This article is for you if you want to know how to grow tomatoes in an aquaponics system.
Anyone who loves gardening knows that tomatoes are one of the most popular garden plants. Many home gardeners like it is a versatile plant because of its taste, nutritional values, and appearance.
Tomato plants are cheap to grow, yield lots of produce, and fit even in the smallest backyards or balconies. With that being said, growing tomatoes in aquaponics gardens means you have access to fresh tomatoes all year round. This article discusses all the essential things you need to know to grow tomatoes in your aquaponics garden successfully.
Why Plant Tomatoes in Aquaponics?
Tomatoes are one of the popular and best plants to grow in an aquaponics system. They are great for consuming fresh or processed and are used as ingredients for various culinary cuisines. Tomatoes also have a considerable market value compared to other crops.
Here are several reasons why tomatoes are perfect for aquaponics:
- Tomatoes in aquaponics are staked or trellised to keep the plants upright and allow the utilization of the entire growing space.
- Tomatoes grow faster in aquaponics systems than in soil gardening.
- Aside from growing faster, aquaponics tomatoes are also larger and tastier.
- Planting tomatoes allows aquaponics gardeners to produce high yields despite limited space.
The Different Varieties of Tomatoes
There are several varieties of tomatoes, and the two groups of tomato plants varieties are determinate and indeterminate.
- Determinate: This tomato variety grows in bushes and usually has 60-90 cm height. This variety of flowers gives fruits all at once. These tomatoes are a popular choice for container gardening.
- Indeterminate: These are the vining variety and are 1.5-3m tall. This variety grows and gives fruits at a different time but produces larger crops over a more extended period.
Which Tomato Variety is Good for Aquaponics?
There is no perfect tomato variety for aquaponics systems. Your choice of tomato variety will depend on the following:
- Personal preference of size, color, and use.
- Climate conditions
- Disease resistant
Factors to Consider in Growing Aquaponics Tomatoes
While tomatoes are great for aquaponics, you still need to familiarize yourself with their requirements and characteristics to ensure optimum growth. Here are some parameters you need to consider when growing tomatoes in aquaponics.
- pH level: The ideal pH range is 5.5 to 6.5.
- Temperature: Tomatoes thrive in the warmer temperature of 75°F to 85°F. Maintain this temperature range to help tomatoes flourish. Tomatoes growth will stop when the air and water temperature exceeds 95°F.
- Grow medium: Tomatoes can be grown in raft beds and media beds, but most aquaponics gardeners prefer media beds. Use stalks or trellis to ensure your tomatoes are supported.
- Sunlight requirements: Tomatoes thrive in total sun exposure.
- Fish type to consider: Trout, tilapia, koi,goldfish,angelfish, and crappie are warm water aquaponics fish species that are an excellent match for tomatoes.
- Planting tomatoes: Space tomatoes 10-12 inches apart to allow space to receive the nutrients they need.
- Harvest time: The harvest time will depend on the tomato variety you choose to grow, but in general, most tomatoes can be harvested in 60-80 days.
How to Grow Tomatoes in Aquaponics
There are two popular approaches to planting tomatoes in aquaponics systems. The first is through the media-based aquaponics systems, where the tomatoes are planted in the grow bed filled with grow media.
The second option is to use floating rafts of the raft system. In this method, tomatoes are planted pots filled with growing media and placed in floating rafts that flow through the canal. The rafts allow the roots of the tomato plants to access nutrient-filled water.
Here are the steps on growing tomatoes in aquaponics.
- One important decision you have to make is whether to grow your tomatoes from seeds or seedlings. For a successful aquaponics system, it is not enough that you have high crop yields. Cost is also significant. That is why it is beneficial to know how to save money everywhere you can. The best way is to compare the prices of seeds and costs of seedlings production with prices of seedlings from the local market. It is often better and easier to buy seedlings on a local market.
- Before transplanting your seedlings, test the water pH to verify it is within the ideal range of 5.5 to 6.5. Adjust the pH up or down to the correct level by adding a fish-safe pH stabilizer.
- Remove the tomato seedlings from their containers and gently rinse the roots with water to remove the soil. Be careful with breaking or damaging the roots. Plant the seedlings in the growing container (usually net pots) by spreading the roots and adding more growing mediums to secure the plant's upright position.
- Monitor the pH level daily for the first month and then weekly after that to ensure that the pH is at an appropriate level.
- Monitor your plants for pests like aphids and small insects that may harm the plants. Spray the leaves with a mixed organic solution of vinegar and water if insect penetrations.
Troubleshooting Problems with Aquaponics Tomatoes
Growing tomatoes in your aquaponics garden is well worth the investment. However, sometimes problems arise, and troubleshooting can be pretty confusing. Hopefully, these tips can help you solve whatever problems you might encounter later.
1. Wilting Tomato Leaves
Wilt disease is one of the most common problems with growing tomatoes in the water. The most common cause for wilting leaves is the plant somehow becoming infected by fungi or water that has not been appropriately sanitized.
To solve this problem, remove the infected plants and replace them with new ones, change the water in the system and practice proper sanitation.
2. Root Rot
Root rot is another common problem with growing tomatoes in water. Root rot happens when water temperature becomes too warm from light exposure, producing and multiplying the pythium spores, which leads to the rotting of healthy plant roots.
The best solution to this problem is to prevent it by regulating water temperatures and keeping your fish tank covered to protect from excess light. You must also prune the discolored roots, clean the system, and change the water.
3. Gray Mold
Gray mold can be identified by the lesions that pop up on the stems and leaves or your tomato plants.
Gray mold can be eliminated by increasing the ventilation of your system and reducing the humidity level. You can also remove the infected plants to prevent spreading to other plants in the system.
4. Insufficient Oxygen, Nutrients, and Water
Here are several reasons why your tomatoes are not receiving enough oxygen, nutrients, and oxygen.
- The water pump is not pumping enough gallons of water per hour through the system.
- Leaking airlines.
- Clogged air stones or filters.
- Your water pump is not powerful enough.
- Lack of fish in the system
All the reasons mentioned above can be fixed easily. So check your water pumps, filters, airstones, and fish and take immediate action to resolve the problem.
Conclusion: Final Thoughts on Growing Aquaponics Tomatoes
Growing tomatoes in aquaponics systems can be challenging, but it will be a fun and rewarding experience. Aside from harvesting fresh, healthy tomatoes for your family, planting tomatoes in your aquaponics garden can also help bring additional income to you and your family. Following the guide and tips mentioned above will help you grow the best-tasting tomatoes.