An aquaponics system can grow almost any plant; herbs, leafy greens, root crops, fruiting plants, flowers, and micro greens. You can even mix different varieties of plants to create your own aquaponics system.
However, before starting your own aquaponics system, it is important to know what plants grow best in an aquaponics system, for you to plan your system’s setup accordingly.
It is also important that you pay attention to the following factors before you decide on what plants you’ll grow with your aquaponics system.
1. What type of system you will use: This could be media-based, NFT, raft, or hybrid aquaponics system. The type of grow bed you will use will influence your choice of plants. Plants with no or small root structure grow well in floating rafts, while root vegetables grow well in media-based grow beds because the NFT or raft system does not provide a good growing environment and adequate root support to the plants with large root structures.
2. Climate: Choose varieties of vegetables that will grow best in your climate, to ensure the success of your aquaponics system. The amount of sunlight, temperature, rainfall, and wind are all important factors in producing a healthy plant. It is best to go with Mother Nature, even if you grow plants indoors or in a greenhouse. Temperature is difficult and can be costly to control, and plants grow better when the temperature ranges match their typical growing environment. So it is best to grow cold-weather crops if you live in a colder climate and warm-weather plants if you live in a warmer climate.
3. Growth Rate: Aquaponics plants’ growth rate entirely depends on the efficiency and maintenance of your system. So your system must be properly maintained for the health of your plants and fish. You can plant hardy and quick yield vegetables like lettuce if you want to harvest your vegetables in a short amount of time.
4. Will you be growing vegetables or other plants like ornamental flowers and shrubs?: Plant what you want to grow in your system and what are your main goals in growing plants. Are you growing plants for food or ornamental purposes? Thinking about what you want to achieve will help you make a better decision on what plant to grow best in your aquaponics system.
What Plant to Grow Best?
- The plants that will grow best in an aquaponics system depend on your system’s size. If you have a smaller system with fewer fish and less waste, then you should choose plants with lower nutritional inputs like greens and herbs. With larger systems that have more fish and more waste, you can plant almost any plants.
Here are the easy to grow and popular plants in aquaponics.
- Lettuce: A highly recommended plant, lettuce, is an excellent plant for small aquaponics systems. They are versatile, taste wonderful, and require little nutrients and maintenance to reach their harvest time.
- Kale: Kale is a low nutrient requirement plant to grow, but is a very nutritious plant. Similar to cabbage kale’s good taste, nutrient-dense leaves and easy to grow, makes it a fantastic plant in a small aquaponics system.
- Spinach: One of the cold weather crops that grow well in aquaponics systems, spinach, is a classic superfood that you can plant in your system. Spinach requires low nutrient requirements but tastes wonderful and filled with protein, vitamins, and minerals and has a low-calorie package. What is excellent in growing spinach in aquaponics is that you can quickly harvest this plant over and over.
- Swiss Chard: Swiss chard is a frost-resistant plant with low nutritional requirements to grow. They are also very healthy and a great beautiful addition to any salad. Swiss chard grows best in aquaponic water with a pH level between 6.6 to 7.0.
- Mint: Mint is one of the abundant herbs around the world, with more than a dozen varieties to choose from. Mint can be used in several ways, from tea to food dishes, and is one of the best plants to grow in aquaponics. Mints have low nutrient requirements.
- Basil: Basil is one of the easiest and popular herbs to grow in an aquaponics system. They grow upright quickly and will grow best in a media-based aquaponics system.
- Chives: Easy to grow with low nutrient requirements, chives are also one of the best plants to grow in aquaponics. Chives can be used to compliment scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, salads, and much more.
- Watercress: Watercress is a hardy vegetable that proliferates, loves water, and requires little maintenance to thrive. This vegetable has a low nutritional demand and can exist alongside any fish in an aquaponics system.
- Pak choi: This Chinese cabbage is very high in nutrients but has low nutrients requirement to grow, making it great for plants in a small aquaponics system.
Here are some plants that grow best in large aquaponics systems:
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are one of the most popular plants to grow in aquaponics. They are greatly enjoyed worldwide because they bring their incredible taste and aroma to different dishes, drinks, and more. Tomatoes need high nutrient requirements to grow properly, so they are more suited for large aquaponics systems with plenty of fish wastes. If you have a larger aquaponics system, tomatoes are one of the best plants to grow.
- Peppers: There are several varieties of peppers, and they are all excellent choices to grow in a large aquaponics system. Peppers need a high amount of nutrients, but they are a must-have in the kitchen, as they are rich in vitamin C and can be used in a lot of ways. Peppers are very particular about the water that they consume and require plenty of sunshine. Growing peppers using aquaponics allows you to monitor and control your nutrients in the water and lets you create the perfect environment for your pepper plants.
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers are water-based plants, and they grow best in media-based aquaponics system. They have high nutritional requirements to grow and spread quite a lot because of their creeping vine nature, but they produce lots of cucumbers, which is excellent for every aquaponics gardener.
- Cabbage: Very quickly grown and needs very little maintenance, makes cabbage one of the best plants to grow in an aquaponics system. Cabbage is one of the most popular vegetables in the world, tastes good, and can be eaten in many ways.
- Cauliflower: Cauliflower is a nutritious and great tasting plant that grows so well in an aquaponics system. They need very little maintenance and are resistant to most bugs and diseases.
- Strawberries: Strawberries need very little space to grow and are easy to cultivate in an aquaponics system. Strawberries are one of the best plants to grow in aquaponics because of the constant supply of nutrient-rich water and the ability to monitor and control the system environment. Another benefit is that you can grow them all year round in an indoor system.
Choosing a plant to grow in your aquaponics system can sometimes be confusing, as there are so many choices to choose from. However, with these choices we listed for you, you’re instantly on the right track for successful aquaponics gardening. Although there are more than you can grow, these plants are the best plants to grow in a small or large aquaponics system.
This is not the complete list because there are so many varieties of plants that you can grow in aquaponics; this is just a guide for you to choose. You can also use your own lists of vegetables and fruits and mix and match them to create your own aquaponics garden with better results. Have fun planting and experimenting with your plants. Join our Facebook Community for more interactive discussions about aquaponics.