The Best Plants For Aquaponics

Imagine a gardening method where plants and fish work together to create a self-sustaining ecosystem. That's the magic of aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (soilless plant cultivation). In this growing approach, plants and fish form a mutually beneficial partnership where fish produce waste that is converted by the nitrifying bacteria into nutrients for the plants, while plants purify the water for the fish. 

With aquaponics, you can grow any plant you want. However, just like in any garden, choosing the best plants for your system can make a world of difference in terms of growth, yield, and overall health. This is because some plants adapt better to a smaller system, while other nutrient-hungry plants require larger systems to thrive. 

This article will dive into selecting the best plants for aquaponics. We'll explore a variety of plant options, from leafy greens that practically thrive on nutrient-rich water, to herbs that add both flavor and charm to your system, and even adventurous choices like fruiting plants and root vegetables. 

Vegetables Grown in Aquaponics System

How Aquaponics 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.

Aquaponics works differently from this method because an aquaponics system works by creating a nitrogen cycle. In this cycle, the three key elements — the fish, plants, and bacteria, exist together in one recirculating environment.

Fish produced high ammonia waste in the fish tank. The pump carries this waste into the grow bed, where the bacteria convert this waste into nitrites and then into nitrates.

The 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 food, while plants clean the water for the fish. Check the ultimate aquaponics beginners guide for more information about aquaponics.

Criteria for Selecting Plants in Aquaponics

Here is a closer look at the criteria you should consider when selecting the best aquaponics plants for your system.

1. Location

The amount of sunlight is important to choose the right location to grow healthy plant. So if you decide to grow outdoors, make sure the plants receive enough sunlight. If you have an indoor aquaponics system, ensure that your grow light can provide the light requirements plants need to grow healthily.

2. The Type of System You Are Going to Build

A media based system can grow almost any type of plant. However, if you’re planning to build a raft system or nutrient film technique make sure to select only plants with small root structures such as lettuce and strawberries.

3. Space Available

The space available will affect what method of aquaponics system you want to implement and what types of plants will grow with your system. It is because some plants require more space than others. So carefully consider the space needed for your chosen plants to grow. 

4.Nutrient Requirements of Plants in an Aquaponic Setup

Selecting the best aquaponics plants for your system requires an understanding of their nutritional needs. Unlike traditional soil-based gardening, where nutrients are abundant in the soil, aquaponics relies on the nutrient-rich water supplied by the fish. Leafy greens, for instance, are excellent candidates due to their relatively low nutrient requirements. While fruiting plants like tomatoes and peppers have higher nutrient demands which makes them ideal for larger and more established aquaponic systems. Choosing plants that align with the nutrient output of your fish ensures a harmonious cycle of nutrient utilization.

5. pH Considerations for Optimal Plant Growth

pH influences plant health and growth in aquaponics. The pH level of the water impacts nutrient availability, and different plants thrive within specific pH ranges. Monitoring and adjusting the pH accordingly can significantly enhance nutrient absorption. 

6.Temperature Considerations 

Temperature is also crucial; plants and fish each have preferred temperature ranges. While tropical fish may prefer warmer waters, some plants might thrive in cooler conditions. 

7.Suitability to the Aquatic Environment 

Plants chosen for aquaponics must adapt to the aquatic setting and the unique symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. Aquaponics require plants that can handle continuous exposure to water. Plants with robust root systems are especially adept at anchoring themselves within the grow beds, securely receiving nutrients while also stabilizing the substrate. 

8.Growth Rate and Harvest Time

When choosing plants for your aquaponic system, it's essential to consider their growth rate and harvest time. If you're looking for quick rewards, opt for plants like lettuce and spinach that can give you a bountiful harvest in a matter of weeks. If you're not concerned about their harvest time, plants like tomatoes and peppers might be more your style.

9.Compatibility with the Fish Species in the System

Fish and plants work together in aquaponics. So it is important to choose plants that are compatible with the fish species in your fish tank. Different fish species have different waste profiles, and some plants might adore certain types of fish "waste" more than others.

    The Best Plants for Aquaponics and Their Growing Requirements

    A.Leafy Greens

    1. Lettuce

    Fresh Lettuce

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

    Lettuce varieties such as Bibb, Romaine, and Butterhead flourish in aquaponic systems. Their fast growth and shallow roots make them excellent water and nutrient absorbers, which helps contribute to improved water quality. 

    2. Kale


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

    Known for its robust nutritional profile, kale thrives in aquaponic systems. Its hardy nature and sturdy leaves make it an easy-to-maintain choice. Rich in vitamins and minerals, kale adds a healthful touch to your aquaponic system.

