discontinued or if we find something that ought to be improved.  I promise not to email you for any other reason (or sell your email).

To convert a freezer to a fish tank, you’ll need the Freezer-Fish Tank Conversion Plans.  Or you can get both together.

51 Responses

  1. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth / 7-27-2014 / ·

    I like the plans and the photographs will really help when building. The only suggestion I have is to create a list of the items to be purchased from you as a link so that some customers could buy everything at once.

  2. Charly Karamanian
    Charly Karamanian / 8-7-2014 / ·

    Excellent information and very good pictures. I will try to make my growing beds inside an existing greenhouse using some 4´rain pipes left at the construction site.

    Thanks Jeremiah!

  3. Boyd
    Boyd / 8-7-2014 / ·

    Great set of plans and instructions….they will come in handy

  4. Charles Jackson
    Charles Jackson / 8-7-2014 / ·

    Thanks for the well thought out plans. I live in the South where cold is not addressed, but since both fish and plants stop growing when it drops into the 50’s your cold weather adaptations will work well. They seem to be adaptable to out very hot weather as well.
    Good job.

  5. Don Warren
    Don Warren / 8-7-2014 / ·

    Nice presentation and being the technical guy, I found several questions that I will have to go back and read it again and try and resolve. One is where the Lexel caulk is used since the instructions indicate that it is not to be used were it will be in contact with water and not sure how all the spots are relative to water. The early photo or illustration shows a roll of “dura-skrim that appears white and it is shown inside the grow bed but the black liner is called Dura skrim and is being stapled in place. Is it food grade. Great illustrations of plumbing but can not find where the pump is located. You have been an advocate of using non submersible and if it is in the grow bed it is submerged. The term used in #3 says” when the water clears the pump” and I think you mean when the water covers the pump?? Found several grammatical needs but would need a “Word” version to redline them or I could return a hard copy marked-up.

    You are off to a fantastic start and I am really glad that you are discontinuing the use of the asphalt containing material for a flexible freezer lining.

    1. Jeremiah Robinson
      Jeremiah Robinson / 8-7-2014 / ·

      Hey Don! Thanks for the helpful review. You were actually the one who pushed me in the direction of food grade everything. I’m sold!

      The Lexel is never used in contact with water – always behind the paint or the liner. Dura Skrim is food grade, as is the pump. The only thing that’s not is the PVC, though it’s very close.

      You’re right – the pump is a submersible pump, which goes against what I’ve said in the past. For an inexpensive system like this it’s pretty much the only option.

      This actually wasn’t created using Word. If you’d like to email me page, paragraph, word, I’d love to fix the errors. Don’t tell my editor wife that she missed a few 🙂

      Thanks again! I can’t wait to hear how your setup is coming along.

      1. MIKE
        MIKE / 1-23-2016 / ·

        If you want to move away from a submerged pump check out Glenn Martinez from Olomana Gardens. He goes into detail on airlift pumps and they would be perfect for this application.

  6. Micah
    Micah / 8-8-2014 / ·

    Great detail, step by step instructions.

  7. Joshua
    Joshua / 8-8-2014 / ·

    Great product, with superb attention to detail. The manual is fairly concise while still providing clear, easy to follow instructions. My partner and I will most likely put some if not all of these concepts into use.

    There were a couple mistakes. Under UNISEAL IN DURA-SKIRM (step 5) the words over and side are repeated twice. It is confusing as to what purpose the frisbee serves.It seems like it is for guiding the saw, but when do you remove it? Is a uniseal similar to a bulkhead fitting?

    I mostly operate flood drain systems with media filled beds. Some of your other posts seem to advocate for flood drain with worms, timer and a valve that switches growbeds. It would be interesting to see how the valve works in this system. In this design is a constant flood?

  8. Harrison
    Harrison / 8-8-2014 / ·

    Detailed instructions that are easy to understand with accompanying pictures for added help! Great guide to get you started in the basics of aquaponics, and all in one place so no need to hunt and search for information.

  9. Jeremiah Foley
    Jeremiah Foley / 8-9-2014 / ·

    Great set of plans. Very clear, easy to follow, and fantastic that you include the places to buy with the materials list.

