How I’m using 3D software to help design my aquaponics system, Part 3

When I first started this venture of creating an aquaponics system, I had no idea how scientific this hobby can be. For example, to ensure a healthy environment for the fish, test kits for ammonia, nitrate, nitrite and pH levels are all standard now. Starting a fish tank involves adding nitrifying bacteria for a fishless cycle.

I also had no idea how artistic aquariums can be. Japan’s Takashi Amano took the basic fish tank to a new level with his world renown and award winning aquascapes. In 2012, The Wall Street Journal labeled him the Sage of Aquariums where the “tanks seek to outdo nature itself.” Mr. Amano’s tanks are truly mesmerizing.




Can 3D modeling and 3D printing top this? Well to be fair, it’s apples and oranges. Aquascaping uses rocks and plants from the natural world, whereas a 3D print is an extension of your own personal artistic sense. Both can be equally beautiful.

Ms. Haruka Misawa’s aquarium artwork is a great example of using 3d prints to create serene environments for our watery pets. Of course, 3D printing is still relatively new, so we are only in the beginning stages.






In my case, my daughter and I discussed what type of models would be good for our new fish tank. We came up with a “treasure bowl” (to store our pirate booty of course!) and a little house for the fish. I thought the heart-shaped windows, which also extend to the back of the house, were a nice touch on her end.

Diamonds in Bowl

Fish house

Unfortunately, these models are as far as I want to go for now, mainly due to health concerns. Specifically, I’m not eager to put either PLA or ABS plastics into the fish tank because I think both can leak out toxins that can harm the fish. One family safety-focused website,, says ABS is safe. However, I’m going to err on the side of caution because I’m also growing herbs from the fish water, so I don’t want my family to ingest plastic residual either. I will look into 3D printing ceramics or porcelain later.


Instead of a plastic 3D print, I’m going to use this little house that I found at the aquarium shop. It’s close to my daughter’s design so she likes it and was eager to place it in the tank, just on top of the slate. For me, I feel fortunate to have found a 3D roundhouse!

Looking back over the last four months, I’m glad I was able to use my (still elementary) 3D modeling skills to help me set up my home aquaponics system. One of the characteristics of the hobby is the system will need about six months to find the right balance between fish quantity (i.e. fish poop) and the plants I am growing. So there will be more trial and error. For now, while my wife is eyeing the Thai basil in the grow bed above the tank, I’m really pleased my daughter and I can sit in front of the tank before her bedtime to look for baby fish; we spotted two just last night!

Fish Tank 4





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