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Most of us have heard about hydroponics but may be unfamiliar with the term ‘aquaponics.’
I know that it is not something that I know too much about, so I thought it would be a good idea to do some research and find out more about this interesting subject.
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics where the waste produced by sea creatures like fish, prawns, snails, and crayfish provides the nutrients which are needed to grow plants hydroponically.
The plants in turn then purify the water to keep the sea creatures alive.
Although we may normally associate growing things like lettuce and herbs this way, there are many different house plants for aquaponics.
Aquaculture is the method of raising creatures like snails, fish, prawns, and crayfish in tanks while hydroponics is the cultivation of plants in water. Combine the two and we have aquaponics.
Literally, with aquaponics we get the fish working to eat and produce waste which in turn becomes the perfect fertilizer for plants which grow in the water.
The plants keep the water fresh, and the cycle starts over again.
What Equipment do we use for Aquaponics?
Basically, all you need is a fish tank, a water pump, fish, and plants to get started.
Naturally, the size of the fish tank will depend on the amount of space you have, and the number of fish you can accommodate will depend on the size of the tank.
What Plants can we Grow this Way?
Aquaponics are mainly recognised for food production.
This method is often used to produce heaps of tomatoes and cucumbers although it is also possible to grow other things like herbs, vegetables, and flowers.
Even house plants can successfully be grown this way.
The success of growing plants by this method also depends on the maturity and density of the fish in your tank and how nutrient dense the water is.
Vegetables that have a low to medium nutrition requirement will grow well in tanks with less fish. These include green leaf veggies like cabbage, spinach, lettuce, herbs, and chives.
Plants that have higher nutrient needs are tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. These will need a denser concentration of fish to do well.
In fact, the list of veggies that can be successfully grown this way is immense! Shallots, red onions, snow peas, okra, cabbage, melons, strawberries..and the list goes on.
You may also like: what are the best marginal plants for small ponds
Best 10 House Plants for Aquaponics
1) Spider Plants
Because these plants thrive in moister soils, growing them in aquaponics suits them very well.
The water has the right amount of nutrients for them to do very well. The spider plant will even grow inside the fishbowl as long as only its roots are submerged.
It is very easy to propagate the plant this way by simply taking a cutting and sticking it in the potting medium. You should see roots in about 7 days.
2) Peace Lily
Peace lilies grow well in aquaponics as well as in aquariums. You will recognize them by the deep green leaves and beautiful white flowers.
They enjoy high humidity which makes them a good choice for aquaponics.
3) Chinese Money Plant
This is another plant which grows in fish tanks so growing in aquaponics keeps it just as happy.
It is easy to propagate, in fact it is a rampant grower, and the roots may need pruning often to keep it under control.
The philodendron plant will thrive in aquaponics as long as the water is nutrient dense.
You may find that they grow larger and brighter when they are grown this way instead of outside where they need to compete for nutrients.
5) Snake Plant
Snake plants are low maintenance plants at the best of time, and they do even better in aquaponics.
Ferns love having their feet in the aquaponic water so that they don’t need to compete for their nutrients. You will find that they grow huge and can be propagated and trimmed frequently.
They are incredibly easy to grow as long as they receive a little moderate daily light.
Because they do not have high density nutrition requirements you do not need massive amounts of fish to keep the plant alive and thriving.
Yes, you can grow them! Not only do they give a burst of wonderful colour to your aquaponic garden, but they also help to keep any bugs away because of their really pungent smell.
8) Water Hyacinth
While some people may consider them to be invasive in ponds, they do a very good job or keeping the water clean for your fish.
This make it a good plant if you have fish who do not like the water to be changed frequently.
While some people battle to grow this in soil, it does well in the aquaponic system. Nutritional needs are low so does not need a massive number of fish.
Although this may be regarded as an herb, it is a delightful plant in its own right, and can grow up to 30” high, producing little white flowers which can be harvested.
This plant is also good for keeping pests away.
How do Aquaponics Work?
Aquaponics uses two methods of farming, namely growing plants without soil, and farming fish.
The fish are fed, and the waste is gathered, fed to plants that live in a medium of substance other than soil.
The plants take the nutrients they need from the fish water and the excess is pumped back into the fish side of the setup.
So, here’s what happens:
- Assemble your fish tank with a pump to get water from the tank to the plant bed
- Build your plant bed on top of the tank with a drain back into the fish tank
- Pop in your fish
- Add your plants
- Start your system – feed your fish, turn on the pump, make sure that water pumps up into the plant bed and drains back down to the fish
If you are enjoying this article, check out our article on what are the best oxygenating plants for small wildlife ponds.
How Much Does an Aquaponics System Cost?
As with anything, it can be done cheaply or become very costly. If you were to buy a ready-made setup you can expect to pay anywhere between $2500 – $14.000. Quite a difference!
Of course, for those prices you can expect delivery and installation as well as guarantees of products.
Some manufactures base their price on area per plant and this can work out at around $2.50 – $3.50 per plant so this can be factored into your budget.
If you are a handy person or know a person who can help you construct one yourself, you will find that it works out a lot cheaper than buying one.
Having said that, if you are unsure about how to construct this then you may be better off buying one and knowing that it will not simply collapse or leak.
What are the Fastest Growing House Plants with Aaquaponics?
Some fast-growing house plants for aquaponics are:
- English Ivy
- Peace Lilies
- Pothos – possibly one of the fastest plants for aquaponics.
Let’s Talk About Water
Because it is the water that ensures the health of both fish and plants, there are some things to bear in mind.
The water circulates and recirculates the nutrients from the fish to the plants and back again. Ideally you want your water to be nutrient rich so that your fish stay healthy and your plants to do well.
Water quality, pH and temperature all contribute to aquaponics working well.
The pH levels should be kept at between 6.8 and 7.4 which is where the bacteria will function at the best capacity.
Temperature should range from between 65 and 85 degrees if you have warm water fish, and between 55 and 65 degrees if your fish are from cold water.
What are the Best Low Light Aquaponics House Plants?
Just like outdoor plants, you aquaponic plants also need light. However, you will find that your fish prefer shade.
They do not need sunlight to grow and stay healthy, in fact they need both light and dark.
So, what do we mean by low light? You should still be able to read a book in low light. If it is too dark for this, then the area is beyond low light and you will need extra light for any plants to grow.
If the area is too low light then you will not be able to grow any plants to eat like tomatoes. They will only grow with added light. However, lettuce can grow in low light areas.
Plants that are known to do well in low light areas are:
- Lucky bamboo
- Heart leaf philodendron
- Snake plants
- Peace Lilies
Once you have learned and understand how different things play a part in aquaponics you will be on the road to success.
One of the best items you can buy is a quality water test kit to make sure that your water is not too high or too low in pH levels, and neither is it too hot or cold for the type of fish you choose.
Having a good understanding of water, light and water quality will ensure that your system runs smoothly and efficiently and the house plants for your aquaponics system thrive.
Written by: Valerie Holyoak
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