Aquaponics is a great way to grow herbs for medicinal or culinary purposes. With aquaponics, not only do your herbs grow faster, but they also have more flavor and aroma than herbs grown in traditional methods. However, to have a successful aquaponics herb garden, some steps need to be taken to ensure healthy herbs with added benefits. This article will serve as your guide on how to grow herbs in aquaponics.
The aquaponics method of growing is simply the soilless way of growing herbs. It is based on the principle that the nutrient-rich water from rearing fish can be utilized and re-circulated for growing various plants, including herbs. The beneficial bacteria convert fish waste into food for the plants to thrive. In return, plant roots clean the water for the fish.
The advantages of growing herbs in aquaponics are:
- Growing herbs using aquaponics helps you keep yielding herbs all year round.
- Aquaponics growing takes up less space and reduces water use.
- Aquaponics can eliminate soil-borne diseases in your herbs.
- Aquaponics eliminates the use of pesticides and fertilizers, so your herbs are organic.
- Aquaponics uses less water than other methods of growing plants.
Considerations for Growing Herbs in Aquaponics
It would be best to consider these few things to have a successful aquaponics herb garden.
Decide Whether to grow indoors or outdoors.
Deciding if you will be growing indoors or outdoors is one thing you must consider. Evaluating your surroundings and available space will help you determine what direction will work best. One important thing to look at is the climate of your location. Do you live in warmer weather or a colder climate? If you live in a colder climate, you might need to grow indoors if you want to grow herbs all year round.
Choosing the type of aquaponics system to implement.
You can choose between a media-based system, a raft system, and NFT system, or a combination of these systems. If you want to save cost in building your aquaponics setup, you can do a DIY system using recyclable materials. There are plenty of free guides for aquaponics beginners available online. You can also purchase a kit that includes everything you need to set up and run an aquaponics system quickly.
Select the herbs that will be grown for cultivation.
An aquaponics system can grow almost any plant. However, the popular choices for medicinal herbs grown in aquaponics are basil, watercress coriander, sage, lemongrass, parsley, chives, thyme, oregano, mint, chamomile, rosemary, and more.
What type of fish do you want to raise?
Once your system has been set up, deciding what type of fish species you want to grow is another consideration you have to make. One of the essential questions you need to ask is, are you growing fish for consumption or decoration only? If you want to harvest fish for food, tilapia, trout, catfish, and bass are great fish species for aquaponics. Your choice for decorative fish is goldfish and koi. Your location, temperature, local laws, and fish availability will influence your choice of aquaponics fish.
Herbs That Can be Grown in Aquaponics Systems
Basil is one of the most popular herbs used in cooking and is considered a high-value crop for aquaponics. It adds flavors to meals, and its nutrients provide health benefits in the diet as herbal medicine and as an essential oil. The most common types of basil are sweet basil, purple basil, lemon basil, and Thai basil. Basil grows well in aquaponics systems because of the ideal growing conditions created with warm water and sunlight.
Health Benefits of Basil
- This herb is rich in macronutrients such as calcium and vitamin k, as well as a range of antioxidants.
- Basil is traditionally used to treat snakebites, colds, and inflammation within nasal passages.
Guidelines for Growing Basil in Aquaponics
- Basil requires a pH of between 5.5 to 6.5 to thrive.
- Basil likes the temperature between 65° to 85° F.
- Basil loves warm weather, so place them in a spot where they can enjoy 6 to 8 hours of sun every day.
- Provide a space of 10 to12 inches in each plant for greater yield and avoid nutrient competition.
- The basil plant usually grows to 18 to 24 inches and produces many offshoots for harvest per plant.
- Basil grows fast, can germinate within five days, and can be harvested within 25 days.
- To ensure your basil keeps growing, do not remove more than a third of the plant when harvesting.
WatercressWatercress is one of the healthiest and easiest herbs to grow in aquaponics. Watercress is an ancient green that is a member of the cruciferous family, alongside kale, broccoli, arugula, and brussels sprouts. It has become popular now because of the growing awareness of its nutritional content.
Health Benefits of Watercress
- Packed with nutrients, especially vitamin K.
- High antioxidant content may help lower the risk of chronic diseases.
- Watercress contains compounds that may prevent certain types of cancer.
