Aquaponics done successfully will give you the great satisfaction of looking after fish while growing your own crops. In fact, it is relatively simple to set up your own small system at home. All you need is a tank for your fish, a pump to send this water to the plant bed and return it to the fish and some planting media for your plants.
Of course there are details to sort and fine tweaking that will need to be done but you can easily create a small setup to test your skill and learn what works for you.
The choice of fish is fairly straightforward, most people use tilapia, trout, goldfish, carp, catfish, koi or even shrimp and prawns. Your choice will depend on the type of setup you have and whether you are looking to breed edible fish or are simply keeping the fish to feed your plants.
What is more difficult is deciding the right plants to grow. While most plants do well with aquaponics there are several species that do exceptionally well. You’ll need to decide which type of plant suits you the best. For example, there is little point in growing tomato plants if you don’t actually like them! If you want to know what ratio is good for fish and plants, check it out here.
Here are some of the best plants for small aquaponics:
The humble tomato plant does exceptionally well in this water based system. You will find it easier to control the temperature and even the amount of sun the plants get.
However, it is worth noting that tomato plants tend to attract pests which can be exceptionally difficult to get rid of.
Peppers can be extremely difficult to grow via the standard approach to gardening. This is because they are particular about the water they consume and require plenty of sunshine.
Growing them in a small aquaponics system makes sense. You will be able to monitor the temperature of your set up and make sure the nutrient levels in your water are optimized. But, more impressively is the ability to produce extremely hot peppers as you can turn the temperature dial right up for them.
It is worth noting that peppers do not do well in a constant water type aquaponic system. However, they do exceptionally well if you use the flood and drain approach.
This means flooding the growing media with the water for 15 minutes and then allowing it to drain for 45 minutes. You’ll need a pump and a timer to ensure this happens all the time without your interference.
These little red fruits are great to eat all year round. This is actually possible with a well setup aquaponics system; the plants don’t need to know that it’s winter!
To grow strawberries in a small aquaponics system you’ll need to have as many plants as possible. This is because most plants will only produce a few strawberries; if you want to enjoy eating them or even sell them; then you need to have plenty of plants to create the yield.
The good news is that each plant needs very little space and you can use the floating raft system, tubes or even baskets. Strawberries need very little care to flourish and make a great plant for first time users.
Plants That Don’t Like Aquaponic Systems
There are always some plants that find it difficult to thrive in an alternative system to their natural home. It is best to avoid trying to grow any of these:
Blueberries may be delicious and healthy but they also have a low pH tolerance; they grow best when the pH is below 7. This can make it difficult to keep the pH level right in the water for the fish and the plants.
This plant also has an issue with pH but they like growing media with a pH over 7; again this is likely to be an issue when maintaining the right environment for your fish.
Unless you are particularly passionate about these types of plants then anything that wants pH levels well in excess or below 7 is not a good bet for your aquaponic system.
The Bottom Line
Aquaponic systems are not new but they have received a lot of attention in recent years. Much of this is because they are a great way to grow virtually any plant. At the same time; crop yields can be greatly multiplied and the environment better controlled.
You may be looking for the best plants for small aquaponic systems but the reality is that even your small setup is part of the future; aquaponics offers the opportunity to grow far more crops and help feed the world.
One last thought that is worth considering is that vegetables and other products which grow in the ground will grow well in aquaponics but there shape may not resemble the one that you are used to; they will still taste delicious though. The best plants for small aquaponics are tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and peppers.