Aquaponics combines hydroponics—the practice of cultivating or planting plants in water—with aquaculture, the rearing of aquatic animals such as fish, prawns, crayfish and snails. Connecting these two practices creates a symbiotic environment that helps both fish and sea creatures thrive.
You can construct aquaponic systems in all shapes and sizes, depending on your space and resources. Larger plants like legumes and squashes require high amounts of energy and nutrients, necessitating larger systems, while plants that don't need such high amounts can thrive in smaller systems. Below is a list of plants to consider growing when setting up aquaponic systems of any size.
Best Herbs for Aquaponics
Ginger is a very versatile herb that has been traditionally used to make Asian dishes but is used all over the world today to make ginger cordial, ginger beer and other extracts. Growing them, however, takes patience. It can take as long as a year for a ginger plant to be fully grown. On the plus side, they don't need much attention. So you may want to start by putting a few cuttings in a corner and just letting them develop.
Unlike ginger, this member of the mint family grows rather rapidly. It's a great choice for any aquaponics system due to its tolerance to water and high temperatures. It takes as little as five days to sprout and can be harvested within a month. Removing the flowers as soon as they appear extends their growing season.
Coriander is a very popular plant because of its versatility. It is grown for its leaves and seeds and it gives food a better taste and aroma. They flourish in aquaponics systems. They grow very fast and are resistant to a majority of the common pests in such systems. Ordinarily, the coriander takes between six to eight weeks if they are grown from seeds and four to six weeks if grown from seedlings.
Although they are considered as vegetables by some nutritionists, tomatoes are fruits that grow superbly well in such setups. It is relatively easy to regulate the amount of sunlight and the temperature that they are exposed to making it easy to create an optimal environment for them to thrive. In some cases, however, tomatoes can attract pests, which sometimes prove difficult to eradicate.
Sometimes it can be difficult to grow pepper using the conventional methods because of their specific water and sunshine requirements. A small aquaponics system that would allow you to monitor and control the temperature and nutrient levels would be ideal for growing pepper. If need be, one may employ the flood and drain method to achieve the desired results. This method would require a siphon.
An aquaponics system not only enables cucumbers to grow regularly but makes them thrive. However, their root systems tend to be very extensive hence you will need to monitor your siphons and pipes to prevent blockages. They also tend to hoard a lot of nitrogen and may deprive other plants in your system of nitrogen. To counter this, it is advisable to space your plants. 12 to 24 inches between plants is sufficient.
This is a great plant to have in an aquaponics system since the fruits can be enjoyed at any time of the year. They require very little maintenance and each plant takes very minimal space although you need to grow as many of them as possible if you want a significant harvest.
Other fruits that would thrive in an aquaponic setup include carrots, beets and bananas.
Given it is a staple food for a lot of cultures all over the world, it is just the right type of plant to have in an aquaponic system. Other than maintaining temperatures of between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH ranging between 6.2 and 6.6, there is not much else you need to do. Generally, they can be ready in just over two months.
This is another vegetable that generally requires little to no maintenance to grow. The fact that it is also resistant to most of the common diseases and bugs makes it perfect especially for beginners in aquaponics. It takes at least three months to be ready for harvest and should be kept away from direct sunlight for maximum yields.
Watercress is a relatively easy vegetable to grow in an aquaponic setup. It is popular because it grows to maturity very fast. One small plant grows almost exponentially. However. Its high growth rate can be a problem since it can easily take over your grow bed making it clogged and leaving less space for other plants.
Lettuce is among the most productive leafy greens when grown in an aquaponic setup. It grows best in water with temperatures ranging between 70 to 74 degrees. All you have to consider is whether you will germinate the seedlings in a germinating tray or grow them directly in the aquaponics system. A germinating tray will help reduce the loss of seeds. Lettuce is suitable for beginners and can do well in small aquaponic systems.
If you are looking to grow plants for ornamental purposes, you should consider flowers like dahlias and cosmos to give your system a distinct and beautiful look.
When getting into aquaponics, the best plants are dependent on the size of your system and external factors such as temperatures. The best plants for you would be those that thrive in your conditions and need as little intervention as possible. However, you can just as easily control these conditions to give you an effective and conducive way of growing your fresh food throughout the year.