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Plants for Aquaponics

Within reason, just about any plant can be grown with a traditional hydroponics system because you are in control of the nutrient levels and water quality. Heavy feeders can work because you can simply add more nutrients to the water supply. Unfortunately, that isn't going to work with aquaponics and this is where you have to be careful when choosing your plants.

Since the "nutrient solution" is fish waste water, it is not as directly under your control and you also have to make sure you don't kill your fish by adding extra components just because your plants could use them. That means, you are limited in nutrients to what your population of fish can tolerate in their water. The best way to compensate for heavy feeding plants is to have a larger population of fish, but that isn't exactly a simple adjustment to make. So most aquaponics setups stick to the lighter feeding plants so that it balances better with a reasonable fish population.

Smaller leafy plants are usually the easiest, and can be the best place to start for the novice. Lettuce in particular is known for success in aquaponics. Most kitchen herbs are also really well suited for this type of growing. Roots like carrots, beets or radishes are also easy enough but you have to use different growing medium to account for the larger root development (more on that later).

Large fruiting plants would fall under that "heavy feeder" umbrella and they can be the challenge. That would be tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas and most cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli or cauliflower). Of course, you can always choose dwarf varieties to keep your plants sizes down to more manageable levels if you wish. The particularly applies to things like tomatoes or cucumbers where dwarf varieties are easy enough to find.

Don't get discouraged by reading this though. Any of these vegetables can do quite well with aquaponics, you just need to address their high nutrient needs. It may not be the best place to start as a beginner, that's all. Once you have some experience and a have grown into a larger system, you can tackle just about any plant you can imagine. Veterans in aquaponics have successfully grown even fruit trees with their systems, so anything is possible.

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