Over the past decade, interest in aquaponic gardening has boomed in popularity as more people seek a sustainable way to grow their own food.
For those looking to learn more, mason jar aquaponics is one of the easiest ways to start learning about the system and begin growing your own food.
Interested In Mason Jar Aquaponics? Read This First
In a traditional mason jar aquaponics system, you’ll typically use a standard mason jar, a betta fish and a plant pot in the top containing your grow medium and crop.
A the classic mason jar is far too small for fish.
A single betta fish needs a 2.5 gallon tank at the very minimum, which means a standard mason jar is far too small.
Don’t let this put you off however.
There are a number of larger alternatives available on Amazon that are just as decorative and better suited for keeping a betta fish.
Here are a couple of our favourites:
- Anchor Hocking Montana Glass Jar
- Anchor Hocking 2.5-Gallon Glass Barrel Jar with Brushed Aluminum Lid
In this section we’re going to look at how to chose:
- A container
- The best fish for your setup
- The best crop
- Extras to improve your setup
Okay, first things first, let’s take a look a how to choose the right mason jar, or rather container for your aquaponics setup.
There are two rules of thumb when choosing a container.
If you plan to stock a fish such as a betta then you need to find a jar that can hold at least 2 to 2.5 gallons / 7.5 to 11 litres.
Not only is this kinder for your fish but it will also allow you to harvest more from your crop.
The second rule of thumb to keep in mind is that your fish should be able to comfortably turn around and swim.
While jars are a popular choice, we’ve heard of people successfully creating systems using large vases. That said, you want to avoid anything with a thin middle section.
The final consideration is that the opening at the top of the container should be wide enough for a plant pot.
This is why jars are a popular choice as the opening is more than capable of holding a plant pot.
Choose Your Fish
When it comes to choosing fish for your setup there are a number of popular options that come with various pros and cons.
We’ll take a look at some of the popular choices now.
Betta fish are one of the easiest creatures to keep in your jar based aquaponics system.
They don’t require a filter, can be kept in a relatively small tank (2 gallons / 7.5 litres) and the males are beautiful to look at.
While the don’t require a filter the do need the water to be full of oxygen so you’ll need to change the water each week and put a real plant into the tank.
You’re also limited to just one fish per setup unless you’re using a large tank.
While it can be trick to initially introduce ghost shrimp to your setup, once they are established they are a fantastic aquaponic fish to keep.
Ghost Shrimp require relatively little attention and don’t unlike other shrimp species they don’t over breed.
The table below gives a quick overview of how many shrimp can be kept based of different jar sizes.
|Container Size||# Shrimp|
|1 Gallon / 4.5 litres||8|
|1.5 Gallons / 6.8 litres||12|
|2 Gallons / 7.5 litres||16|
Unlike regular aquarium snails which are loved by some fish owners and hated by many given their ability to reproduce quickly and uncontrollably, Assassin snails are actually a great option for aquaponic gardeners.
Unlike most breeds, Assassin snails have two distinct sexes which means that you can keep groups of males or females which prevents over breeding.
The table below is a handy reference for knowing how many to stock based on your jar size.
|Container Size||# Snails|
|1 Gallon / 4.5 litres||2|
|1.5 Gallons / 6.8 litres||4|
|2 Gallons / 7.5 litres||6|
Endlers are a great choice to keep stocked in your mason jar aquaponic system.
The secret here is to only keep one gender per setup.
|Container Size||# Fish|
|1 Gallon / 4.5 litres||3|
|1.5 Gallons / 6.8 litres||4|
|2 Gallons / 7.5 litres||6|
A Note on Goldfish
While Goldfish are a great choice for larger setups, for a small jar system they are far too large and should never be used.
Now for the fun part – picking what you’re going to grow!
Almost anything can be grown in an aquaponics system but herbs and leafy greens always grow well.
For the best results you need to start the plant in soil and then transport the seedling to your aquaponics system.
The Final Pieces
We nearly have everything in place to create your own mason jar aquaponics setup, however there are a few final considerations that you’ll need to make.
The only real requirement here is that the pot you pick should fit inside the jar you’re using for a container.
The growth media is what your plant sits on and the roots grow around.
It’s also the material that lines the bottom of the tank and is used to help bacteria grow.
Gravel and shale are solid choices.
The last piece of the puzzle is to add a plant inside you container.
Not only will the plant help oxygenate the water but it’ll also provide your fish with entertainment.
Popular choices include Hornwort, java fern, sword plans and anubias.
The only other things you’ll need are fish food and some water testing strips.
Build Your Mason Jar Aquaponics System
You’ve gathered all the parts so now it’s time for the fun part – pulling it all together!
Step 1: Let your water sit
Okay so this step is pretty dull – add water to your jar and let it sit for 24 hours.
Step 2: Add Gravel
Once the water has been allowed to sit add 1 inch of your chosen grow media to the bottom of the jar.
If you’re planning on adding a plant into the container now is the time to do so.
Next add the grow media to the bottom of your plant pot and place the plant.
Step 3: Introduce Your Fish
Next, introduce your fish to the jar.
Step 4: Place the plant pot into the jar
Finally put the plant pot into the jar opening.
It’s important to note that your plant pot should have a hole in the bottom to allow the roots to access water and to allow air to circulate into the water.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it, using the handy guide above you’re ready to create your own mason jar aquaponics system.
Image by Richard Elzey