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An aquaponic system can easily be built in an afternoon with an IBC, a pump, a handful of fittings and a couple of regular power tools. IBC’s along with blue 200L plastic barrels have enabled thousands of aquaponic systems to be built where normally people may not have the resources or the means to build a system any other way. IBC aquaponic systems have even proven themselves to be a marketable product, with many different complete aquaponic systems available for sale through classifieds. No matter how you look at it, they have a crucial role to play within aquaponics, the aquaponics community and the growth of aquaponics worldwide. What makes them so special? The ability to use them in such a variety of ways, and their self supporting outer stand. One IBC can be cut and turned into one aquaponic system, or alternately, multiple IBC’s can be plumbed together and incorporated into extremely large systems..

What is an IBC or Tote

IBC or Intermediate Bulk Container, also often termed as an IBC tote, is a large industrial container used to carry, store and transport liquid products. They range in sizes from 500 litres – 1200 litres, though other sizes can also be found they are not as common. Without a doubt the most commonly available IBC is 1000L litre. These 1000L IBC’s are generally around 1.0m x 1.2m x 1.2m tall, this cubic shape makes it ideal for efficient transporting of bulk liquids.

The basic construction of an IBC consists of a steel, plastic or wooden base that includes 4 way forklift lifting points for ease of moving around. This base provides a sturdy foundation to support an outside cage made from steel. The outer steel cage is generally constructed from either a reasonably thin gauge almost steel mesh cage, through to a welded tubular steel grid, welded tubular grids are probably the most commonly found IBC construction types.

These cages are welded as one solid piece, then screwed onto the base at a number of points. The thin plastic liner is then slid down into the into the cage, then generally two tubular bars are bolted across the top to hold down the inner plastic container. Because of the strength offered by the outer welded frame and solid base the inner plastic vessel that actually holds the liquids is only quite thin.


Screw attachments on the base and butterfly valves are common attachments and can come in a range of size, D50, D80, D150 depending on manufacturer. The top contains a large screw cap. generally between 6 inches and 12 inches across, these lids contain an inner 2 inch NPT threaded bung. IBC’s not only vary in size but they also vary in colour, most of the inner plastic containers are white, however you can find blue or black ones. IBC’s are reasonably cheap to buy, even new here in Australia you can buy brand new containers for about $350 + GST, quite reasonable considering that many other containers that might be used in aquaponics systems of a similar size usually cost a lot more. Then of course they are readily available second hand through drum recyclers, salvage shops, through classifieds, by knowing the right people, or if you’re lucky it can be as simple as driving past an industrial area where companies might put them out with “for sale” signs on them.


Second hand IBC’s generally come in a couple of different ways, “single use” are often a little more expensive, $100- $150 each. These containers have been used once to transport a liquid from one place to another, and then discarded. Usually these are in very good physical condition because they’ve had such little use. Then there’s “used” IBC’s, these may have been used many times over by numerous companies over time.

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