The Best Winter Plants For Aquaponics

If you live in a colder climate, one concern you will face in setting up your aquaponics system is its ability to withstand harsh cold weather. Regions with colder climates need to build a climatically adaptable aquaponics system to grow various crops year-round. This can be done through a greenhouse, proper insulation, heating, and ventilation. Knowing the best winter plants for a successful year-round aquaponics garden is also necessary. This article discusses the best winter plants for aquaponics systems and how to grow them successfully.

An Indoor Aquaponics System

Challenges of Maintaining Aquaponic Systems During Winter

While aquaponics offers numerous benefits, the winter season presents some challenges for maintaining the system and ensuring its performance during colder months.

  1. Temperature Regulation: Aquaponic systems rely on maintaining a suitable water and air temperature for both fish and plants. During winter, external temperatures drop, decreasing water temperatures that can stress the fish and slow plant growth.
  2. Reduced Sunlight: Shorter days and reduced sunlight exposure can hinder plant photosynthesis, affecting their growth and productivity. 
  3. Slower Fish Metabolism: Colder water temperatures can slow down the metabolism of fish, leading to reduced feeding and waste production.
  4. Plant Selection: Some plants may struggle to cope with the colder conditions in aquaponic systems. Selecting winter plants that can withstand lower temperatures and thrive under reduced light becomes crucial.

How to Protect Your Aquaponics System During Winter

Here are valuable tips on how to protect your aquaponics system during winter:

1. Insulate the Fish Tank and Grow Bed: Proper insulation is crucial in maintaining stable water temperatures for the fish and protecting the plant roots from freezing. Use insulating materials such as foam boards or straws to cover the fish tank and grow the bed.

Insulation Sheet for Fish Tanks

Double Reflective Foil for Insulation

2. Consider a Greenhouse or Cover: If possible, set up a greenhouse or use a cover to shield the entire aquaponic system from harsh weather conditions.

Greenhouse for Aquaponics
3. Install Windbreaks: For outdoor aquaponics systems, consider installing windbreaks to shield the setup from cold winds. 
Wind Shield Fence for Aquaponics
4. Monitor Water Temperature: Regularly monitor the water temperature in the fish tank to ensure it stays within the range that is right for your fish species. Use water heaters if needed to maintain optimal conditions for your aquatic inhabitants.


5.Provide Shade: While it's essential to protect your system from cold, sunny winter days can still cause overheating, especially in greenhouses. Use shade cloth or temporary covers to prevent excessive heat buildup and maintain a more balanced temperature.


Sun Shade Cloth Mesh Tarp for Gardens


Sun Shade Cloth Mesh Tarp

6. Use Hoop Houses or Cold Frames: Constructing hoop houses or cold frames can effectively shield your plants from extreme cold and frost. These structures create a protective layer, extending the growing season and providing a more stable environment.


Greenhouse Hoops Grow Tunnel


Greenhouse Hoops Grow Tunnel 

7.Adjust Fish Feeding: Fish metabolism slows down in colder water, leading to reduced appetite. Adjust your fish feeding schedule accordingly to prevent overfeeding and excess waste production.

Petbank Automatic Fish Feeder for Aquarium


Automatic Fish Feeder

8.Supplement Lighting:As winter days are shorter, consider supplementing natural light with LED grow lights to provide sufficient illumination for your plants. Proper lighting ensures healthy growth and photosynthesis, even during reduced daylight hours.

Production Lighting Package for Aquaponics

Production Lighting Package

9. Regularly Check pH Levels: Monitor and maintain the pH levels of the water to ensure nutrient availability for your plants. Fluctuations in pH can hinder nutrient uptake and affect plant health.

pH Test Kit for Aquaponics
10. Inspect for Pests and Diseases: Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests or diseases. Early detection allows timely intervention, preventing potential outbreaks that could harm your aquaponic system.

By implementing these protective measures, you can safeguard your aquaponics system from the challenges during the winter season and ensure a successful and sustainable garden throughout the colder months.

Frosted Kale Plant

Criteria for Selecting Winter Plants in Aquaponics

Selecting the right plants is essential in ensuring a thriving and productive aquaponics system during winter. Here are the two critical criteria to consider while choosing winter plants for your aquaponic garden:

1. Cold-Tolerance: Exploring Winter-Hardy Plants

  • The Significance of Choosing Cold-Tolerant Plants

In winter aquaponics, the ability of plants to withstand low temperatures is of utmost importance. Cold-tolerant plants can endure chilly conditions without suffering from frost damage or stunted growth.

Examples of cold-tolerant plants are kale, brussels sprouts, and winter squash.

2. Light Requirements: Accommodating Reduced Sunlight

  • The Impact of Reduced Sunlight during Winter Months

With shorter days and weaker sunlight during winter, accommodating the light requirements of plants becomes crucial. While some plants may be more light-demanding, others can adapt to lower light levels. Providing adequate artificial lighting can ensure optimal plant growth in an indoor or greenhouse aquaponic system.

  • How to Accommodate Reduced Sunlight

  1. Supplementary Lighting: LED grow lights with the right spectrum can supplement natural sunlight, extending the photoperiod and supporting plant growth.
  2. Light Duration: Adjust the duration of artificial light exposure based on the specific light requirements of the selected winter plants.
  3. Light Intensity: Ensure that the intensity of artificial lighting matches the needs of the plants and the height at which they are placed in the aquaponic system.
  4. Growth Rate: Selecting Plants with Reasonable Growth Rates
  • Importance of Considering Growth Rates

In winter aquaponics, selecting plants with reasonable growth rates is essential to manage crop cycles effectively. Some plants may have slower growth during winter because of reduced light and cooler temperatures. Choosing plants with growth rates that align with the season allows for better planning of planting schedules and ensures a steady supply of fresh produce.

