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Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

7 Things I Learned Installing an Off-Grid Woodstove

Snow. A fresh coat snow coated the ground at the homestead, as those familiar New Hampshire winds screeched through the trees. I took a sip from my French press — woodstove-made coffee in my tiny house — and took in a moment of reflection. “This is the most terrible coffee I have ever had,” I murmured to myself as I watch it fly out the door. It was time to finish the last of the details on the woodstove install. A project that should have gone smoothly, or so I thought.

With a recent run to the local big-box store, we came back with all the gadgets ones heart desires. Triple-wall chimney pipe, single-wall stovepipe, through-the-wall kit, and elbows galore. I quickly tore open the boxes like a child on Christmas morning. It was a fine day at the homestead, indeed.

Challenges Installing a Chimney Kit

I knew before we even picked up the chimney there were going to be some challenges. One of them being the large overhangs I put all around the cabin. The kits at the local stores only carry a chimney kit that is made to be mounted directly on the exterior wall. That would mean cutting a hole through the roof overhang — in mountain climbing lingo, we call that a “No-Go”. So I picked up a extra couple pieces of metal strapping and a pop rivet gun, which is totally my new favorite thing.

I began to install the stove pipe on the chimney before I cut the dreaded hole out through the wall. As I worked my way towards the wall, I placed the wall thimble in the appropriate spot and traced around it. I grabbed my trusty recip saw and began to cut the hole. As the sawdust flew, I thought to myself, “ damn I’m good.” Just as the saw finished it’s cut, the piece dropped out of the wall. There, staring me in the face, was my roof overhang. I spent the next 5 minutes or so throwing a hissy fit like a child in a toy store.

I regained my composure and cut out the section of wall, replaced it, and re-flashed it. Then, I cut the hole out in the right spot. One of the things about messing up a lot is you get good at fixing things. That’s the silver lining to that cloud folks.

The rest of the day went rather smoothly, I had made it all the way through the wall and began to go up for the last sections of vertical. After I put on one section of the four that were vertical, I realized that the last three sections of chimney were very dangerous at best. So I excepted my fate and called it for the weekend. I was a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers.

Supply Rentals for Home Repairs

The next weekend came, but this time I was ready. I called a local staging-rental place and picked up 15 feet of staging, leveling jacks for the ground, all the connectors, and three planks to put on top. Amazingly, this rental only costs $150 for a 30-day rental. It sure would have been nice to know that a while back, but hey, live and learn.

I assembled the pieces quickly and throw up the planks. I grabbed the remaining pieces and connected them together with screws, even though it wasn’t necessary. I easily placed the tower of three sections of chimney pipe up and twisted it into place, chimney cap and all. A quick couple of screws and the chimney stood proud. 

The last step was to add the support brackets. With the brackets already pre-mounted when I put it up, I stretched them out onto the roof. With only a few “sporty” moves, I fastened down the brackets and the woodstove install was complete. Finally, we are going to be warm this winter.

7 Lessons Learned from a DIY Woodstove Install

1. Make sure you figure out where the hole you cut out on the outside too. Fortunately, my mistake was a quick fix this time.

2. Check multiple local stores. Our kit was slightly cheaper then other kits available, but part of it is galvanized and not stainless steal. It would have been $20 more but looked better and lasted longer.

3. Buy only one brand. When you pick your pipes, keep them all the same. Most manufacturers have there own connection systems.

4. Talk to the local fire department. Our local fire department wants us to install our woodstove to manufacturers specification. As I understand, that is fairly common but always check with the fire department and building inspector before buying your pipes. It can save you time, money, and hassle.

5. Know your chimney distances to obstructions. In my situation, I have to have my chimney 2 feet higher then anything within 10 feet or 3 feet over the peek if it is under 10 feet away. My chimney just meets the 2 feet over the 10 feet rule fortunately, but yours may not. One again, check with your local building inspector on this.

6. Think about how your going to get that chimney up there. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the outside part, which made it a 2 weekend job. If I had figured out I could rent staging cheaply, it would have been a day at best.

7. Inspect your woodstove. We got our woodstove free from our brother, and it’s perfect size for us. It did need a new door gasket and a couple of parts to make it new, not having a door gasket is dangerous if you were to use it. For a $80 investment, we got a sweet stove.

Wood-fired stoves are essential to a off-grid homestead. Rocket mass heaters are also a awesome option if building codes would ever allow them. Whether or not it is your primary source of heat, doesn’t really matter. Having one on the homestead is key. If you lose power for whatever reason, you still have heat, hot water, and a stove-top. Being off-grid is all about self-sufficiency, and with would heat you are just one step closer.

