Aquaponic Gardening

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I've been thinking about some of the differences between aquaponics and soil gardening. One difference in particular interests me. It seems like soil gardening relies on soil microbes (bacteria and fungi, particularly) to contain and store soluble nutrients right at the rhizosphere (root zone) to keep them from being washed away, whereas aquaponics bypasses that particular problem simply by containing all the nutrients and recirculating them. Aquaponics still relies on bacteria, but it seems less dependent with that particular aspect. What implications does that have in choosing one over the other? Which one has more potential? Better to rely on containment by recirculating nutrients or by fostering microbial life?

That thought keeps leading me to this question: Is aquaponics the food production of the future, or merely a stepping stone as we transition away from conventional agriculture? Is aquaponics our end goal? Just a far lesser evil? Or will it forever be included alongside other growing methods in the grand scheme of caring for our earth?

I'd LOVE to hear people's thoughts....

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So I'v been working on this with my work with cannabis in aquaponics. Thanks to a tip from Vlad he introduced me to the duel root system where you have both soil and hydrobeads available to the plant. This lets you get the best of both worlds with out being forced to chose. This also gives you the ability to dose some things with soil based ferts and others into your water column depending on if you want to dose just one plant or the whole system. I'v have been having amazing results and I would like to think that its because your getting the maximum bacteria biodiversity between the 2 root zones. I think duel roots zones are the ultimate solution. You have individual control of nutrients on each plant so i can dose independently of each other and i can compensate the missing nutrients that some plants that traditionally do poor in aquaponics like cannabis can easily turn into your best growing plants in your entire system because you can supplement them independently from your water.

Hmm, sounds intriguing. When you get a minute, could you forward me some literature on dual root zones?

Steve R said:

So I'v been working on this with my work with cannabis in aquaponics. Thanks to a tip from Vlad he introduced me to the duel root system where you have both soil and hydrobeads available to the plant. This lets you get the best of both worlds with out being forced to chose. This also gives you the ability to dose some things with soil based ferts and others into your water column depending on if you want to dose just one plant or the whole system. I'v have been having amazing results and I would like to think that its because your getting the maximum bacteria biodiversity between the 2 root zones. I think duel roots zones are the ultimate solution. You have individual control of nutrients on each plant so i can dose independently of each other and i can compensate the missing nutrients that some plants that traditionally do poor in aquaponics like cannabis can easily turn into your best growing plants in your entire system because you can supplement them independently from your water.

Here's the thing... soil is really hard on fish; it plugs up their gills and they don't swim very well in dirt, either!  

Unlike most people (apparently) we got into aquaponics to raise fish not vegetables.  The huge biofilters needed and massive amount of waste that needed to be handled & disposed of was one of the major expenses and logistic problems... turning that waste into a second year-round income stream didn't seem too practical until we found out about aquaponics.

I know most of the "experts" claim that all the money is in the vegetables, and that's partly true; but most systems are designed to grow the most vegetable on the least amount of fish instead of the other way around.  (Depending on your intended market, that might make sense but it's not automatically the best plan, IMHO).

how a duel root zone works is instead of putting your plants in your grow media directly you plant them in deep pots.  You fill it up 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with grow media(plantit or hydroton) then put a piece of burlap or other cloth material that will allow roots through and then put organic potting soil mixed with coir and perilite to the top of the pot almost.  Then i take my 1 gallon milk jug i water with and fill it up. Next i pour the water slowly into my pot until i see it drip out from the bottom of the pot. Then i measure how much water i poured out and cut that number in half. then i know i can use that much water mixed with what ever organic fertilizer that is formulated for soil into the water i have measured out and then use it to water the upper soil layer. This way the plant can get supplemental nutrients and all the water and nitrogen and everything else good from the aq water with out contaminating your res. Hope that make sense. You can dramatically increase yields in aquaponics this way. 

