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Aquaponic Growing Containers

At this point, you need to make some choices on your overall system design, not just the containers for your plants. The beds and containers needed will vary by system type, so now's the time to figure that out.

We'll look at 2 basic arrangements: deep water culture (DWC) and ebb and flow. DWC systems are water-only (no growing medium) where the plants are suspended in fairly large volumes of water at all times. It's simple but best for the smaller leafy plants. Bigger plants just need more root support. The other system is known as ebb and flow, and it would work better for the bigger or heavier feeding plants. In that case, you will need containers with growing medium.


With no medium to worry about, this can be pretty simple. Your plants are suspended at the surface of the water, and simply float there. The roots are continuously hanging out in the water. You will need either mesh pots, available in garden stores or from hydroponics suppliers, or you can rig up your own system with styrofoam trays or blocks. Cut some holes for your root systems to dangle through, and you're ready to go.

You can either have your plants floating on their own tank of water, attached via tubing or pipes to the fish tank; or even have the plants directly in the fish tank. The second option is nice for very small starter set-ups but it removes some control over water quality since you don't have the arrangement for filtering or anything like that. You also want to make sure your fish don't snack on those handy dangling roots. So plan on having a tank for the plants that is separate from the fish.

For Ebb and Flow

An ebb and flow system is a little more sophisticated and the better choice for bigger fruiting plants. The added grow medium gives more support for larger root bundles and allows for better aeration between the root branches. Now you'll need pots and trays for your plants. Choose pot sizes that would roughly correspond to the size you'd use for conventional soil growing, but they need to have extra holes for easy water flow. Net pots are great, or just take a drill to the usual plastic pots and rig up your own.

Each plant will go in its own pot, and the pots are then kept in a deep tray or other water-tight container that can be flooded. Each flood cycle will fill the tray (at least half to 3/4 the depth of each pot), and then empty out again once the roots are thoroughly soaked. So you need to account for pots as well as a tray or table you can fill with water. If you have a large enough container or tray, you can pass on the individual pots and just fill it with your growing medium and have a true bed. The specifics aren't that important as long as it functions.

The actual ebbing and flowing part of this system will be discussed later with regard to using pumps and timers for water control.

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