Hardware Learning Stuff System

Buy or Build? Kit or DIY? Or, how do I get my system constructed?

Is buying better than building? Can you save time or money with one or the other? Let’s find out.

You’re listening to Fish Grow Plants—A podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.

Hello, and welcome to Fish Grow Plants! In today’s episode we’re asking:

Build or buy?

Kit or DIY?

Or, how do I get my system constructed?

I’d like to start by talking about my old truck. It has some old Headman exhaust headers on it to improve performance and air flow through the system. I like them—and they are way better than the stock exhaust manifold that came on the truck. But every few years, I have a dilemma: what am I going to do about the exhaust gaskets?…Hmmm….

Well, I started with the gaskets that came with the headers and they worked for a while, no problem. Then, after some time, I forget how long, a bit of maintenance was done and some aftermarket gasket was installed. It too worked, for a while…but pretty much completely failed in one of the hotter spots on the header, so I had a leak. So naturally, I pulled the gasket and replaced it. Same thing not too long after.

Hmmmm…. what to do?

Well, not to be discouraged, I was still pretty young back then, I walked into a gasket shop and asked for the toughest material they would offer me. I was naïve enough to even ask if they could cut it into the gasket shape I needed!

Well, I got this tough as nails material home and spent a lot of time figuring out how to cut it to fit my headers. As an aside, the first round was cut out using a hammer and chisel. But! But! It worked—so well, that those gaskets could be used double what a standard gasket was. The only problem was getting them cut to fit initially!

If you like old trucks as much as I do, then you probably don’t mind this story. But if you’re really wondering where I’m taking this, then you’ll be glad to know I was illustrating the point of this episode—buy or build, kit or DIY?

My truck may not have a lot in common with aquaponics, but it is a prime example of deciding whether or not to buy a part, make a part, or even modify a purchased part!

So, if you’re looking to get started with your first system, or perhaps your 10th, you’ll have to go through a similar process of deciding how much to make, and how much to buy.

I’m running with the assumption you already know your reasons for setting up a system (if not, take a listen to episode #8—Three Questions).

Ok, lets take a look at each option so you have an idea of what you have to decide on.

Option one: buying an aquaponic kit.


  1. The engineering is already figured out as are all the parts, pieces, and organization.
  2. The kinks are worked out; literally and figuratively. Your pipes should work as well as your overall system.
  3. You have someone to call if you have issues with setup.
  4. Replacement parts are readily available.
  5. Instructions, pictures, and maybe even video guidance are available.
  6. You save time (hopefully).


  1. Expensive (you have to pay for all the time and effort you save, remember?).
  2. Minimal options (you don’t get to have it your way, all the time).
  3. The system may not be optimized for your growing zone or location.
  4. You may not be allowed to have it (per ordinances or rules of where you live; depending of course on what type of kit you get).
  5. You’ll still have to assemble it, unless you paid for that aspect as well (oh, and that will cost more, too).

Ok, option two: DIY, aka build it yourself.


  1. Design exactly what you want.
  2. Make your system fit the space you have, not the other way around.
  3. Optimize for your location—even if you live in a cooler low spot of the desert.
  4. Use what you have—with materials, tools, and support.


  1. Time sink—in design, layout and parts figuring and ordering.
  2. No help—you are your tech and emotional support.
  3. No instructions, operation procedures, or even a picture of what you get—you have to create all of it.

Alright, now on to option three: a combination of buying and building!

Think of this option as an optimization of the first two. What I mean is try to take as many of the “pro” sides of each, and remove as many “cons” as you can. There are limitations here though. If you’ve never picked up a hammer or tool of any kind in your life, then most of your “pros” are going to be on the buy-side. That’s fine. Likewise, if you were, or are a construction contractor and have pretty much every tool known to man, and a decent supply of spare construction parts, odds are, you’d do much better with the DIY route.

For those of us in the middle, we get to shop around a bit more to find a nice balance of what to buy and what to build. In my current situation, I don’t have a lot of covered or protected space to do large construction projects, but small ones are fine. So, if I can buy the bigger parts, I’ll willingly build the smaller stuff.

Or, what I’ve been known to do more often, is go ahead and buy a part off the shelf, but modify it to my needs, or figure a way out to adapt it to my situation. Case in point here is my LED grow lights. I opted to not buy the hangers and supports that come with them. Instead, they are just hanging from paracord tied off to a screw (I had the paracord and screws way before the lights). This may offend some people’s sensibilities, but I don’t mind how it looks and it’s been working fine ever since I set it up.

Well, if you can’t tell, I’m an advocate for option three, mostly because it helps me get going fast with purchasing something, but making the modifications to really make it my own and have it fit in an optimal manner.

That doesn’t mean you can’t choose to purchase everything, even the setup. It also doesn’t imply you can’t design and build it all yourself. It’s really up to you and your situation. A bad joke I say to often is that it’s adult diapers—it depends. And that true—it depends on what you want, your situation, and your goals. So take the time to think it through and then move forward.

Either way, you’ll be making progress and soon have a nice aquaponic system up and running.

If you want to upgrade later, well….that’s another issue altogether!

Ok, enough debating the pros and cons. I’d like to share a few links with you to find either your favorite kit, or leave you with a list of suppliers to help you DIY your system.

Here are some places to get aquaponic kits from:


But if you’re looking to do a complete DIY, here is a list of places to get your DIY parts from:


Remember, there is nothing saying you can’t mix and match from all of these sources. And as always, don’t forget that this is just a starting point. You can always search for aquaponic kits, parts, supplies, and installers. And if you find a great deal, let me know about it!

As we come to the end, I hope you now have a clearer picture of whether an aquaponic kit is right for you, or if your system will be totally DIY. Or maybe you’ll find some middle ground and have a cool custom solution just for yourself.

Happy aquaponicing!


Questions! Let me have them! Do you need clarification, more information, or maybe you just have a tangent thought—send all your thoughts my way. See the website for episode details, or just fire off an email to [email protected] and I’ll get back to you.


So, was this episode good, bad, ugly, or other? Let me know! Comment, email, smoke-signals it doesn’t matter! I love to hear from you. Your feedback is immense, and I am always grateful for it. Likewise, thank you for taking the time to listen and share your thoughts. Have a wonderful day.

This has been another episode of Fish Grow Plants—the podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.