Make your own DIY home aquaponics kit!

Make your own DIY home aquaponics kit for less than $100!

Consuming locally grown food continues to soar in popularity, and the use of aquaponics to do so has also become popular. Benefits include using less land by growing food vertically, water conservation, the ability to grow food organically, fewer pests, and the potential of scalability. Aquaponics is a more economically and environmentally sustainable method of food production.


We’re pretty jazzed about aquaponics here at the Science Mill! So much so that we’ve recently opened a 1000-square-foot working aquaponics greenhouse exhibit where visitors can see how fish, plants and microbes work together to create healthy food.

What is aquaponics?

Most simply, aquaponics is the intersection of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil). Fish eat fish food, their waste provides an organic food source for the plants, and plants filter the water.

The invisible component of this ecosystem are microbes or nitrifying bacteria. These bacteria convert ammonia from the fish waste first into nitrites, and then into nitrates. Nitrates are the form of nitrogen that plants can uptake and use to grow. By combining aquaculture and hydroponics, aquaponics eliminates the drawbacks and takes advantage of the benefits of each system. 

You can do this at home!

Making your own home aquaponics kit is surprisingly simple. You just need the right components, most of which can easily be purchased at local hardware and pet stores. You can pull all of this together in just a few hours, and for under $100!

Check out the video below for easy to follow instructions. What will you grow? Be sure to share your progress with the Science Mill using #sciencemilldiyaquaponics and feel free to contact us at with any questions. Good luck and happy growing!


10 gallon aquarium $22.30
PVC Pipe (1-1/4” x 2’) $3.24
Clear Vinyl Tubing (5/16” inner diameter x 7/16” outer diameter x 10’) $8.29
Submersible water pump $8.99
Net Pots $12.99
Peat Pods $10.74
Grow Light $23.99
Fluval Foam Filter Block $6.65


Tools Needed

Chop saw or PVC cutter
Table or hand saw
Small drill bit
Step down bit or Forstner bit
Tape measure
Orbital sander or sand paper


Twinkliest Town Around

Our hometown of Johnson City is currently the twinkliest town in the Hill Country, and that makes it the perfect time to visit the Science Mill!


Video credit: Pedernales Electric Cooperative

Before you take in the wonder of Lights Spectacular and the PEC Holiday Lights (with more than a million lights between the two!) stop by the Mill and check out some of our brightest interactive exhibits!

Cellphone Disco

Use your cell phone to transform an entire silo into a dazzling light show! Several thousand lights illuminate when you use a mobile phone in the vicinity of the exhibit.


The 14-foot diameter light-sequenced Fractalarium, based on a model of Romanesco broccoli, is a state-of-the-art synthesis of geometry, nature, science, art and technology.

Game of Life

The surface of this interactive game is filled with ultrabright LED lights that respond to motion according to Conway’s Game of Life. See how you do!

Dig In

Our 3D topographic sandbox is always a favorite! Run your hands through real sand, forming mountains, rivers, lakes and dams in this interactive, augmented reality exhibit.

Silo of McKays

Explore the ways in which Artist McKay Otto experiments with light and sound vibrations to create a complex and beautiful exhibit that fills the entire 40-foot silo.


Wednesday through Saturday, 10am-4pm

Sunday, noon-4pm


Monday, December 24- CLOSED

Tuesday, December 25- CLOSED

Wednesday, December 26- 10am-5pm, Physics of Flight activities 11am-2:30pm

Thursday, December 27- 10am-5pm, Physics of Flight activities 11am-2:30pm

Friday, December 28- 10am-5pm, Physics of Flight activities 11am-2:30pm

Saturday, December 29- 10am-5pm

Sunday, December 30- Noon-5pm

Monday, December 31- 10am-4pm

Tuesday, January 1- CLOSED

Wednesday, January 2-Saturday, January 5- 10am-4pm

Sunday, January 6- noon-4pm

Science Store Staff Picks

On Sunday, November 25, 2018, the Science Mill is participating in Museum Store Sunday with over 1000 Museum Stores representing all fifty states, thirteen countries, and four continents.

Come be part of this worldwide event when you shop our Science Store for the largest selection of STEM toys and games in the Hill Country! On Sunday, November 25 only, all purchases over $40 are 25% off. Make a huge dent in that shopping list when you stock up on some brain-boosting fun for everyone on your list!

Looking for inspiration? Check out this list of recommendations from Science Mill staff members!


Want your loved one to pick out their own toy? Buy a Science Mill gift card! You can pick up one (or a few) on Museum Store Sunday, or you can order gift cards here.

Amazing Axolotls Help Scientists Understand Limb Regeneration


Axl Rose, Xotica, and Xavier, the Science Mill’s weirdly adorable axolotls, are scientific marvels.

While most salamanders develop lungs and grow up to become land dwellers, axolotls do things a bit differently. Axolotls exhibit a trait called neoteny, meaning they retain some juvenile characteristics throughout their entire lives. Because they never develop lungs, and instead keep their gills, axolotls are permanent under-water residents.

Even more amazing, axolotls can regenerate limbs and organs perfectly, without any scarring. They can do this as many times as necessary in as little as three weeks. Salamander’s Genome Guards Secrets of Limb Regrowth, an article by Elizabeth Preston for Quanta Magazine, explains why this regeneration is so impressive and important.

Salamanders are champions at regenerating lost body parts. A flatworm called a planarian can grow back its entire body from a speck of tissue, but it is a very small, simple creature. Zebra fish can regrow their tails throughout their lives. Humans, along with other mammals, can regenerate lost limb buds as embryos. As young children, we can regrow our fingertips; mice can still do this as adults. But salamanders stand out as the only vertebrates that can replace complex body parts that are lost at any age, which is why researchers seeking answers about regeneration have so often turned to them.

Humans and axolotls have more in common than you may think at first glance. No, we don’t have gills - much less gills on the outsides of our heads like wispy antennae - nor do we retain juvenile characteristics our entire lives. But as Preston writes, what we do share matters a lot to scientific research, especially now that labs have hurdled decoding the axolotl genome.

The main problem with the axolotl genome is that it’s enormous. It has 32 billion base pairs, making it about 10 times longer than the human genome. Despite that, axolotls and humans seem to have a similar number of genes, said Elly Tanaka, a biologist at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna

Read the entire article here, and be sure to stop by the Axolotl Exhibit next time you visit us!