Aquaponics IBC Totes

Why you should use an IBC with your aquaponics setup

Lower price per gallon than other tanks

The price of IBC totes used in aquaponics range from $0.70 to $0.75 per gallon. This price consists of a new polyethylene tank enclosed with a used steel cage, also known as a rebottled tote. Having a new tank guarantees the tank never came in contact with unknown chemicals. IBC’s are 37% less than other types of portable tanks. For stationary use they are nearly identical in price with vertical water tanks. Intermediate bulk containers are the most common tank in the world and are readily available in any region. They are the easiest tank to find locally and online. If kept in good condition, and only used for water, an IBC may have resale value up to 65% of its original cost.

Most widely used tank in aquaponics

IBC totes are the most used tank in aquaponic systems due to their low price and customizable features. You can use them in almost every extension of hydroponics and aquaculture. They are suitable for aquatic life, plant growth, and are compatible with the common chemicals and minerals used in aquaponics. There are thousands of videos, guides, and specifications from professionals and thought leaders. Being able to follow step by step instructions makes an IBC tank perfect for both professional and DIY systems.

IBC’s are versatile and modular

IBC containers are often stationary within an aquaponics system, but because they are lightweight (≈ 135 – 155 lbs), you can easily move them around as needed. This makes them more versatile than other types of tanks that are purely stationary. One person can manage an empty tank by grasping the steel cage and pulling it. You can haul them with trucks and trailers without them tipping. Commercial aquaponic operations may benefit from the 4-way forklift access at the base. They can be stacked for integration with tiered systems. Their modularity makes them perfect for prototyping new aquaponic systems that are looking to scale. We often see totes used in small outdoor setups then scaled into larger greenhouses.

What Specific Functions Do IBC’s Have in an Aquaponics System

Hobbyists have been creative in making use of every component of an IBC tote. There are at least 6 different functions an IBC can have in an aquaponics setup. If you plan on maximizing the lifespan of your tank, then start using it with clean water first. From there you can use it for harsher functions and lastly break it down for its components.

Clean Water Storage Tank

IBC’s are commonly used for storing clean water that is needed in various parts of an aquaponics system. The water is used to replace what is lost over time due to evaporation, water cycling, and cleaning. IBC’s comply with FDA food-grade drinking water standards 21 CFR 177.1520 (1) 3.1 and 3.2. They are often used to collect rainwater that will be filtered or used directly in an aquaponics system. If you are pumping from a well or using municipal tap water, then you can use the IBC as a pretreatment tank before introducing water into your system.

Sump Tank

Aquaponic sump tanks serve as water reservoirs to collect plant irrigation runoff and maintain fish tank water levels. Sump tanks provide water storage in the low point of the system for generating current flow and accumulating matter for removal. Water that reaches the sump is pumped back to the stock tank for circulation. IBC totes make excellent aquaponic sump tanks as they can be easily plumbed and modified to fit individual systems. Incorporating IBC sump tanks can help balance water volume needs as well as water quality by providing an opportunity to recirculate, filter, heat, or otherwise interact with the aquaponics system.

Clarifier Tank

Aquaponic systems often include a clarifier tank, also known as a batch tank or settling basin. Clarifier tanks are used as a point of system cleaning and maintenance. Growers use them to separate uneaten fish food, remove particulates and dislodged biofilms, and to apply chemicals designed to adjust the system if needed. IBC tanks can be integrated into aquaponic systems as clarifier tanks to monitor water chemistry and balance pH through sampling and adding chemicals.


Aquaponic biofilters are used to provide an ideal growth environment for the bacteria-driven cycle that breaks down system fish wastes. IBCs are a reliable container for supporting the nitrogen cycle that is necessary for plant growth. There are numerous examples of Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter bacteria thriving in IBC tanks under the right conditions. IBC containers are easy to implement as aquaponic biofilter tanks for promoting and establishing bacteria growth in system cycling and maintenance.

Stock Tank

Growers use IBCs as food grade stock tanks to raise their system’s living organisms, with fish being the most common. IBC totes are often used for growing substantial weight volumes of fish. Growers often select more edible types of fish (tilapia, trout, catfish) to also farm for food. 1 to 2 U.S. gallons of water can support between 0.5 lbs. to 1.0 lbs. of tilapia in an aquaponics system.

A 275 gallon IBC could potentially support 68 to 275 lbs. of tilapia. This fish weight could support 227 to 9,167 sqft of hydroponic crops. These values were calculated from the recommendation of having 0.03 lbs. to 0.30 lbs. of fish stock for every square foot of growing crop space.

A 330 gallon IBC could potentially support 16 to 66 lbs. of goldfish or koi. This can potentially support between 53 to 2,200 sqft. of hydroponic crops. These values were calculated using the recommendation for 0.5 to 1.0 lbs of goldfish or koi weight for every 5 to 10 U.S. gallons.

Grow Basins & Plants

The hydroponic function of an aquaponics systems makes use of IBC totes as custom grow basins. An IBC is often cut to accommodate crops and grow conditions with additional plumbing fixtures for water circulation and irrigation. The most common plant tank design uses IBCs as media grow beds filled with expanded clay. IBC tanks can be modified for specific plant setups with many systems using them in channeled, tiered, and tower based layouts.

These IBC Components are useful in Aquaponics

Lids, Valves & Fittings

An IBC tote has a lid, valve and fitting that are perfect for aquaculture and hydroponics. Each component is capable of being modified for custom applications. IBC inlets are 6” in diameter with screw cap vented lids. Inlets are large enough to provide interior access for easily filling and cleaning the tank. IBC outlets are commonly 2” polypropylene ball valves with bulkhead fittings ideal for water flow and pipe plumbing attachments. Extra valves and fittings are easy to install on IBC totes to connect additional piping between aquaponic system components.

Galvanized Steel Cage

IBC totes have a tubular steel cage that surrounds their semi-flexible inner plastic container. The cage is manufactured from galvanized steel. This durable metal provides the IBC with stability and protection against impacts and rust from water exposure. The steel frame of IBCs can be fully separated for breaking down the tote into its individual components. IBC cages can be cut using simple tools for various uses in aquaponics systems.

Thin, Blow Molded Tank Walls

IBC containers are blow molded from an industrial grade polyethylene. The manufacturing process produces a thin, but durable, plastic wall that can be cleanly cut with basic tools. IBC tanks can be cut to install additional plumbing fixtures and produce open top tanks for fish stock and crop grow basins.

We recommend purchasing 275 or 330 gallon rebottled totes for aquaponics. Wholesale pricing is available for high volume orders. We also offer discounts for returning customers who will let us feature their aquaponics systems on our website. If you have questions, contact us using the form below or call us.

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