Jamie Leahy is founding mountaineer at North Ridge Mountain Guides. After a few years commuting to the White Mountains, Jamie and his girlfriend, Becky, decided it was time to move to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and follow their dream of building an off-grid, mini-homestead debt free. Follow him at White Mountains Off-Grid. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

7 DIY Yard and Garden Projects: Pergola, Porch Swing, Small Cabin, and More

With fewer plants to tend to during the long winter season, it can be difficult to remain as productive during this twilight time of year as you were in previous seasons. Even if your homestead garden no longer requires the type of attention and care that kept you bustling in the spring, winter can be a great opportunity to take on a truly gratifying endeavor. Get started on any of these amazing DIY ideas for a project that will have you beaming by last frost.

1. Build a Pergola


Photo by A Beautiful Mess

This project is especially exciting if you have been interested in growing vines but as yet had no ideal spot for them. You may also prefer this option if you do not feel there is enough space for a full-sized gazebo. Your pergola can be free-standing in a basic square frame or mark an elaborate extension to an outdoor patio.

Pergola plans are available in a variety of possibilities and are suitable for amateurs or any skill level. You can stylishly divide up your outdoor scenery with some well-needed shade. Construct a comfortable spot to enjoy meals or just lounge. Accentuate your garden with picturesque accessories, or add shelving, hanging plants, even delightful planter boxes to suit your taste. The simplistic structure of a pergola enhances a garden without interfering with future planting seasons.

2. Build a Porch Swing

Build a porch swing

Photo by Simply Designing

Porch swings are more than just iconic decor, this cozy addition creates and ideal spot for everyone in the family to read, rest, or watch the sunset. Adding a swing to your front porch brings a fun, personal touch to the home that can be creative and easily suits to any design style of your choosing.

Even without a front porch, you can build an attractively pleasant swing that hangs in its own freestanding A-frame, from the branches of your favorite tree, even in an indoor room. A fun trick is to bring familiar, personalized touches to what begins as a simple design. You can add cushions and cup holders for that particularly homey feel.

Because swings can be constructed from multiple materials- rope and wood, chain and metal -you can design and build using whatever supplies you find convenient.

3. Build A Playhouse (or Swing Set)

Swing set

Photo by Ryobi Tools

Why spend money on a tacky plastic eyesore when you can custom build for your children their very own playground and enjoy the years of outdoor play that will follow? Playhouse and swing set designs are fun because even a basic A frame or hanging tire can be included with a number of amusing creations.

This project is a perfect opportunity for the entire family to collaborate, and more additions can be continually added over the years. Add a slide, a jungle gym, a miniature fort, or a mock kitchen. The joy of this creation is all the imaginative possibilities. An outdoor playground will encourage your kids to spend more time unplugged and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

4. Build A Treehouse

treehouse plans

Photo by The Classic Archives

Every kid dreams of playing in their own private treehouse. Why not reward and impress your family with an iconic delight of childhood fun? Use a treehouse as a unique chance to deliver the fun and zany ideas not practical enough for a standard adult project, like crawlspaces, ladders, and toys. Install a swinging rope and a pulley system, places for your children or grandchildren to crawl, climb, and play.

Even if no trees on your property seem adequate to support a large structure, a simple deck is still a great spot for camping and a fort for hiding. A treehouse can be as elaborate or as basic as you prefer, even if you are only an amateur builder. Give your children an opportunity to participate in the planning and building, and the work will be all the more meaningful.

5. Build A Gazebo

Build a gazebo

Photo by Melco

While pergolas are always an attractive addition, a gazebo brings in the added functionality of structure and design. Whether you have a small corner or a large space to fill, you can transform any area in need of additional splendor into a welcoming spot for lounging, grilling, or just appreciating nature. A well-constructed gazebo will feel like an additional room of the house, bringing the comfort of outdoor scenery within an impressive structure.

Like so many of the projects listed above, plans can vary in size, difficulty, and detail, so you can construct an attractive and suitable design regardless of the area. The rounded shape of a traditional gazebo creates an illusion of larger space, and strong roof will provide a usable outdoor seating area even in bad weather. A basic wood frame or an elaborate brick setting can bring a welcoming ambiance to your property. Try these plans from MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

6. Build An Outdoor Chair

Adirondack chair

Photo by Skip to My Lou

If you spend much time with carpentry work at all, the thought of a cozy chair has probably already crossed your mind. Traditional rocking chairs are a popular choice for any busy carpenter, but this particular design of outdoor chair allows for versatility and affordability. The Adirondack-style of chair design is ideal for quickly constructing a sturdy outdoor seat with minimal material costs. The unique shape has become quickly popularized due to the reliable strength and comfortable reclining posture.