Top Winter Plants for Aquaponics

When it comes to winter aquaponics gardening, selecting the right plants can make all the difference. Here are the plants that are exceptionally well-suited for aquaponic systems during the colder months.

  1. Lettuce (winter varieties)
  2. Spinach (Giant Winter, Tyee)
  3. Kale
  4. Swiss chard
  5. Broccoli
  6. Cabbage
  7. Cauliflower
  8. Arugula
  9. Garlic
  10. Strawberries
  11. Scallions
  12. Beets
  13. Bokchoy
  14. Parsley
  15. Cilantro
  16. Chives 
  17. Butternut Squash
  18. Brussels Sprouts 
  19. Sage
Harvesting Lettuce in Aquaponics

Planting and Caring for Winter Aquaponic Plants

As winter approaches, proper preparation, and care are crucial to ensure the success of your aquaponic garden. Here are some essential steps to take when planting and caring for winter crops in your aquaponic system.

  1. Preparing the System for Winter

  • Insulation: Consider insulating the fish tank and grow bed to protect your aquaponic setup from the cold. Use materials like foam boards or straws to prevent heat loss and maintain stable water temperatures.
  • Greenhouse or Cover: If possible, set up a greenhouse or use a cover to shield the plants from harsh weather and provide additional warmth. This protective layer also helps trap humidity, creating a more favorable environment for the plants.
  • Windbreaks: If your aquaponic system is outdoors, consider installing windbreaks to shield the plants from cold winds, which can accelerate heat loss.
  • Water Depth: Adjust the water level in the grow bed to ensure proper root insulation. Lower water levels can lead to colder temperatures near the plant roots, affecting their growth.
  1. Controlling Temperature

  • Water Temperature: Maintain the water temperaturewithin the optimal range for your chosen winter plants. Use a water heater or insulate the fish tank to prevent temperature fluctuations that could stress the fish and slow plant growth.
  • Air Temperature: If you have an indoor aquaponic system, regulate the air temperature using heaters or adjusting the room's ambient temperature. Aim for a stable and controlled environment to promote plant health.
  • Artificial Lighting: As winter days are shorter, provide supplementary lighting to ensure plants receive adequate light for photosynthesis. LED grow lights with the appropriate spectrum can be effective and energy-efficient.

Troubleshooting Common Winter Aquaponics Plant Issues

Despite careful planning and preparation, winter aquaponic gardening may still encounter some challenges. Here are common issues that may arise during the colder months and the tips on troubleshooting them effectively.

  1. Nutrient Deficiencies

  • Identify Nutrient Deficiencies: Keep an eye on your plants for signs of nutrient deficiencies, such as yellowing leaves, stunted growth, or poor fruit development. Common deficiencies include nitrogen, potassium, and iron.
  • Adjust Fish Feeding: As fish activity and feeding may decrease in colder water, nutrient levels can be affected. Adjust fish feeding to maintain proper plant waste production and nutrient supply.
  • Supplement Nutrients: If nutrient deficiencies persist, consider supplementing the system with organic, fish-safe nutrients. Compost teas or seaweed extracts can boost essential elements to support plant growth.
  • pH Balance: Ensure the pH levelof the water remains within the appropriate range for your chosen plants. Fluctuating pH levels can impede nutrient uptake and lead to deficiencies.
  1. Pests and Diseases

  • Preventative Measures: Maintain good hygiene in and around your aquaponic system to prevent the buildup of debris and potential pest habitats. Regularly inspect your system for signs of pests or diseases.
  • Introduce Beneficial Organisms: Consider introducing beneficial insects, like ladybugs or predatory mites, to control pests naturally. Nematodes and predatory insects can help combat soil-borne pests.
  • Neem Oil Spray: Use neem oil spray or other organic insecticidal treatments to deter common pests as a safe and eco-friendly method. Ensure the products are fish-safe and follow the application instructions.
  • Quarantine New Plants: If you introduce new plants or transplants, quarantine them before adding them to the aquaponic system. This helps prevent the spread of potential diseases to other plants.
  1. Temperature Fluctuations

  • Insulate the System: Properly insulate the fish tank and grow bed to minimize temperature fluctuations. Insulation helps maintain stable water temperatures, which are crucial for fish health and plant growth.
  • Monitor Water Temperature: Regularly monitor the water temperature to ensure it remains within the desired range for your specific plants and fish species. Use water heaters to regulate the temperature if necessary.
  • Air Temperature Control: In indoor or greenhouse setups, use thermostats and heaters to regulate the ambient air temperature. Avoid drastic temperature changes that can stress the plants and fish.


Aquaponics offers a remarkable solution for year-round gardening, even in the coldest winter months. Managing an aquaponics system during the colder season is easier when properly planning your location and setup during the building stage. If you are in an area that experiences harsh cold weather, building an indoor or greenhouse aquaponics system with proper insulation will help your whole system survive during winter. Thank you for reading, read our related article, "The Best Cold-Water Fish for Aquaponics Systems in Colder Climates."

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