- Beneficial for heart health.
- Watercress may support bone health.
Guidelines for Growing Watercress in Aquaponics
- The easiest way to plant watercress in your raft system is to purchase seeds and line the bottom of your floating raft with cotton wool or hemp fibers. Then sprinkle your watercress seeds across the top like you would if planting in soil. Gently place the floating raft in the water and wait for them to grow.
- If you're using a grow bed, plant your watercress as you would with other plants.
- The pH requirement for watercress is between the range of 6.6 to 7.5.
- Watercress does well in a temperate environmental climate. Temperature ranges from 50° to 60° F will be ideal.
- Watercress herbs thrive in full sun.
- Ensure you give your plants adequate spacing so they don't compete with nutrients, and space them around 9 to 12 inches apart.
Sage belongs to the mint family, alongside other herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary. Sage has a strong aroma and earthy flavor and is usually used in small amounts, but it's packed with essential nutrients and compounds.
Health Benefits of Sage
- Sage is packed with a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals such as calories, proteins, carbs, fat, vitamin K, iron, vitamin B6, calcium, and manganese.
- Sage is loaded with antioxidants that help fortify your body's defenses and neutralize potentially harmful free radicals that are linked to chronic diseases.
- Sage may reduce blood sugar levels and support oral health.
- Sage may help ease menopause symptoms.
Guidelines for Growing Sage in Aquaponics:
- Sage grows well in aquaponics grow media and likes to receive at least 8 hours of full sunlight daily.
- The pH requirement for sage's optimum growth is between the range of 6,5 to 7.0
- Sage likes the temperature between 60° to 70°F.
- Place sage on the spot where it will receive full sunlight
- In planting sage, provide space between 18 to 27 inches to ensure that every herb gets the same nutrients.
Parsley is a herb that is native to the Mediterranean and Europe. With its refreshing and high market value, parsley is a popular ingredient in many recipes and is cultivated worldwide. The two most common types of parsley are curly-leaved and Italian or flat-leaved. Labeled as one of the most potent disease-fighting plants, parsley provides nutritional value and offers many potential health benefits.
Health Benefits of Parsley
- Parsley contains many essential nutrients: calories, carbs, protein, fat, fiber, Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium.
- Rich in antioxidants.
- Parsley supports bone health.
- Parsley contains cancer-fighting substances.
- Rich in nutrients that protect the eyes.
Guidelines for Growing Parsley in Aquaponics
- Parsley is a simple, undemanding crop that grows well in aquaponics systems.
- Parsley thrives in the pH range of between 6.0 -7.0.
- For optimal growth, parsley requires a temperature of between 60°F - 80°F.
- Grow your parsley in a spot where it catches at least 5 hours of sun daily.
- Parsley requires shade when the sun is too hot.
- For greater yield, plant parsley 15 cm to 30 cm apart to avoid nutrient competition.
- Parsley is a great companion plant for asparagus, tomato, and corn.
Chives belong to the onion family, but unlike traditional onions, chives do not form large underground bulbs. This herb also offers a mild flavor and is ideal for blending with dips, soups, omelets, and fish. Although chives are often just as a garnish, it provides promising health benefits.
Health Benefits of Chives
- Chives help improve memory.
- Chives can help prevent cancer.
- Prevent Osteoporosis.
Guidelines for Growing Chives in Aquaponics
- Chives are perennial herbs that are cold tolerant and thrive between 65° - 80°F temperature.
- The pH requirement for chives is between 6.1 - 6.8.
- Plant chives 8 to 12 inches apart to avoid nutrient competition.
- Chives require 12 hours or more of sunlight or artificial light.
Thyme is an herb from the Mint family that is fast gaining popularity for its medicinal qualities. This herb is always present in Mediterranean, Caribbean, Latin, and Central American cuisines because of its lovely aroma.
Health Benefits of Thyme
- Thyme can reduce high blood pressure.
- Packed with vitamin C and is a good source of vitamin A.
- Thyme essential oil is used for aromatic and therapeutic purposes.
- Thyme has antiseptic and antifungal properties and is often an ingredient for mouthwash.
- Thyme essential oil is often used as a natural cough remedy.