However, if you're growing marijuana, then you can for sure bet your focus is gonna be on the plants ;) In comparison, I think it would be hard to get edible fish sales to hold a candle to it. I'm not growing marijuana, but they just legalized medicinal growing in Illinois, so who knows?

David - WI said:

Here's the thing... soil is really hard on fish; it plugs up their gills and they don't swim very well in dirt, either!  

Unlike most people (apparently) we got into aquaponics to raise fish not vegetables.  The huge biofilters needed and massive amount of waste that needed to be handled & disposed of was one of the major expenses and logistic problems... turning that waste into a second year-round income stream didn't seem too practical until we found out about aquaponics.

I know most of the "experts" claim that all the money is in the vegetables, and that's partly true; but most systems are designed to grow the most vegetable on the least amount of fish instead of the other way around.  (Depending on your intended market, that might make sense but it's not automatically the best plan, IMHO).

Steve, shockingly I've never heard of this. I'd love to see a pic or two ;)

Steve R said:

how a duel root zone works is instead of putting your plants in your grow media directly you plant them in deep pots.  You fill it up 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with grow media(plantit or hydroton) then put a piece of burlap or other cloth material that will allow roots through and then put organic potting soil mixed with coir and perilite to the top of the pot almost.  Then i take my 1 gallon milk jug i water with and fill it up. Next i pour the water slowly into my pot until i see it drip out from the bottom of the pot. Then i measure how much water i poured out and cut that number in half. then i know i can use that much water mixed with what ever organic fertilizer that is formulated for soil into the water i have measured out and then use it to water the upper soil layer. This way the plant can get supplemental nutrients and all the water and nitrogen and everything else good from the aq water with out contaminating your res. Hope that make sense. You can dramatically increase yields in aquaponics this way. 

That is how i grow my cannabis in AP. :) Il take some pictures tonight when I get home.

Thanks :)

Steve R said:

That is how i grow my cannabis in AP. :) Il take some pictures tonight when I get home.

Perhaps.  I don't think "commercial" aquaponic weed growers will stand a chance against commercial hydroponic growers where they're legal.  If your plant crop is that valuable then the fish tanks, biofilters, feeders, fish processing areas etc are just taking up space that could be producing plants?

Maybe $20k Koi and boutique weed would compliment each other, but like you say... no edible fish I can think of will be worth what the cost in time or space.

Anyway, my point was just that aquaponics may or may not be the "best" way to grow vegetables but it does improve the financial outlook for growing fish, for us.


Alex Veidel said:

However, if you're growing marijuana, then you can for sure bet your focus is gonna be on the plants ;) In comparison, I think it would be hard to get edible fish sales to hold a candle to it. I'm not growing marijuana, but they just legalized medicinal growing in Illinois, so who knows?

David - WI said:

Here's the thing... soil is really hard on fish; it plugs up their gills and they don't swim very well in dirt, either!  

Unlike most people (apparently) we got into aquaponics to raise fish not vegetables.  The huge biofilters needed and massive amount of waste that needed to be handled & disposed of was one of the major expenses and logistic problems... turning that waste into a second year-round income stream didn't seem too practical until we found out about aquaponics.

I know most of the "experts" claim that all the money is in the vegetables, and that's partly true; but most systems are designed to grow the most vegetable on the least amount of fish instead of the other way around.  (Depending on your intended market, that might make sense but it's not automatically the best plan, IMHO).

Teach a man to fish and feed them for life. Teach them to appreciate weed to regain almost exclusive use of your old favorite fishing hole.

I actually do a similar thing (plants in soil and in media beds) for my aloe vera plants... Since the aloe does not like "wet feet" or being too dry it made sense to give it 50/50 that way... I try and grow anything in my aquaponics system (preferably edible or medicinal) but i have grown lilliums in a small system.

In my opinion aquaponics isnt the end goal but rather another supplement to a healthy gardening system, much like a compost heap is... I use my "solids filter" to add to my worm farm, and the run off from them to fertilize trees...
Coming from a mainly "container gardener" background, i wanted to grow fish in containers too (haha)...

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