    3. Swiss Chard

    Swiss Chard

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

    With vibrant stems and large, tender leaves, Swiss chard is a visual delight in any aquaponic setup. Its efficient nutrient absorption aids in water purification and its versatility in culinary use enhances its appeal.

    4. Spinach


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

    Spinach's quick growth and high nutrient uptake contribute to the system's balance, while its tender leaves are a delightful addition to salads and dishes. This aquaponics vegetable is one of the best plants for your system.


    1. Basil


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

    The aromatic allure of basil finds a natural home in aquaponics. Its rich fragrance not only enhances the ambiance but also acts as a natural pest repellent. Basil's lush foliage absorbs nutrients, creating a harmonious interplay within the system.

    2. Mint


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

    Mint's vigorous growth and hardiness make it a splendid contender for aquaponic growth. Its aromatic leaves add zest to culinary creations and herbal infusions, enriching both your palate and your aquaponic environment.

    3. Parsley


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

    Beyond being a garnish, parsley contributes to the aquaponic ecosystem's vitality. Its deep roots aid in nutrient absorption, while its vibrant green leaves bring visual appeal to your setup.



    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.  

    C.Fruiting Plants

    1. Tomatoes


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

    Tomatoes thrive in larger aquaponic systems due to their nutrient demands. Their rewarding fruits and sprawling growth pattern make them a captivating addition. Tomatoes enrich the system with their robust nutrient uptake.

    2. Peppers


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

    Sweet or spicy, peppers bring vibrancy to aquaponic gardens. Their moderate nutrient requirements align well with the nutrient availability in the system, ensuring healthy growth and a colorful harvest.

    3. Cucumbers


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

    With their climbing vines, cucumbers bring vertical elegance to aquaponic setups. Their high water content and moderate nutrient needs make them a great plant for aquaponics.

    4. Strawberries


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

    Delicate and delightful, strawberries cascade from hanging systems in aquaponics. While they require a slightly more acidic pH, their sweet rewards and aesthetic appeal are well worth the effort.

    5. Beans

    Green Beans

    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. It requires full sunlight to grow and receives 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. 

    D.Root Vegetables

    1. Radishes


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

    Radishes, with their compact size and efficient nutrient uptake, find their place in aquaponic grow beds. Their underground growth aligns with the system's nutrient cycling, and their peppery crunch adds zest to dishes.

    2. Carrots


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

    With proper spacing, carrots flourish can in aquaponic systems. Their sweet, crunchy roots are a testament to the system's nutrient-rich waters.

    3. Ginger


    Nutrient Requirement: High
    pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
    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.

    E.Flowering Plants 

    1. Marigolds


    Nutrient Requirement: High
    pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
    Temperature: between 50°F to 70°F

    Imagine having a plant that not only adds a burst of sunny color to your aquaponic setup but also serves as a pest deterrent. Marigolds are exactly that. These vibrant, pest-repellent flowering plants act as a natural barrier against unwanted invaders, helping to keep your system's delicate balance intact. Their distinct aroma wards off many common garden pests, reducing the need for chemical interventions.

    2. Nasturtiums


    Nutrient Requirement: High
    pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.8
    Temperature: between 65°F to 80°F

    These edible flowers bring a touch of elegance to your aquaponics garden, showcasing vibrant hues that are almost too beautiful to consume. Almost. Nasturtium flowers have a peppery flavor that adds a unique twist to salads and dishes. 



    Nutrient Requirement: High
    pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
    Temperature: 60°F to 75°F

    The Wellness Flower Calendula, often referred to as "pot marigold," introduces not only a vibrant spectrum of colors but also potential health benefits to your aquaponic oasis. Its petals have been traditionally used for their medicinal properties, often found in ointments and skincare products. 



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

    Sunflowers, with their towering presence, provide more than just aesthetic grandeur. They can serve as natural shade providers, offering protection to your aquatic friends from the sun's intense rays.

    5. Petunias


    Nutrient Requirement: High
    pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
    Temperature: between 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C)

    Petunias are celebrated for their vibrant colors and delicate charm. But beyond their aesthetic allure, petunias contribute to the overall health of your aquaponic system. Their presence can help to purify the air, creating a more refreshing atmosphere for both plants and fish. 

    As you explore these diverse plant choices, remember that successful aquaponics is a testament to the art of balance – the harmonious dance between aquatic life and plant growth.

