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The Best Plants For Aquaponics

The idea of producing your own sustainable food has attracted many growers to try aquaponic gardening. With aquaponics, you can grow any plant you want. But one of the first questions aquaponics growers often asks is, what are the best plants for my aquaponics system?

There are some things that you should consider before planting your first seeds. Some plants adapt better to a smaller system, while other nutrient-hungry plants require larger systems to thrive. Read on to learn what types of plants grow best in an aquaponics system.

Vegetables Grown in Aquaponics System

How Aquaponics Gardening Works

Almost everyone has at least some understanding of how vegetable gardening works. In a traditional method of gardening, you plant your seeds, water and add fertilizer occasionally, remove weeds or insects, and wait to see whether your plant will flourish or not.

Aquaponics works differently from this method because an aquaponics system works by creating a nitrogen cycle. In this cycle, the three main elements, the fish, plants, and bacteria, shared the water. In the fish tank, fish produced high ammonia wastes. The pump carries this waste into the grow bed, where the bacteria convert these wastes into nitrites and then into nitrates.

These nitrates become food for the plants to grow, and in return, the plant roots clean the water in the grow beds before it returns to the fish tank for the fish to live. This is a continuous cycle where the bacteria convert fish waste into plant’s food, while plants clean the water for the fish.

Things to consider in choosing the best plants for your aquaponics system

Almost all plants can be grown in an aquaponic system. However, different plants have different needs and thrive under different conditions. Before you choose which plants to grow in your aquaponics system, it is important to consider these things:

1. What Type of System You Are Going to Use

This could be a media-based, NFT, raft aquaponics system. These will determine the type of root structure that plants tend to have. Plants with small root structure will grow well in floating rafts, while root vegetables grow well in grow beds.

2. Plant Requirements

It is essential to choose plants and fish with compatible pH range, water, and temperature requirements. This will ensure that you can adjust your pH, water and temperature to the ideal range accepted by the plants and fish. 

3. Environment

The amount of sunlight, temperature, and rain are all important in growing a healthy plant. If you decide to grow outdoors, choose a variety of vegetables that will grow best in your climate. 

You could always use a greenhouse or grow indoors, but you need to find plants that do well inside with limited or artificial sunlight. It is best to choose a plant that thrives in your climate, as this will also lower the electricity cost in maintaining your system. 

Here are some crops that grow in a warm or colder climate. You can either follow the climate requirements for these plants or use a greenhouse to regulate the temperature and stay with the few aquaponics plants you prefer.

Cold Crops Warm Crops
Beets Artichoke
Brussels sprouts Cardoon
Cabbage  Chives
Carrots Garlic
Cauliflower Parsley
Herbs Parsnip
Horseradish Shallot
Onions Sludge
Potatoes
Radicchio
Sweet potatoes
Winter squash


4. Space Available

This refers to the amount of space available in your system. Some plants require more space than others. So carefully consider the space needed by your chosen plants to grow.

5. The Number of Fish in the Fish Tank

It is important to consider the fish to plant ratio in your system. If you plan on growing much fish, you will need more plants to absorb all the nutrients from the fish waste.

6. What You Want to Grow

Aquaponics gardening tends to go better when you are growing plants that you want to eat or use. Thinking about what you want to achieve in your system will help you make a better decision on what plant to grow in your aquaponics system. 

The Best Plants for Aquaponics Systems

Here is the list of plants that grow best on these methods of aquaponics.

Raft System or Deep Water Culture (DWC)

Factors for choosing Raft System or DWC plants.

  • Weight: Floating rafts are usually durable, but they can only support plants with lighter weight. The best plants for the raft system are small and lightweight, like lettuce and salad greens.
  • Water Friendly: Pick plants that like their roots submerged in the water
  • Harvest Potential: If you want to grow for commercial purposes, you want to ensure that the plants will provide profits. 

Best Plants for Raft System or DWC

Lettuce 

Lettuce in Aquaponics Systems

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 6.2
Temperature: between 60° to 70° F

Lettuce is one of the best plants for aquaponics because it is one of the easiest to grow in any aquaponics method. They require little maintenance and have low nutrient requirements. With a short growing cycle and a high market demand, lettuce is the most popular aquaponics plant. Lettuce loves the sunlight, so position them to a spot where they can get 5 hours of sun every day. If you have an indoor set, ensure that they get enough light from the grow lights.    

Basil

Basil in Aquaponics

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
Temperature: between 65° to 85° F

Basil is naturally tolerant of heat and moisture, making it one of the best plants for aquaponics. This plant 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. Basil loves warm weather, so place them in a spot where they can enjoy 6 to 8 hours of sun every day. 

Kale

Kale in Aquaponics

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 6 to 7.5
Temperature: between 55 ° to 70° F

Kale is easy to grow and has low nutrient requirements, making them one of the best plants for aquaponics. Kale prefers a cooler temperature and can be harvested within 5 to 6 weeks. You can plant your kale directly to sunlight, but you must provide partial shade when the climate gets too hot.  