By recycling pallets or leftover lumber from any of your previous work, you can enjoy the added benefit of productive work and practical resourcefulness. You can apply a chic finish for a more modern look or keep an organic and natural appeal to blend in with the garden environment. Every skill level enjoys building these chairs, and even a master can undertake the challenge of a unique matching outdoor set with multiple chairs.

7. Build a Small Cabin

Little cabin

Photo by Joalex Henry on Instructables

Building a simple cabin on your property is an exciting project and proud homage to early American builders. A wonderful feature of cabins is the surprising affordability as well as the option to build off supplies you may already have available. A small cabin on the property can suit a number of useful benefits, whether you begin with a simple A frame or an entire two story build.

Well-made designs actually produce a construction that is warmer and cozier than many people realize — try these plans and cabin-building resources from MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Your cabin can become a pleasant home away from home, suitable for housing guests or just enjoying a little privacy. Not only will this project produce ample opportunity for numerous features and amenities, but many cabin designs can be suited for multiple additions and alterations in later years.

You Have Some Work to Do!

Waiting through long winter months can be frustrating if your usual outdoor routine is stalled while you wait for planting season. No one wants to spend weeks at a time without productive hands-on work. Any of these do-it-yourself projects can yield satisfying results that benefit the look and function of your home for years to come. As always, be sure to carefully follow the instructions for the safety and accuracy that make your projects successful and durable. Leave a comment to ask questions or tell us about your own winter projects.

Jennifer Poindexter and her husband raise most of their food and a variety of animals in the foothills of North Carolina, where they built a small homestead on very little money. She writes about all of her adventures at Morning Chores, where she shares the knowledge she has gained with others that might want to take the full plunge into homesteading. Read all of Jennifer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

5 Great Tips for Plumbing an Off-Grid Cabin

It was a brisk, misty morning in the mountains of New Hampshire. The wind whipped what was left of the Grateful Dead flag as the fog slowly burned off over the mountains. It was another day of plumbing, a system that I thought would be easy, like ham-sandwich easy.

As it turns out, clamping a few pipes together is not as easy as it sounds. I carefully chose the locations for the pipes to be ran and began to drill holes through my newly framed cabin.  I quickly connected the red pipes to the red pipes and the blue pipes to the blue pipes. I thought to myself that my fellow plumbers Mario and Luigi would be proud.

Maybe plumbing is ham-sandwich easy, I thought, as I went to install our new on demand water heater. Turns out, this was one tough ham sandwich to make.


Setting Up an Off-Grid Plumbing System

After installing a board to attach the water heater to, I began to cut out a hole for the vent. The vent went together easily and I couldn't wait to get propane to test her out. With all the main lines connected, I began to install a series of three filters, connecting each section as I went.

I wanted to make sure that our water was clean — after all, we would likely be getting water from the local river this season. I grabbed our new 12-volt pump, connected it to our 50-gallon water tank, and ran out to grab the battery from our solar kit. A pair of test clips later, and the pump was humming a sweet song. I cautiously opened a valve and, magic! Water came at me with the force of woman scorn.

After the initial burst, I did a quick test and found it to be pumping a solid 3 gallons per minute. After all of my hard work,I finally decided now was the time to look at the manual.


Turns out the water heater needs a 18-inch rise of double-walled pipe, and a quick google search revealed our local building code required 18 inches of metal piping going in, and out of the heater.  So after all my hard work, I drained the system, cut the pipes, and took down the water heater. I have always followed the measure once, cut twice method in all my building.

After the pipe kerfuffle, I re-ran the pipes, got new double-wall vent pipe, and installed the water heater again. Fortunately, this time I did it right.

5 Lessons Learned from DIY Plumbing Job

So what did I learn from this that I can share with my faithful readers? Here's a few tips to avoid cutting multiple holes through your new wall.

1. PEX, PEX, PEX. Pex is a great product. For all of my previous plumbing projects, I soldered copper. Pex is less then half the cost of copper, it's flexible, and easy to fix mistakes. It also comes in cool blue and red colors, and we all know how important style is off-grid.

2. Check your local building codes. Always be sure to check your local building codes, and speak with the inspector first.  If I had taken my own advice, I wouldn't have had to make the extra 4 runs to the local big box store.

