There is a lot to consider when choosing plants for your aquaponic system. Making the right choices in aquaponics plants is essential to the success of the system and the success of your harvest. If the plants do not grow healthy and strong, it affects the water purity and can be detrimental to the fish. Additionally, a poor plant crop affects the cost of the system, and being low-cost is one of the primary benefits of aquaponic gardening. Some factors you should consider include:
- How well the plants will grow hydroponically – Some plant varieties do not do well in a hydroponic situation and prefer soil. Additionally, vegetables that require ground cover to grow like root vegetables do not like to be grown hydroponically.
- Growing indoors versus outdoors – If growing indoors, you need to find plants that do well inside with either limited or artificial sunlight. If growing outdoors, you need to find plants specifically suited to your climate.
- The amount of available space – Certain plants require more space than others. Carefully consider the height and width required for your plants of choice and how many you could fit into your aquaponic space.
- The number of fish – More fish means more waste that needs to be removed from the water. If you plan on growing a larger number of fish, you will need plants that absorb a lot of nutrients.
- What you want – Gardening tends to go better when you grow something you actually want to eat or use. Thinking about what you want to get out of the garden will help you make the decision of what aquaponics plants you want to grow.
Best Plants for Aquaponics
Aquaponics plants are any of a wide variety of plants that will grow well in an aquaponic system. Aquaponic gardening is especially ideal for moisture-lovers life leafy greens and fruit-bearing plants such as tomatoes or various types of peppers. You can grow plants for food, or you can grow houseplants or flowers in your system. Some of the best vegetables for aquaponics include leafy lettuce-type varieties like iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, bok choy, all varieties of kale, and Swiss or other chards. You can also grow herbs in a similar manner to these greens and plant basil, mint, thyme, and more. The reason leafy greens make some of the best vegetables for aquaponics are that they have a short growth time, require little upkeep, can continue to grow after harvest, do not require full sun, and take up a small amount of space.
Although leafy greens are an excellent choice for your aquaponic system, they are not the only edible variety you can grow. With an established system or a larger quantity of fish, you can grow vegetables and fruits that require a higher dose of nutrients to perform well. This includes some of the mainstays of a vegetable garden like tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, bean varieties, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts. In fact, aquaponic tomatoes are one of the main reasons you are able to get tomatoes at the store in the fall and winter months. These plants need a lot more light than their leafy green friends, so they do well outdoors (climate allowing) or in an indoor setup with a large amount of light like a greenhouse. You can also invest in a larger number of grow lights if natural light is not available.
Edible varieties are not the only plants well suited to aquaponic gardening. Some of the best plants for aquaponics are ornamental species. Aquaponics is especially useful if you plan on growing certain varieties of houseplants. You can use a fish tank setup and put your favorite houseplants into beds on top of it. Some of the best plants for aquaponics include philodendron, various ferns, peace lily, snake plant, Chinese evergreen, spider plant, various vines, and smaller Ficus. You can also grow outdoor ornamentals in an aquaponic system. Almost any species of flowering plant will do well when grown hydroponically with enough nutrients. The most popular and also one of the top producers in an aquaponic setting are roses. The flowers tend to grow larger and brighter when supplied with a constant and consistent amount of water and nutrients, which an aquaponic system is perfect for. Additionally, you can grow lilies, asters, forget-me-not, daisies, lavender, and hollies.
It is true that almost any plant can grow successfully in an aquaponic system as long as thought is given to the climate, available space, and the plant’s nutritional needs. Aquaponics plants will benefit from consistent hydration and the additional nutrients they get from the fish waste. Whether you are looking to grow vegetables like aquaponic tomatoes or something ornamental like beautiful aquaponic roses, you can be successful. There are some plants that do not do as well in an aquaponic system. It is possible to grow smaller varieties of fruit trees. However, the drawback to this is it takes many years for the tree to produce fruit. Also, acid loving plants like blueberries and azaleas typically do not do well in an aquaponic system. It is also difficult to grow root vegetables that require full cover in this type of system, which rules out carrots, potatoes, garlic, beets, and similar varieties. With the right plants though, your system will thrive.