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Cost of an Aquaculture Pail

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Cost of a Pail for Aquaculture

In July 2002, I took a long look at container choices for aquaculture and decided to use plastic pails painted over with gloss paint and lacquer. This will be my container of choice for new aquaculture boxes, for now.


There are a number of reasons for my choice. First, the hydroponic vegetable fad has died out and the supply and cost of those big containers is uncertain. They are not completely opaque and enough light passes through for a film of algae to grow. The boxes are also rather large and difficult to move.

PVC containers lasts very long, but PVC containers are relatively expensive. Second hand or discarded PVC containers may be available, but I did not take the time to look around. PVC containers are commonly used to store chemicals, so one has to be cautious about using them.

At first glance, a plastic pail is not a very good solution. However, my experience with boxes that are painted over tells me that they are viable. Plastic boxes which are not UV-resistant becomes brittle in a year or two when exposed outdoors, but if they are painted over, they can last four or five years. A layer of paint and the nutrient solution stops oxygen from attacking the polymer too quickly from either side. The layer of paint also blocks most UV rays.

In the harsh Malaysian weather, a double coat of gloss paint on plastic boxes lasts about a year. By sealing the paint with lacquer, I believe the paint job can last two or more years. The layer of paint ensures that light does not penetrate into the solution, and the plastic is sealed against UV degradation.

A pail of about a gallon or two in size has a handle, and can be easily moved around. You can dump or add water without much trouble. The pail with the layer of paint also looks reasonably nice and presentable.

Cost Estimate (2002)

Component Amount Required (estd.) Per Pail
Cost (RM)
Per Annum
Cost (RM)
Plastic pail, 10" diameter One 2.29 5 0.46
Gloss paint, 2 coats One 250ml can does 5 pails 0.58 2 0.29
Spray lacquer, 2 coats One can does 10 pails 0.52 2 0.26
Styrofoam cover, 7 hole One sheet makes 8 pail covers 0.50 1 0.50
Holder cups, 2" diameter Seven per pail 0.70 3 0.23
Fibre medium One pack for 2 pails 0.65 3 0.22
Total Cost One standard pail 5.24   1.96

What does this comes up to? Just RM0.28 per annum per plant, and a painting job every two years. It's cheaper than using clay pots in soil culture, and a little more expensive than using plastic pots. You get the benefits of fast growth, clean plants, and the ability to check the health of the roots (or any other part of a plant for that matter) any time you want. A fair trade; the cost is reasonable.

One is, of course, not limited to 7 holes. A very large specimen can have its own pail. Up to 8 holes of 2" diameter can be made for a 10" diameter plastic pail. You can make small holes for small specimens, or even smaller holes for seedlings. Tens of seedlings can reside on one pail. The cost per plant per annum can be very low.


Take this as a cost estimate, a summary of my thoughts about the use of plastic containers for C&S aquaculture. You may have other ideas, or you might prefer metal, or a different hydroponic technique. This ideas in this page is consistent with my policy of minimum cost.

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  Last modified: 2002-07-29  Copyright © 1997-2002.  Kein-Hong Man.  all rights reserved