Cabbage

Cabbage in Aquaponics
Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 6.2 to 6.6
Temperature: between 45° to 75° F

Cabbage is one of the easiest plants to grow in aquaponics. It grows well in the pH range between 6.2 and 6.6 with a temperature of 60 to 70 F. Cabbage needs very little maintenance and loves the sun. So plant them in a location where they can get at least 6 hours of sunlight every day.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard in Aquaponics

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.5
Temperature: between 60° to 75°F

Swiss Chard is a frost-resistant plant, so it is an ideal plant to grow during winter. It's a perfect starter plant for aquaponics because it has low nutrient requirements. Chard can be harvested fully or partially after 4 to 5 weeks from seed.      

Bok Choy

Bok Choy in Aquaponics

Nutrient Requirement: Low 
pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.5
Temperature: between 30°F

Bok choy is a popular Chinese cabbage that is an excellent choice for the raft system. Although Bok choy is a little heavier, it's still one of the best plants to grow in a raft system. Just be sure that your rafts are sturdy and don't overload your raft with too many bok choy plants. Grow time for Bok choy is 8 to 11 weeks from seed.     

Mint

Mint in Aquaponics

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 6.5 to 7.0
Temperature: between 65 ° to 70° F

Mint has more than a dozen varieties to choose from, and all of them grow well in aquaponics. Mints like partial shading from the sun. In planting mint, it is advisable to put 18 to 24 inches of space between each herb to ensure ease of access and to avoid the roots from competing for water and light nutrients.

Watercress

Watercress in Aquaponics

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 6.5 to 7.5
Temperature: between 50° to 60° F

Watercress loves water and grows very quickly, making it one of the best plants for aquaponics. It is a popular plant among aquaponics growers because, aside from being nutrient-packed, it is also fast growing.  

Best Plants for Nutrient Film Technique

To avoid clogging the pipes in your NFT system, it is advisable to grow plants with shallow roots. That said, the best plants for NFT are Lettuce, Kale, Cabbage, Basil, and the following:   

Arugula

Arugula Plants

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
Temperature: between 45° to 65° F

This easily grown leafy green requires low nutrients to grow, making it one of the best plants for aquaponics. Arugula likes cool weather, so it needs partial shade during warm weather as too much sun will make this herb bitter. Arugula will make an excellent addition to your aquaponics garden. 

Spinach

Japanese Spinach in Aquaponics

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
Temperature: between 45° to 75° F

Spinach is a classic superfood and is one of the best leafy green you can grow in your aquaponics garden. They don't have long roots, so they are ideal for the NFT or Raft system as they don't need a deep growing bed to grow. One thing to keep in mind in growing spinach in aquaponics is that too much sun will cause bolting and bitter taste in your spinach. So make sure to shade it during warmer weather.   

Parsley

Parsley

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: 6.0 to 7.0
Temperature: 60° to 80° F

Parsley is one of the best plants in aquaponics because it is not a nutrient-demanding plant. Grow your parsley in a spot where it catches at least 8 hours of sun daily, but parsley will require partial shading when the climate is too hot. Parsley helps other plants grow stronger, and it is best to plant parsley with tomato and corn.    

Dill

Dill Plant

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
Temperature: between 60° to 70° F

Dill likes sunlight, so the best spot for dill in your grow bed is where it can have at least 8 hours of access to direct sunlight. 

Strawberry

Strawberry Plant

Nutrient Requirement: Medium to High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 and 6.5
Temperature:between 60 to 80°F

Strawberry is one of the best plants for NFT or vertical aquaponics systems. They grow and multiply quickly, and their delicious fruits are a joy to have in your aquaponics system. Strawberries are a fruiting crop, and they require more potassium than leafy greens, so it is better to add them to your system when you have a mature or more established aquaponics system.

Best Plants for Media Bed Aquaponics System

A Media Bed aquaponics system can grow almost all plants, including plants that do not do well in other aquaponics methods, including:   

Tomato

Tomato Plant

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
Temperature: between 65°F to 85°F

Tomatoes are a popular choice for aquaponics growers, but they are high nutrients plants, so they are better suited for larger and established systems. There are many varieties of tomatoes, and all of them have similar characteristics. Tomatoes like lots of sunshine and can grow up to 6 feet, so you need to support their structure to ensure they grow upwards. 

Sage

Sage Plant

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 6.5 to 7.0
Temperature: between 60° to 70° F

Sage is a grayish-green herb that is simple to grow and ideal for aquaponics. Sage grows well in aquaponics grow media and likes to receive at least 8 hours of full sunlight every day.    

Ginger

Ginger

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.8
Temperature: between 75 to 79°F

Ginger grows well in media bed aquaponics systems which can structurally support its roots as it grows. Ginger thrives in a humid and warm environment and doesn't need full sunlight to grow. 

Eggplant     

Eggplant

Nutrient Requirement: Medium to High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 7
Temperature: 70° to 80° F

Eggplants can have extensive root systems, so they are suited for media bed systems that can support their root structure. These plants like full sun, and growing them in a spot where they can enjoy 14 hours of sun will help them produce bigger fruits. Eggplants can be harvested after 3 to 4 months from seeds.  