3.Think about your run lengths. On a off grid homestead, water is life.  Minimizing runs (especially with hot water) can help you save some of that hard earned water.  Check to see how much water is in every foot of pipe for the product you are using.

4. Measure twice, cut once. Although I have mostly gone by measure once, cut twice, and then fix it after, forethought is a good thing that will save you time and money.

5. Get your water tested. Being from Massachusetts, I love that dirty water. The problem is dirty water in your house is bad, like giardia bad. Make sure you properly treat and filter your water and be sure to have it tested by someone that knows more than me.

Plumbing is a essential part to have a "normal" house off the grid. One of the main points of this project is to go off-grid without losing many luxuries. So that when friends come over, they would never know the difference between your house and theirs. Spend a little time researching before pulling that trigger.The use of jugs on the counter can easily be avoided with a couple dollars, a little research, and in my case, a lot of luck.

While most folks think that off-the-grid living is a life full of river dunks, outhouses, and chasing chickens, the reality is that an off-grid house can be almost as normal as a grid-tied one.

Jamie Leahy is founding mountaineer at North Ridge Mountain Guides. After a few years commuting to the White Mountains, Jamie and his girlfriend, Becky, decided it was time to move to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and follow their dream of building an off-grid, mini-homestead debt free. Follow him at White Mountains Off-Grid. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Insulate an Outdoor Workshop

Your outdoor workshop is likely one of your favorite places to be. You can spend hours out there working on projects — but now the weather is turning colder, and an uncomfortable workshop can hamper your productivity.

Will you have to go all winter without working on your projects? No! Just throw on some warm clothes and spend the weekend insulating your workshop. You’ll be able to enjoy it even when there’s snow on the ground.


Photo credit Unsplash

Tools and Materials Needed

Before you get started, you’ll need some basic tools:

• Measuring tape
• Staple gun

• Drill

• Utility knife

• ½ inch long wood staples

• 1 ½ inch long wood screws (or 1-inch drywall screws)

• Fiberglass insulation with vapor barrier

Additionally, you’ll need to make sure you are dressed appropriately and have safety gear. You should wear a long sleeve shirt, pants, shoes that cover your foot and toes, protective eye gear, a dust mask and protective gloves.

Steps for Installing Insulation

Now for the installation of your insulation. Start off by using a measuring tape to measure the interior walls for insulation. Measure from the footer boards to the header boards. Tip: If you have a shed that has a 2-inch by 4-inch lumber frame, the studs are 16 inches apart, which means you need fiberglass insulation that is 15-inches wide.

Once you purchase the material and are dressed to work, roll the insulation out and cut it to the appropriate size using the utility knife. Go ahead and cut it all at once, too, so you can install the insulation without having to stop.

The vapor barrier side of the insulation should face the interior of your workshop. The lining is wider than the insulation and should be lined up and stapled to the wall studs to hold the insulation to the wall. Continue installing the insulation so the vapor barriers overlap, and there are no gaps. Once all of the insulation is in place, you should finish it with ½-inch thick plywood sheets or drywall.

You can choose to paint or otherwise finish the plywood or the drywall so your workshop looks like a finished space and one you would want to work in.

Insulating Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are the main sources of warm air escaping and cool air coming in during the winter. To help insulate the windows and doors in your building, use a hardening foam filler around the edges after you install the insulation and before you put up the plywood or drywall. This material is easy to use and expands to fill gaps and holes, so you won’t need any additional supplies.

Once you have your walls finished, you should install curtains or blinds, and open them during the day and close them at night. This will help the sunlight warm the shed during the day and provide an extra layer of draft protection at night.

You can test if you are still getting a draft from your windows or door by closing up your building and lighting an incense stick. Slowly move the incense stick around the windows and doors and see if the smoke changes. If it does, you may want to add additional sealant around the windows and door to make sure there aren’t any gaps in between them and the wall.

If you are getting a draft from the underside of the door, you can purchase or make a draft stopper that slides onto the bottom and fills the gap while still letting you open and close the door.


Photo Credit Unsplash

Insulating the Floor and the Roof

The floor and the roof are often overlooked in an outside building, but if you want to achieve the best insulation possible, you need to take care of these areas, too.

An easy way to do this in an existing workshop is to install a breathable membrane to line the floor and then lay a rug or a section of carpet on top of that membrane to add insulation. The membrane prevents the rug or carpet from getting damp and molding or rotting.