    Growing Requirements for Aquaponics Plants

    Where to buy Seeds for Aquaponics?

    You can purchase seeds online or visit your local garden supply shops. You can start your own seeds or purchase a ready to transplant seedlings. Keep in mind to follow the instructions that comes with the packet. Here are our recommended seeds from Amazon.

    1. Assorted Heirloom Garden Seed Packet

    Assorted Heirloom Garden Seed

    Check on Amazon

    2. Survival Vegetable Seeds Garden Kit

    Vegetables Seeds

    3. Grow Your Own Vegetables Packet

    Grow Your Own Vegetables Packet

    Check on Amazon

    Planting and Maintenance Tips

    Maintaining the perfect harmony in your aquaponic system goes beyond just planting and hoping for the best. Just like gardening method, it requires attention, care, and a touch of finesse. Here are some tips to keep the nutrient balance in check, ensuring your plants and fish flourish in your aquaponics system.

    1.Sowing Seeds or Transplanting Seedlings

    The journey of cultivating a thriving aquaponic garden begins with the careful act of planting. Whether you're sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings, precision is key. Planting too densely can lead to overcrowding and hinder nutrient absorption while spacing them adequately encourages healthy growth. 

    • Seed Starting: Begin by germinating your seeds using the method you're most comfortable with – paper towels, seedling trays, or even pre-germinated plants. Once your seeds have sprouted, they're ready to embark on their aquaponic journey.
    • Transplanting: Gently transfer your sprouts into your aquaponic system. Whether it's a floating raft system, media beds, or a nutrient film technique, ensure the roots are well submerged and the foliage gets the right amount of light.
    • Spacing: Give your plants enough room to stretch their metaphorical legs. Proper spacing prevents overcrowding, which can lead to competition for nutrients and stunted growth. As your plants flourish, maintain this spacing to allow them to thrive without hindrance.

    2.Monitoring pH Levels and Nutrient Concentrations Regularly

    Regular checks of pH levels are important, as they impact nutrient availability. Aquaponic systems tend to naturally become slightly acidic over time, which might not be ideal for all plants. Adjustments can be made using pH-balancing agents to maintain the optimal range for your chosen crops. Additionally, monitoring nutrient concentrations ensures that your plants receive the nourishment they crave. Striking a balance is critical as too many nutrients can lead to imbalances, adversely affecting both plant and aquatic health.

    4.Pruning and Harvesting Techniques to Ensure Plant Health and System Balance

    Pruning and harvesting practices are essential to maintain plant health and tbalance of the entire system. Regularly removing dead leaves and excess growth not only keeps the plants looking tidy but also prevents decay that can compromise water quality. When it's time to harvest, use proper techniques to avoid damaging the plant or disturbing its roots. Thoughtful pruning and harvesting ensure that your plants continue to thrive, and the aquaponic ecosystem remains in harmonious flow.

    Troubleshooting Plant Issues

    No garden is immune to challenges, and aquaponics is no exception. Here are some common issues you might encounter and how to address them:

    1. Nutrient Deficiencies: If your plants show signs of stunted growth, yellowing leaves, or poor fruiting, they might be hungry for specific nutrients. Identify the deficiency, and provide the needed nutrient boost through supplements or adjustments in your system.
    2. pH Imbalances: If your plants look lackluster and your fish seem agitated, your pH might be to blame. Regularly monitor and adjust your system's pH to keep both your fish and plant content.
    3. Pest Control: Unwanted visitors can crash the aquaponic party. Inspect your plants regularly for pests like aphids or snails. Introduce natural predators or use organic pest control methods to keep your garden pest-free.
    4. Regular Monitoring: Regularly observe your plants and fish. Stress can manifest in various ways, from drooping leaves to sluggish fish. Swift action can prevent minor issues from turning into major crises.

    With these troubleshooting skills in your arsenal, you're ready to tackle any challenge that might arise in your aquaponic journey. Keep a vigilant eye, and remember that even the most complex of symphonies can be conducted smoothly with the right expertise and care.


    As you embark on your aquaponic journey, remember that the choices of plants are as diverse as your preferences. Leafy greens, herbs, fruiting plants, and root vegetables each bring their unique essence to the system. Choosing the best plants for your aquaponics system is your choice. However, it is important to base your choice on the criteria mentioned in the article to ensure the success of your aquaponics journey.

      5 Responses



      July 27, 2021

      Where do I purchase the aquaphonics set?



      October 13, 2020

      Nice plants will grow thanks


      October 13, 2020

      this is very good. thanks


      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


      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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