  10. Connie
    Connie / 8-11-2014 / ·

    i was so excited to get the plans, very easy to understand. I jut moved from a warm climate to a colder climate and setting my system upgain has been put on hold while I figure out how to adjust to the cloder climate. I am so glad that I found Cold Weather Aquaponics and can not wait to get to work on these plans!

  11. J.A.
    J.A. / 8-15-2014 / ·

    aquaponics! the future is now!

  12. Raph
    Raph / 8-15-2014 / ·

    These plans are well written, easy to read, and very detailed. I will be using them as the basis for my in-greenhouse aquaponics system that I will be building this year. I would absolutely recommend these plans as a great starting point for anyone who is interested in cold-climate aquaponics.

  13. M.C.
    M.C. / 8-15-2014 / ·

    A very nice write up. I’ve got this filed away for when I can give it a try!

  14. Walton
    Walton / 8-15-2014 / ·

    Very good plans. Their a bit more ambitious than what I’m targeting for m first build, but they’ve given me some good ideas for how to deal with some of my concerns.

  15. Anon
    Anon / 8-15-2014 / ·

    The plans are fairly solid. The “Best way to do fish tank is to use a freezer, but that’ll cost you another $10 to find out how” left a bad taste. It’s even in the contents, but just hinted at, then used in photos but people won’t be able to use it to relate without some imagination (if you’re doing instructional documentation it needs to have zero guesswork to reduce the “Your instructions suck support tickets”).

    The method of getting water into/out of the grow beds seems a bit flimsy. I’d use ply either side of the insulation & install bulkheads instead.

  16. Rkidz55
    Rkidz55 / 8-16-2014 / ·

    Great idea and good detailed plans. Most people with a little plumbing and carpentry experience shouldn’t have any problem building their own setup. Being from the southern US I wasn’t familiar with Duraaskrim or the brand of insulation you use. Most grow beds I’ve seen use 6ml polyethylene plastic film or pond liner which is more easily obtained in our area. I would also have to substitute 2″ styrofoam for the insulation you use unless Home Depot or Lowe’s could special order it. Unfortunately styrofoam does break down in a couple of years but is fairly cheap to replace. Also I might mention that some fish, like tilapia need light to find their food so it wouldn’t be too hard to cut a square in the lid and make a window by gluing a piece of plexyglas on it so the lid wouldn’t have to be opened on the colder days. Another air stone could also to be put in the grow bed which would benefit fish and plants in their gas exchanges.
    Now if only I could find some trout, I might be able to raise them in West Texas!

  17. Timmy
    Timmy / 8-16-2014 / ·

    Great plans. I have an old fridge in the garage I was going to haul away, now I’m thinking it might get incorporated into a setup. I really appreciate your focus on growing in the cold season.

  18. Fushikawa
    Fushikawa / 8-19-2014 / ·

    Read the plans and they are very interesting. I always wondered how to make things work in the cold cold Madison wi, and with this system, I finally have a way. I will be buying the tank plans to get an even better idea how this works.

  19. Tom
    Tom / 8-19-2014 / ·

    Great plans for building in the cold weather. I’m planning on using these to build here in Pennsylvania.

  20. Niosop
    Niosop / 8-20-2014 / ·

    A lot of good information. I didn’t end up building using these instructions, but a lot of the ideas and information are applicable to any aquaponics build, and I’ll be incorporating elements into my IBC build to help me get through the winter.

  21. Aaron
    Aaron / 8-20-2014 / ·

    I’m only a newcomer to aquaponics, and found out about this via the r/aquaponics. The design plans were organized very neatly; very step-by-step-esque. The plans cover everything from logistics to how to glue PVC together. Some interesting, sustainable ideas such as using a recycled chest freezer as the fish tank were a nice touch. The plans are supplemented with nice CAD drawings as well as it makes visualizing the design palpable to the eyes. I plan to adopt some of the techniques used in these plans, but would perhaps skip on some of it. The plans give you an estimate based on what they do of how much you’re likely to spend (p.s. ~800.00 USD) which I appreciated. I would have enjoyed more alternatives for some of their methodologies, but the plans were well thought out and designed exceptionally well and will enable you to establish your own system.

