Last Updated on September 3, 2021 by Marco C.
Determining what you can grow with aquaponics depends largely on the location, climate, and hydroponic practice used in your setup. Growing plants with fish allows you for a steady source of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and minerals. According to Virginia Tech, some of the minerals included in fish feed are sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and trace elements which are utilized by the fish. Whatever goes into the fish will later on go into the nutrient water for hydroponics. Aquaponics should be treated as a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Your hydroponics unit will be growing the vegetables and crops using the nitrogen from the fish.
What You Can Grow With Hydroponics You Can Grow With Aquaponics As Well
There are three kinds of hydroponics; deep water culture, nutrient film technique, and media beds. Deepwater culture practitioners use a tank that is around 10 to 12 inches deep and grow the vegetables in net cups held by styrofoam boards. Nutrient film technique uses net cups as well to hold plants above running nutrient solution. Media beds on the other hand make use of soilless medium like hydrotons or gravel in which crops are directly planted into. Depending on the hydroponic technique you are using for your aquaponics, there are plants that are better suited for them.
Leafy Vegetables and Herbs Work Well With Deep Water Culture Or Nutrient Film Technique Hydroponic Setups
Deepwater culture and NFT hydroponic setups rely on plant cups or net cups to hold the plants which gives limited support for vertical growing plants. DWC and NFT hydroponics both allow the roots to develop freely in water without having to grow around soil or medium. This allows the root systems of your plants to grow longer without resistance from solid objects. Leafy vegetables and herbs will do well in these setups because of the consistent availability of water and space for unobstructed root growth. Most leafy vegetables have fibrous roots that are thin and spread out wide. Some examples for leafy vegetables and herbs for deep water culture and nutrient film technique include:
- Romaine Lettuce and all different lettuce varieties are commonly grown in deep water culture or in nutrient film technique setups.
- Kale varieties also do well in DWC or NFT setups due to the availability of water
- Bok choy
- Swiss Chard
- Collared Greens
- Mustard Greens
- Malabar spinach
- Arugula varieties and small leafy plants grow well in DWC and NFC but might require multiple seeds in one cup to be efficient to grow. Personally, I have not seen anyone grow arugula or spinach in commercial hydroponics setups successfully, but it is not impossible.
Read more about: Best Plants To Grow In Aquaponics
Fruiting Vegetables Like Tomatoes, Eggplants, and Chilis Do Better In Media Beds
Fruiting vegetables require support for their vertical growth and weight of the fruits produced from the plants. Media beds in aquaponics provide enough support for the roots of the plants to support itself upright. Fruiting plants mostly develop a main central root called a tap root which functions to penetrate soil deeper. As the plant grows vertically, the root must as well dig deeper into the soil to support the plant to stand upright. Tomatoes and chilis are examples of fruiting plants that develop taproots. Some plants will still need vertical support like a trellis or wooden sticks to prop the plant up.
- Tomato varieties can grow vertically in media beds for aquaponics but will require support to let the plant stand and creep
- Eggplants just like tomatoes will need the support of a trellis or a wooden stick to creep up of and support heavy fruits
- Chili varieties have hard wooden stems that do not need extra support to stand upright. Depending on the windiness of the area chilis might require wooden stilts to help the plant stay upright.
- Bell peppers are heavy fruits that will need support as well to grow vertically.
Learn more about: How To Use Rapid Rooter Plugs With Seeds
What You Can Grow In Aquaponics Boils Down To The Climate and Season Of Your Location
Just like most agricultural practices, climate and season affect what you can grow in your aquaponics system. Aquaponics is still subject to the temperature, climate, and conditions of your area. Although there are different aquaponic and hydroponic practices more suited for other crops, there is no workaround for the environment and climate of the area. Controlled Environment Agriculture and indoor farming is a growing trend which has shown potential but has not been successful or sustainable yet due to the energy requirements of growing indoors. In the US, companies like Gotham Greens are able to grow all year round using hydroponics on rooftops in closed greenhouses. As they are growing lettuce on the rooftop, they are still using sunlight as the light source. Gotham Greens uses deep water culture hydroponics to grow their vegetables, and their products consist mainly of lettuce and leafy vegetables and herbs. For agriculture in general, you need to take note of the following to find out what are the best plants to grow in aquaponics:
- Temperature and the variance in temperature is one of the major drivers of what can be grown in aquaponics. Although heat affects aquaponics less than conventional agriculture due to water having a high heat capacity.
- Sunlight and cloudiness will also affect the growth of your crops. Some crops do better with less sunlight while some do better on sunny days.
Learn more about: Best Flowers For Aquaponics Systems
In Conclusion, Aquaponics Should Be Considered As Another Form Of Agriculture, Still Subject To The Climate and Conditions
What you can grow in aquaponics depends mainly on the practice of hydroponics you are using and the climate of your area. The technique of hydroponics used in your aquaponics system also dictates what plants will be able to do well in your system. In general, most leafy vegetables do well in deep water culture and nutrient film techniques. Both DWC and NFT rely on plant cups to hold the vegetables. Fruiting plants need to rely on support for their stem and root system to hold the fruits so media beds are a better option for these. It is important to understand first the physiology of the plant you want to grow. Most plants will do well in aquaponics if done right, it is just a matter of understanding the plant.
Candace is an aquaponics expert with over 5 years of experience in the field. She has a degree in environmental science from the University of California, Berkeley and a degree in aquaponics from the University of Florida. She is passionate about sustainable agriculture and has a deep knowledge of aquaculture and hydroponics. She has worked on numerous projects and has been involved in the development of aquaponic systems and fish farms. She also has experience in designing and constructing aquaponic systems. With her expertise, Candace is able to advise clients on the most effective and efficient way to construct and manage their aquaponic system. She is an active member of the aquaponic community, often speaking at conferences and seminars. Candace is dedicated to helping others understand the importance of aquaponics, and she is a strong advocate for sustainable food production.