How to grow Strawberries in Aquaponics

strawberry
Strawberries yum!

There is nothing more satisfying than biting into a delicious strawberry that you’ve grown through your own aquaponics strawberries setup. However, while strawberries are generally fairly easy to grow, there are a few important points you need to note.

The following will help to ensure you are successful at growing strawberries in aquaponics the first time you try it.

You can either use vertical towers or NFT. Deepwater culture is not optimal for growth because it’s better to harvest strawberries when they hang down.

Temperature

Strawberries actually prefer cooler temperatures which is why you don’t generally see strawberries growing in the desert. Although, if you do live in a hot climate, you could try growing the strawberries in the cooler winter months or use an evaporate cooler.

The best temperature for strawberries is between 60-80°F or 15-26°C. That’s a fairly broad range which should make it very easy to choose your fish, virtually any fish will be comfortable in these temperatures.

It’s worth noting that the air temperature is more important for the successful flowering of this plant; and the ultimate fruit. While the daytime temperature is acceptable between 60-80°F, the nighttime temperature can be allowed to drop to 55°F, this will reduce the speed at which your plants develop but will help the fruit to become larger.

pH of the water

The pH of your water must be right for both fish and your aquaponics strawberries.

Strawberries thrive when the water has a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5; if the water is too acidic it will kill them.

Nutrients

Strawberries are a fruiting crop, which means they need a bit more potassium than leafy greens. I recommend growing strawberries when you have an established system.

An established system has had a few times where you had to increase the pH. When increasing the pH, you would have already added calcium and potassium.

This potassium is then used by the strawberries to produce their fruit.

The recommended EC level to grow strawberries is 1 milli Siemens/cm (source), which is equal to 500ppm.

Best way of growing strawberries in Aquaponics

You should be able to successfully grow aquaponics strawberries in virtually any media. However, while the traditional gravel media bed is an acceptable option; it’s not as effective as creating a vertical strawberry tower or using an NFT system.

strawberry tower
Chumash Farms strawberry tower

If you’re looking to add an aquaponics tower to your system then you should consider creating the PVC strawberry tower.

This is a simple PVC tube with holes cut on each side. The holes are staggered to ensure the maximum number of plants in a minimal amount of space.

The fish wastewater is then pumped into the top of the pipe, allowing it to trickle down the walls and onto the roots of the strawberry plant. This is a great way of keeping the roots wet without getting the crowns wet all the time. Strawberries don’t generally flourish when their crowns are wet.

The PVC strawberry tower is very cheap and easy to make, you can even add extra towers as needed to expand your aquaponics strawberries system; if required.

Another option that is used is NFT channels. Commercial farms use them quite a lot because it’s easy to harvest the fruit.

strawberries in NFT
Image from hydroexperts.com

Where to Get Strawberry Plants?

Strawberries are bought as runners. The plant sends out runners to clone itself. These clones are then cut off which are used for the next generation of fruit-bearing plants.

Growing strawberries from seed is not a viable option because it can take two to three years for the plants to develop fruits.

You can purchase strawberry plants at virtually any garden store and they should grow well in your system. You can even take cuttings from other plants if you know of some or someone who already keeps them.

Choosing Your Fish

The pH of strawberries is a little lower than some of the other plants you could be growing. However, it is still well within the tolerance range of most fish. If you’re new to aquaponics then tilapia is the most logical choice as they are extremely tolerant of changes in the water quality.

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous then crappie, koi carp, or even sunfish should all be happy at feeding your strawberries.

Aquaponics Strawberries: The Bottom Line

Many people try aquaponics strawberries without success. This is because they often fail to monitor the water quality properly. While the plants need nitrates to survive, it’s the high levels of ammonia that can quickly kill them off.

If you have too many fish for your grow bed size, or not enough bacteria converting the ammonia to nitrates, your plants and fish are going to suffer. In turn, the aquaponic strawberries will not be able to create the optimum and clean environment the fish desire. The fish will become sluggish and even start to die as your strawberries wilt.

But, monitoring and making small adjustments to the nutrients in your tank is all it takes to be successful at aquaponic strawberries.

Read more:

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