When it comes to growing plants, aquaponics is one of the most sustainable food production systems around.
Warm freshwater fish are known to benefit leafy crops the best, while other plants adapt better depending on the size or type of aquaponic system and the amount of sunlight available. Many aquaponic growers use freshwater tilapia fish in their tanks, although catfish, trout, bass, crustaceans like crayfish, and even saltwater fish can be used.
Both the fish and plants you choose for your aquaponic system should have similar temperature and pH needs, and while most commercial growers tend to lean toward leafy crops like lettuce and herbs, it is also possible to grow more exotic fruits and veggies like bananas and pomegranates.
Whether you’re growing on a large scale or just starting a new hobby at home, here are 15 of the best plants for aquaponics.
Leafy lettuce is probably the most commonly grown aquaponic plant, mainly because it is also the simplest and the most productive. The nutrient demand is low, while the pH requirement is between 6.0 and 6.2, and the temperature should be between 60 F and 70 F. Lettuce also has a shorter growing cycle and loves the sunlight, so it is ideal for outdoor aquaponic growing systems. Maintenance is typically limited to checking the pH level once a week, and you can harvest your lettuce in as little as a month’s time.
Kale plants grow so well in aquaponic systems that they can easily get out of hand if not harvested regularly. Also, kale can handle a slightly higher pH and temperature limit with a lower nutrient requirement than lettuce and can be planted directly in sunlight outdoors as long as the temperature stays within 55 F to 70 F (it prefers temperatures on the cooler side, however). The plants do well in most aquaponic systems but are partial to gravel growing media. After about five to six weeks, aquaponic kale is ready to eat.
Aquaponics isn’t just for fruits and vegetables, but for flowers and ornamental plants as well. Under the right conditions, sunflowers can go from seed to 4 or 5 feet tall with an aquaponic system and will do well in both a greenhouse and outdoors in a warm climate. They can be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides and are both edible and aesthetically pleasing.
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