  22. Henrique
    Henrique / 8-20-2014 / ·

    Good content and instructions. I liked the freezer concept particularly, very smart.

  23. Brad
    Brad / 8-20-2014 / ·

    Looks good

  24. Aaron
    Aaron / 8-20-2014 / ·

    Nice CAD drawings coupled with simple step-by-step formula on how to replicated CWA’s design. I appreciated how the plans laid out how much it’d cost (~800.00 USD). I will definitely utilize some techniques highlighted in the plans while disregarding others. Well worth the read!

  25. Brian G
    Brian G / 8-23-2014 / ·

    The plans look great! Really gave me some good ideas for making my own system. I’ve been thinking of using a chest freezer in my design for some time now. It seemed like an ideal fish tank for a small system. I see people getting rid of freezers on craigslist from time to time, so i know that they aren’t too hard to get ahold of either. I’m glad I could look over these plans as I design a system of my own.

  26. John R.
    John R. / 8-25-2014 / ·

    Very good, easy to follow

  27. chris
    chris / 8-25-2014 / ·

    some very interesting ideas. well worth the read

  28. Jeremy
    Jeremy / 8-29-2014 / ·

    Great plans! Thank you for sharing them with us!

  29. Tim Arbo
    Tim Arbo / 8-31-2014 / ·

    Great stuff! Up here in Maine I’m looking forward to implementing these and installing one in my basement, once I can convince my wife. 🙂 Aside from the occasional typo already covered by Don, the only difficulties I encountered in comprehension were installing the Dura-Skrim (folds and folds and folds – sounds like folding a fitted sheet) and some of the plumbing. More pictures and/or diagrams would have resolved that for me.
    I would like pictures from a build of one of these full-size beasties, rather than a wee one.
    Or full bore sketchup diagrams. (Especially of the plumbing!)
    But that’s just me, because I’m simple and like pictures.
    I’m one of those guys that just looks at pictures to assemble things.
    Thanks for putting these out there!


  30. john
    john / 9-19-2014 / ·

    Very cool ideas. I can’t wait to get the time to build something similar

  31. Robert
    Robert / 9-19-2014 / ·

    Seems like a good idea; something went wrong with the plans download and I never got the file.

  32. Dave
    Dave / 9-20-2014 / ·

    I’ve been looking at your cold weather plans and there’s a lot of good advice & tips; how you’ve laid things out makes it 1-2 steps short of an “Idiot’s guide to making a cold weather AP system”.

    Only real critiques I can put in is that I’ve been leaning towards something like a rocket mass stove as the heat source (vs the 1KW heat element ) and was curious if you’ve tried out anything like that?

    Additionally encasing the FT in a refrigerator is a fairly nifty idea but was wondering if you’d had problems with condensation funk ( biofilm building up in places where it can dry out and smell bad ).

  33. Jose
    Jose / 9-21-2014 / ·

    The plans are great, the use of an old fridge is great. I would suggest the add of modules for other kind of crop, like for example a drip hydroponics for tomatoes on the side of a rail or something.

  34. Alberto
    Alberto / 9-23-2014 / ·

    There is nothing that get me more interested than the share of knowledge, I have volunteered in hydro/aqua places and I can tell some of them won’t even tell you where the pump is located because they feel their system is some sort of top-secret of productivity.

    Sure, but they don’t count on really forward-thinking people who will always share how they run things and this is one example. Using recycled materials, avoiding the titanic costs of “custom made” systems one sees advertised now-a-days.

  35. Kathy
    Kathy / 9-24-2014 / ·

    Thank you for putting these plans together. I look forward to applying your ideas to my situation in a greenhouse. I enjoyed your wit and creativity in your instructions. Finding these plans and Cold Weather Aquaponics will be a great resource as I build my system!

  36. Ernestina Flack
    Ernestina Flack / 2-27-2017 / ·

    In Fachkreisen werden die binären Optionen sehr oft als digitale Optionen bezeichnet.

    Vorausgesetzt naturlich immer, dass Sie auf einen fallenden Wert gesetzt haben. Suchen Sie
    vor der Anmeldung bei einem Broker also selbst stets nach den relevanten Informationen,
    die Sie fur ihre Entscheidung notig haben.

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