Beans

Beans in Aquaponics

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 7
Temperature: between 71°F to 78°F

Beans are very easy to grow and care for, and there are many varieties for you to choose from. Beans require full sunlight to grow and like receiving at least 6 to 8 hours of sun every day. Beans are divided into two types- bush and pole beans. Pole beans are ideal for aquaponics because, with them, you can maximize your growing space. However, you must provide them with a support stick so that they can grow upwards and take up less space on the grow bed.  

Chilli

Chilli

Nutrient Requirement: Medium to High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
Temperature: between 60° to 75° F

Chilli peppers are the most popular spice around the world and one of the best plants for aquaponics. They are easy to manage and require medium to high nutrient requirements. Peppers grow best in warmer climates, so if you live in a mild climate, you will need to grow them indoors to provide artificial sunlight to keep them warm.   

Okra

Okra

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 6.5 to 7
Temperature: between 70° to 85° F

Okra thrives in a warmer climate and loves to receive at least 8 hours of full sun every day.     

Cucumber

Cucumbers

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
Temperature: 70

Cucumber comes in several sizes and varieties and another excellent choice for aquaponics plants. Cucumber loves humidity, sunshine, and warm weather, so you should grow them in a spot where they have access to direct sunlight. If you're growing indoors, you can also use artificial lights. Cucumbers grow fast and can be harvested after 55 to 65 days from seeds.   

Broccoli

Broccoli

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
Temperature: between 55 to 65°F

Broccoli is a heavy plant, so it grows well in a media bed with a flood and drains system. Broccoli needs at least 6 hours of sunlight to thrive in an aquaponics system. So be sure you can provide this requirement if you're planning to add cucumber into your system.   

Peas

Peas

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 7.0 
Temperature: between 60° to 80° F

Peas grown in aquaponics require high nutrients, so it is best to grow them only when your system is mature or established. This plant grows faster when fully exposed to the sun for at least 6 hours daily.    

Banana

Banana

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
Temperature: between 68° to 75°

Bananas are another excellent plant to grow in large aquaponics systems. But due to their large size, bananas can only be grown successfully in large aquaponics systems. There are several varieties of bananas, but they all require 10 to 12 hours of sunlight every day to thrive. Once harvested, it is essential to remove the banana trunk to save space in your grow bed.   

Carrots

Carrots

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: 7.0
Temperature: between 59° to 65° F

Carrots are easily grown in aquaponics and can be harvested in 2 to 3 months from seeds. Carrots require at least 6 to 8 hours of sun to thrive. 

Radish

Radish

Nutrient Requirement: High
pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
Temperature: between 60° to 80 °F

Radish is one of the easiest plants to grow in aquaponics. To plant your radish, you can sprinkle your radish seeds in your grow bed, and they will grow. Radishes require at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun to thrive.

Rosemary

Rosemary

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0 
Temperature: 70°F

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 every day to thrive. So make sure you can provide this requirement before growing rosemary in our aquaponics system.  

Chives

Chives

Nutrient Requirement: Low
pH Requirement:between 6.1 to 6.8.
Temperature: between 65°F to 80°F

Chives is a member of the onion family but offers a milder taste. These perennial herbs are cold-tolerant but require 12 hours of sunlight to thrive.

Tips for Planting in Aquaponics

  • If you’re planting in a new, grow bed, plant seedlings rather than seeds. Seedlings can start extracts the nutrients right away.
  • To prepare the seedlings for planting, submerge it in a bucket of water mixed with liquid seaweed (4 cups). The seedlings had the tendency to be stressed from the transfer process, and the liquid seaweed plant tonic will act as a stress buffer, giving plants the best chance to settle into their new environment. Wash the seedling in the solution to wash away any soil from the roots, then plant the seedlings into the net cups and the grow bed.
  • It is important to structure your plantings so you will not harvest your plants at the same time. Plant fast-growing plants alongside slow-growing plants so that when the fast growers so you keep your grow bed planted all the time. By keeping the bed planted, you ensure that there are always plants to absorb the nutrients from the water. If you plan to grow multiples of the same vegetable, stagger their growing period so you have a staggered harvest.

Conclusion

Aquaponics is an excellent alternative to traditional farming methods and can improve food security. With these perfect choices for the best plants to grow in your aquaponics system by your side, you’re on the right track to successful aquaponics gardening. Thank you for reading this article, if you have comments feel free to leave it below. 

 

4 Responses

Lamar

Lamar

October 13, 2020

Nice plants will grow thanks
gerald

gerald

October 13, 2020

this is very good. thanks
BRUCE E CROWE

BRUCE E CROWE

August 16, 2020

I grow all the way to the last setting on the remote and all I got was giant plants but got flowers nothing else
James

James

August 05, 2020

ive noticed in your videos, you dont use sodium bicarb, and you dont use alot of calcium either, while keeping very low pH. so my question is how are you preventing the Langelier Saturation Index(LSI) from dipping into the negatives and causing corrosion issues with the metal components of your pumps?

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