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General Building Codes for Aquaponics

Not sure where buried water and power lines are? Most areas in the US have a dedicated team that will help you avoid breaking these lines.

If you call 811, and schedule an appointment, they will come out and mark locations where existing utility lines are. They will however, want to know your permit number… Mesa, AZ has setup a phone number and service to help people plan safe DIY projects: (480) 644-4273
They will basically make sure you following various national and local building codes.
A building permit is required for any construction that changes the footprint of the structure, changes or adds to the electrical service or plumbing system.
For Mesa, AZ that would be:

Additional Paperwork


I can’t believe they charge so much to review work before you do it.

If you do not call, and damage a line, you will be held civially and criminally responsible for the damages.

Making Digging Easier

In Arizona we have homes built on top of clay only a few inches down. Digging through this is a nightmare. You can make the job easier by soaking the area a day before you dig to soften it. Dig the softened earth out, and then resoak. Repeat as necessary. Day labor or a rented ditch witch might be a good investment too.

Electrical Code for Underground Electricity

The NEC specifies that if you are burying UF cable directly as an electrical line, it must be at least 24 inches deep. If you enclose it in schedule 80 PVC (grey) conduit, it only needs to be 18 inches deep.
If a receptacle is run to the center of a yard, it needs to have an anchoring for the junction box. Schedule 80pvc embedded in concrete to support the box, or attach the box to a post or wall.
Switches and receptacles installed outdoors need weatherproof electrical boxes and covers.
Receptacles need to be a minimum of 12″ above grade and need to be either GFCI receptacles or breakers.
If more than four receptacles are connected to a circuit, a 20 amp breaker should be installed.

Laws about burying water lines

The City of Mesa uses the International Plumbing Code. Here are some tidbits:
The line should be buried 6″ below the frost line. If you do not drain the system before a frost, this will cause havoc. If frost is an issue in your area, consider an automatic drain valve.

Greenhouse Construction

Unless your greenhouse is taller than 30 feet, no fire resistance codes are required on the actual membrane material. Plastic less than 20 mil that is not designed for public occupation is not restricted.
Greenhouse glass does not need to be screened unless taller than 20′

Tank Construction

If your tank is large enough, you need a ladder.
Water can’t affect surrounding soil in an unhealthy manner or pool up.
Search through the ICC for the following words to look up specifics:

  • Septic Tank
  • Aquaculture
  • Pond
  • Water feature
  • Fountain
  • Pool

I got bored of looking all over and don’t want to post specifics. Mostly the code is about being safe, and not affecting the health or life of others.


Remember, if you are passing water in your system to other parts of the system – all parts need to be food safe and fish safe. Copper pipe for example will kill fish. Use CPVC for heated water and PVC for cold water. Make sure your glue is safe too. Opt to not use glue on parts that are not necessary. Teflon tape is safe where possible.

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