If you want to do a full floor, cork makes a great workshop floor because it is comfortable to stand on and easy to take care of. Plus, it will add insulating properties of its own to keep you from feeling the cold from below.

You also will likely want to install a vapor barrier and plastic sheeting on the roof to keep it from leaking in the rain or snow. If your roof is bare, install shingles to help add a layer of protection. You can then add some insulation in the roof space as long as you leave a two-inch gap above the insulation for ventilation.

Ready to use your workshop this winter? Plan a weekend and knock this project off your to-do list. A bonus to doing this now, too, is that when summer comes back around, your shed will be cooler and more energy efficient.

Megan Wild improves homes by focusing on increasing their sustainability and finding new ways to repurpose old materials. When she’s not holding a hammer, you can find her writing up her ideas and thoughts for her blog, Your Wild Home, and read all of Megan's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Make a Perfect Headband from Over-the-Knee Socks

Cut foot

These easy-to-make cozy warm headbands can be worn by anyone. I had several pair of over-the-knee socks at home that I no longer wore, so it was easy for me to just use what I already had on hand. If you don’t have any over-the-knee socks check local thrift stores, second hand shops, or even consignments stores who may have a few inexpensive socks.

The length of an adult size over-the-knee sock is the perfect length for an adult headband or can be cut shorter for a child size headband. Just measure the child’s head and subtract 2-3 inches for stretch.

Stuff end

Using over-the-knee socks to make these ten-minute wonders opens up a whole new world of choices for cozy headbands. Think of it! Headbands for men, women, and children can be charming as they coordinate with your outdoor clothes or practical to pair with your jeans and t-shirts.

Make more than one to have several to choose from as you bundle up for a cool winter day or evening. I’m looking for cable knit socks at second hand stores for a great holiday headband. I’ve seen cute animal print socks which would be perfect for a fun headband or a special holiday gift.

Using standard scissors, cut off the foot of the sock straight across at the ankle. The foot can then be used for a small cleaning rag or roll it up and tie with a string for a delightful cat toy. Bending the remaining tube into a ring, stuff the newly cut end about an inch into the top band of the sock. Sew the ends together by hand or machine. I use a stretch stitch to allow more stretch in the headband. Matching or contrasting thread can be used depending on your preference.


Step 1: Cut off the foot of the sock at the ankle. (See photo 1)

Step 2: Stuff the cut end into the top band of sock. (See photo 2)

Step 3: Sew the ends together by hand or machine (See photo 3)

Step 4: Enjoy your new cozy headband! (See photo 4)

I experimented with knee-high socks too. If you leave the foot on a regular adult knee high sock it is the perfect length for a headband. Just turn the knee-high sock inside out and sew a seam to make the heel no longer a heel but in a straight line with the rest of the sock foot. Then stuff the toe of the knee-high sock into the top band of the sock and sew the ends together to make the circular headband. What a perfect way to re-purpose socks!

Another idea is to use an old knit and stretchy shirt or sweater to make a headband. Simply measure your head, or the head of whoever the headband is for. Cut off the sleeve three inches smaller than the head measurement. Sew the end together using the method mentioned above and enjoy repurposing a shirt that may have otherwise been thrown out. This is a nice way to keep the memory of a family member’s shirt.

Mary Ann Reese remembers her first gardening experience in the kitchen of their family home when she was about 7 years old. Her mom helped her grow impatiens and when the flowers opened, Mary was hooked on gardening. Mary has owned a mini-farm, greenhouse, chickens, ducks, and geese raised from eggs in an incubator. Now she enjoys writing, organic gardening, photography, reading, playing bocce ball, hiking, sewing, quilting, crocheting and music. Read all of Mary's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

DIY Termite Treatment


We've had (drywood) termite problems on and off for years. Since there's no way I'm going to have the house tented and permeated with Vikane gas,* I would periodically get the bug guys to do the microwave treatment. It cost $2,000 initially, then about $500 per year for future treatment when needed.(I believe orange oil is also used these days for people leery of insecticides.) 

A few years ago, I decided to try Greenbug spray, which is (said to be) made of cedar and natural ingredients. I've been spraying this stuff on the wood where I see termite frass (pellets) and to my amazement, there are no more pellets. I say "amazing" because this is topical treatment and it doesn't seem it would get into the wood where termites live. (All of our termites are in ceilings.)

The stuff smells great, like cedar oil, and I am just now buying a 2nd gallon (about $60). I pour it into squeeze/pump bottles (like Windex bottles) and spray until it drips a little (it's water-soluble). Haven't had the bug guys out for many years.

