Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hey everyone,


I was recently wondering how aquaponics stacked up to other organic nutrients that are commonly used in hydroponics. So I decided, why not run a few tests and see for myself. This is more for my own curiosity, but I hope you all enjoy and feel free to get involved. I will be open to any suggestions or recommendations. All ideas, love, and hate are welcome! Enjoy!


The Contestants:

#1) Regular tap water (control)

#2) Aquaponic water (I have 30 tilapia in 275 gallons supporting this challenger)

#3) Aquaponic water w/ Organicare Seaplex foliar spray (same fish source)

#4) General Organics BioThrive Grow/Bloom

#5) Roots Organic Buddha Grow/Bloom

#6) Advanced Nutrients Mother Earth Super Tea Grow/Bloom


The Plant:

Habenero Pepper from seed through full maturity (100 days expected)... I wished to take clones from the same plant, but couldn't locate a good donor so seeds have to do.


The Setup:

6 DWC 5-gallon buckets. (water changes weekly or a consistent time between 7-10 days)

Vegetative state- 600 watt MH in 6inch reflector

Flower state- 1000 watt HPS in 6inch reflector

Indoor grow


The Winner:

You Decided! I'll give updates both in pictures and videos and let you judge for yourself. 



Want anything else, just ask!

We are waiting for the seeds to sprout and action should start within the next 2 weeks



**Non-fruiting ONC coming soon**

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I'd be very wary of using hydroponic chemical nutrients in an aquaponics system....


  • They can kill fish
  • They often extract oxygen from the system
  • The chemical mixes are not "organic"
  • Can clog distribution systems
  • Often smell
  • May cause leaf burn
  • They offer no benefits over and above that which Maxicrop or similar seaweed extracts provide
  • They're just usually not required if you're using a suitable fish feed, which contains all the necessary trace elements... If your pH is within nutrient uptake range


As an example... the "General Organics BioThrive Grow/Bloom" is listed as containing...


Ingredients: Alfalfa meal, cane sugar, copper sulphate, glacial rock powder, iron sulphate, kieserite, manganese sulphate, molasses, plant extracts, potassium sulphate, rock phosphate, sodium borate, sodium molybdenate, soybean meal and zinc phosphate.


Which is just a chemical cocktail.... and laden with "sulphates".... (and phosphates).... neither of which has any great benefit to an aquaponics system... and indeed within certain pH ranges will cause a major algael bloom...


The copper sulphate alone would most likely kill any crustacea in your system rapidly... and over time with accumulation... probably your fish as well...


Part of the reason, or at least, my main reason for changing to aquaponics... was a desire to move away from chemical fertilisers....


Combining a "mix" of different "nutrient" solutions may also make it impossible to determine the cause of any problems... especially any fish deaths...

Valid point Rupert. That's the main reason I do most grows in aquaponics.


However they will not be "in" the aquaponics system. They are in individual DWC buckets. I also agree with the fact that some of these products are no where near organic. I do believe though that all contestants besides BioThrive are considered to be organic.


Would you suggest I substitute maxicrop into a bucket and see if it can live up to your statement?

Would certainly be a worthwhile comparison I think....


But if this is just a hydroponic comparison... how are you going to relate any results back to a comparison with aquaponics??


Aren't you really just essentially comparing differences, if any... between hydroponic nutrient mixes??

Why, do you not think taking the aquaponic water out of the system and putting it into a 5 gallon bucket(refreshed weekly) will not do aquaponics justly? 


I could always monitor Nitrate PPM and change water whenever levels get below a certain point. I just thought changing all mixes at the same time made it more fair. 



Because most of the products aren't so much a "nitrogen"/nitrate input... but more a trace element input....


Certainly, even in aquaponics... a potassium boost during flowering/fruiting/seeding stages of plant growth is beneficial.. and even at times, due to pH, required...


I'm just not sure how you're going to make a comparison to an unknown aquaponics water input... to concentrated hydroponic solution inputs... especially if the aquaponics source water has been filtered to remove "solids".. and without the possible mineralisation benefits provided by the actions of worms within a grow bed...


This sort of restriction, due to solids removal/filtration... is why UVI constantly adjust their DWC systems with supplements...


P.S ... other than the "General Organics BioThrive Grow/Bloom"...I haven't been able to find the composition of the other products... but the Organicare Seaplex appears to be a seaweed extract similar to Maxicrop...

The source of aquaponic water is from my well established system and I feel that they will receive all of the same benefits as the grow beds do except not as oftenly refreshed. I have had trouble trying to correlate the two differences in nutrient types for awhile. That's why I'm just saying for what I got this is/are the results. In no way is this the only result or even typical results. I just want to see how my system stacks up to "market nutrients" that can run fairly expensive. I'm not promoting hydro nutes and would like this to be as fair as possible. I honestly think that the aquaponics will compare quite well with the others, even through flower. I would love suggestions or modification ideas


The primary ingredient of the others is bat or sea bird guano.

"bat or sea bird guano"... so highly phosphorus then.... could very well cause algael problems...

Is there a way to connect your "#2 Aquaponic water" bucket up with the system as a recirculating part?  Seeing as aquaponics is really meant as a recirculating system and simply taking water from it to grow plants isn't going to quite provide the same favorable result as recirculating in a complete system.


I would also venture that the DWC may not show in as good a light as a media bed for Aquaponics.  I've noticed that several people say they get deficiencies in their raft plants while their media bed plants are doing just fine.  I have seen this in my own system even where the plants in the NFT and raft bed are looking poorly of iron deficiency while the media bed plants are still looking pretty good.


Anyway, will be interested to see the results in any case.

I might try to run a drip line through it because I understand how aquaponics functions best as a whole circulating system. The only problem is it will have to be approx. a 50' line between the systems.

I will be sure to change the aquaponic water more often and use hydroton from my established beds in the DWC buckets that will contain aquaponic water.

I'm no expert on hydroponics, but one of the issues I believe exists with that production method is the need to supply slightly different nutrient coctails during different developmental growth stages of the fruiting plant.  I have a small (based on a 1000 liter IBC fish tank) home unit that has had a passion fruit in it constantly fruiting for months on end with no change in nutrients.  One fish food source, and even during a period of having no fish in the system and just adding aquaponic water from another system or small volumes of seaweed extract, the worst thing that happened to the vine was a bit of leaf yellowing.  I'm not sure if this would have been possible running on any other chemical nutrient source

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