Guidelines for Growing Thyme in Aquaponics
- Thyme prefers a pH range of between 6.0 - 8.0 to thrive.
- Thyme is a drought-friendly herb and prefers a temperature of 70°F.
- Plant thyme 12 to 24 inches apart to obtain a higher yield and avoid nutrient competition.
- Thyme loves full sun exposure of at least 6 to 8 hours every day.
Oregano is one of the staple herbs from many recipes around the world. It has a strong flavor and can be used fresh, dried, or as an oil. Although oregano is usually used in small amounts, it is still packed with essential nutrients.
Health Benefits of Oregano
- Oregano is rich in antioxidants that help fight damage from harmful free radicals in the body.
- Oregano contains some compounds that have potent antibacterial properties.
- It may help reduce viral infections.
- Oregano can help reduce inflammation.
Guidelines for Growing Oregano in Aquaponics
- Oregano prefers a pH range between 6.0 - 8.0.
- Oregano loves sunny weather, so plant them in a spot where they receive full sunlight.
- Plant your oregano 8 to 10 inches apart to give enough space to spread.
Chamomile is a fragrant herb that is a member of the sunflower family. Chamomile is famous for its healing qualities but is also often used in dessert recipes because of its gentle and sweet taste.
Health Benefits of Chamomile
- Chamomile tea can reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.
- Chamomile tea can help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
- Chamomile can help in preventing and slowing osteoporosis.
- It can help reduce inflammation.
- Chamomile can help prevent and cure cancer.
- Chamomile tea is thought to help people relax and fall asleep.
Guidelines for Growing Chamomile in Aquaponics
- Chamomile can attract beneficial insects that can ward off harmful pests in your aquaponic garden.
- It is recommended to use media beds to cultivate aquaponics chamomile.
- Chamomile requires a pH range of between 5.6 - 7.5 to thrive.
- Chamomile prefers temperatures between 55°F - 60°F.
- The herb enjoys full sun exposure of at least 4 to 6 hours every day.
Rosemary is a wonderful herb to add to your aquaponics system. Besides its benefits, rosemary is a natural pest repellent that will help protect your other plants from pests. Rosemary prefers at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily to thrive. So ensure you can provide this requirement before growing rosemary in our aquaponics system. Rosemary is a perennial evergreen herb. This means that it does not shed during winter and remains green throughout the year.
Common Varieties of Rosemary
- Arp - This grows 3 to five feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.
- Tuscan Blue - This variety grows blue-green shrubs to quickly shear to the shape you want.
- Prostratus - Also called Creeping Rosemary, this variety works effectively as a groundcover.
- Health Benefits of Rosemary: Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation.
- Rosemary is considered a cognitive stimulant.
- The herb may help lower high blood sugar
- It supports brain health and helps boost memory.
Guidelines for Growing Rosemary in Aquaponics
- Rosemary thrives in the pH range between 6.0 - 7.0.
- The temperature requirement for rosemary is 70°F.
- Plant your rosemary 2 to 3 feet apart to avoid nutrient competition and higher yield.
Maintaining Your Aquaponics System
Keeping a successful aquaponics herbs garden requires regular maintenance. Here are some tips on maintaining your system.
- Regularly monitor fish health, water level, and pump efficiency: It is essential to feed your fish two or three times a day, but be careful not to overfeed, as this can affect the water quality.
- Check the pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates levels regularly. For a newly built system undergoing a cycling process, it is essential to check pH levels every two or three days to ensure the bacteria is established. Once the system is fully established, you can check pH levels weekly or biweekly. The pH level should be between 6.8 and 7.0, and ammonia levels should be less than 0.5 ppm.
- Monitor fish health, water level, and pump efficiency. Everything must be balanced for your aquaponics herbs garden to produce the best results. Though the system is low maintenance, it is essential to check everything regularly to ensure everything is running as it should.
- Check your tank's water temperature daily to ensure that the water temperature is suitable for the fish species in your tank.
The Aquaponics system can be the best gardening method to grow your favorite medicinal herbs. One essential thing to remember is that in aquaponics, the ecosystem balance between fish, plants, and bacteria should be maintained to ensure everything is running well. An imbalance may sometimes happen, but with regular monitoring and fast action, you'll have a successful aquaponics herbs garden.