Greenbug is one of the few products in the world not sold by Amazon.

*First, Vikane is made by Dow — red alert. And, if it can penetrate into the wood and kill termites, I am suspicious of residual effect.

Lloyd Kahn is a sustainable living visionary and publisher of Shelter Publications. He is the author of natural building books, including Tiny HomesTiny Homes on the MoveShelter II and Builders of the Pacific Coast. (all available in the Mother Earth News Store). He lives and builds in Northern California. Follow Lloyd on his blogTwitterand Facebook, and read all of his Mother Earth News posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Build a Garden Aquarium

In order create a more relaxing environment in your garden, you can build an outdoor aquarium. Buying a pre-made aquarium can cost you thousands of dollars, but the expense is avoidable by building your own.

The fortunate thing is that an aquarium is a simple replication of an ecosystem and can be set with the right conditions that support fish just like the commercial ones. It may be challenging to build the structure, but using the proper guidelines, you can make a beautiful and well functioning system at the lowest cost possible. Here are some tips and guidance on making your DIY garden aquarium successfully.

Determine the Location


Choosing the best place for your garden aquarium is important as it should be positioned in a way that it will add beauty while at the same time it should be away from direct sunlight. Keep it away from drafts and vibrations as these affect the fish.

Avoid building the aquarium under trees. This location plays a critical role in the long-term success of the project. Depending on the country where you want to build the system, the weather will play a significant role in deciding where to place it. Regions prone to very cold winters may dictate that you build indoors or in a greenhouse or completely shut it down if it’s outdoors during winter. The planned size of the aquarium will determine the part of the garden where it should be built on the available space.

Choose the Size and Depth of the Tank


Photo by

The garden aquarium size can be decided based on the quantity of fish you plan for and the availability of space and materials. Choose the type of tank material for the chosen depth; glass is commonly used, but a more expensive acrylic can also be used since it is efficient at insulating the whole system meaning the cost of heating will be low compared to glass.

Source Remaining Equipment

These include filter system to provide adequate aeration for the fish. You also need a timer and LED lighting in addition to having fishing rod more here in readiness for fishing. An ultraviolet sterilizer and water pump are also required to build your garden aquarium.

Set Up the Tank

Step 1: When everything has been made ready, place the tank in the chosen position and fill it with water. Check for leaks then add gravel or a substrate then pile it slightly towards the back of the aquarium so as to form an illusion of distance in the fish tank.

Step 2: Using de-chlorinated water or with adequate chlorine remover, fill the tank mid-level. Place a dish on top of the gravel in the fish tank and fill it with water gently, this will create a minimum disturbance to the underlying gravel.

Step 3: After doing all this, proceed to install the filter and heater. The heater is required for a tropical aquarium to maintain the right temperature. This requires the installation of a thermometer in a location that can easily be read to aid in controlling the temperature. 

Step 4: When the basics have been set, it is time to add decorations inside the aquarium. Include some ornaments, rocks or some back pictures on the tank base for additional beauty. If you can, then add some floating plants when the tank is full.

Step 5: The last step is to turn on the heater and water filter and check for optimal functioning of both. Fill the aquarium with de-chlorinated water to the top starting the process of tank cycling.

Adding New Fish to an Outdoor Aquarium

Before adding any fish ensure the aquarium is stabilized. The pH level should acceptable to the fish — the temperature should be standardized to support all the types of fish in the tank. Add the fish a few at a time as you monitor their survival and health before adding more. Putting all of them in the tank may cause you severe loss especially if you have not set the tank and the conditions of the water as required.


Photo by

It is a very engaging job building an aquarium in the garden. It calls for commitment in terms of time and money for it to succeed. However, when designed and set properly, it will be used for years raising fish while making the garden more serene and beautiful with the view of fresh water or tropical fish.

All the mentioned components are readily available at local hardware and gardening stores. They can also be bought at second-hand places including eBay, Gumtree, and Craiglist. It looks very basic but once built this aquarium is very functional and beneficial. Just go get your fishing rod more here as you prepare for the fish to mature.

Ann Katelyn is a homesteader in Alabama whohas dedicated most of her life to gardening and botanical study with growing interests ranging from the popular, world-class roses to the rarest and most exotic orchids. She is currently trying her best to become well versed on plants found in desert areas, the tropics, and Mediterranean region. Connect with Ann on Twitter and her website, Sumo Gardener. Read all of Ann's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to our Terms of Agreement and to follow blogging best practices. They are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.