NOVEMBER’16 Newsletter

Our first open source design, aka “Peixaplants” turns a regular 50 liter aquarium into a self-sustaining ecosystem through the beauty of aquaponics. It provides a platform to discover the potential of Aquaponics, while creating a small indoor oasis that can provide you with your favourite herbs and spices all-year round.

It was designed to be made in a Fab Lab, with its original wooden structure cut by a CNC router, a customized LED lighting system and an arduino-based monitoring system displaying key parameters (i.e. pH, T°C, humidity, etc) on an LCD screen.

Inspired by nature, we have divided the anatomy of Peixaplants in various components as described below.

  • The Body is a structure made of plywood, able to handle the weight of the fish tank, the grow bed and the lighting system.
  • The Blood is a closed-loop water system that travels between all the components of the aquaponic ecosystem and connectsthem together.
  • The Sun is an LED lighting system bringing enough light indoors to grow plants while consuming as less energy as possible,
  • The Brain is a Fab Lab made and Arduino at heart monitoring system giving us key insights about the health of the ecosystem.
  • The Ecosystem is a symbiotic relationship between the fish, the beneficial microbes and plants.

We have been working on one component at a time with a spiral management approach that will be described in this post and the following ones.


We transformed our idea into a 3D model using Rhino CAD software. The support of the aquarium was inspired by another open source project developed at the Green Fab Lab: the open source beehive.

V1 (Software used: Rhino)

After several weeks and feedback from friends, we decided to revisit the design of the original idea, especially on the lighting system and growbed.

Looking around on the Internet, we really liked the lighting system proposed by the Veritable hydroponic model because of the two following aspects:

  • Its organic shape inspired from plants
  • Its telescopic capacities to adapt the height of the lighting system to the height of the plants as they grow.
Revisiting the lighting and grow bed system - V2 (Software used: Rhino)

And this is what the new design looks like

General view of V2 (Software used: Rhino)


At the Green Fab Lab we have a Laser cutter Trotec Speedy 400 offering a working area of 1000 x 610 mm.

Laser cutter Trotec Speedy 400

To laser cut your 3D model you need to Nest it before (by projecting each part of your 3D model onto a plane) so that the machine can interpret it.

Nesting view of V2 (Software used: Rhino)

Now it’s laser cutting time! For the mini Peixaplants we used:

  • 2.8 mm plywood
  • 3 mm acrylic
  • Kerfbending techniques

And this is what it looks like once you’ve assembled it.

General view of Laser cut V1


At the Green Fab Lab we have a Ultimaker 2

Ultimaker #2 3D printer

3D printed growbed and lighting system

General view of V2

Let’s have a look at v1 and v2.

Peixaplants V1 versus V2

Now that we got glimpse of Peixaplants’ design thanks to the 1:10 model, it’s time to go for the 1:1 scale 🙂

General view of V2


At the Green Fab Lab we have a Shopbot PRSalpha 96 48

Shopbot view at the Green Fab Lab

Before using the Shopbot, we need to measure our piece of wood in different parts to find its real average thickness.

Measuring OSB's thickness

Using the Shopbot is quite similar to using the laser cutter.  First, you need to nest your 3D model and define a milling strategy via a CAM software  (i.e. dark for cutting, blue for pocketing, green for drilling, etc).

Nesting view of V2 (Software used: Rhino CAM)

Second, when everything is good with your nesting, you are ready to generate a Gcode (i.e. the translation of your visual design into a set of instructions understood by the machine to materialise your design).

CNC router cutting the pieces drawn on Rhino

Third, it’s time to assembled the pieces together.

Assembling the base with the aquarium on top

For the Proof Of Concept #1, we did not follow the exact V2 design immediately, to avoid spending countless hours designing a system that maybe wouldn’t work. We started with a simplified design based to test its functionality as an aquaponic system. Learning from this functional prototype we could gain the right insights to end up with a design that not only looks good, but also really works! As you will see from our following articles we successfully tested our first Proof of Concept during 8 months! We were finally ready to put together our first Peixaplants model that was both attractive and fully functional 🙂

General view of V2 (Software used: Rhino)

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