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 would alternate using the seashell/coral product (put it in a stocking or something so you can take it out) with the potassium bicarbonate since the shell/coral will provide calcium carbonate and therefore calcium which is needed by plants but so is potassium and if you only add calcium you can wind up with too much calcium and it can bind up potassium in some cases.


for seaweed extract, I started out by estimating the square footage of grow beds and then read the bottle and if it says something like one tablespoon per some amount of water sprayed over 100 square feet I would then add that amount of the extract to the grow beds under where the water flows into the grow beds.  I think I usually use about a quart of the stuff around my big system when I dose it.

10/18/11 Update:


Sorry guys, I have to admit, this challenge has taken a bit of a backseat, so the results so far aren't as good as I hoped. But each group is starting to have constant healthy looking growth. Here are some pics as of 10/14/11:


Roots Organic Line

General Organic Line:



Tap Water:

Aquaponic + Seaplex Foliar:

Advanced Nutrient Mother Earth Tea Line:


Hopefully we see some easily measurable/comparable results in the next 2-3 weeks.
I just did the workshop at Nelson & Pade and John Pade and Rebecca Nelson have many years experience with hydroponic greenhouse production, and of course they are one of the pioneers in Aquaponics as well. They insist that Aquaponics is superior in fruit quality, taste, yield and time to harvest. (of course they are selling aquaponics systems)
So far I would believe that. I am barely into the middle of veg, but the aquaponics buckets are very comparable to the other lines. I don't know if this will hold true for fruiting, but we will see. I should have new pics up within the next week or two.
I'm currently setting up a hydroponic system with Fox Farm Grow Big, so once I get  my aquaponic system done I want to take part in this challenge. Also, how about you change the conditions once you figure this one out.
Excellent! I'm curious to see the difference in yours as well. If this one goes as planned I hope there will be many more possibilities to come
Keep in mind to get a really good comparison between Aquaponics and Hydroponics, you need to let the Aquaponics mature.  The first season the Aquaponics might not do as well since it will still be a new system but the next year the Aquaponics will generally outperform.
I have an idea that hydroponics would outperform on the basic functions of plant nutrition, because it can be precise, but aquaponics has more of the soil qualities that plants have adapted to.

TCLynx said:
Keep in mind to get a really good comparison between Aquaponics and Hydroponics, you need to let the Aquaponics mature.  The first season the Aquaponics might not do as well since it will still be a new system but the next year the Aquaponics will generally outperform.

Hi Logic,

I agree with Rupert and TLC that this is not a valid comparison mainly because your fish water is not recirculating. The ppm (nutrient) portion is just not high enough to support hydroponics in a five galon bucket. The nutrients (when needed) will be used up in no time. May I suggest adding some fish poop on top of your hydroton pebbles or water. Otherwise you have a nice set up there. I could only wish for one like that, I'd have a sea of green.


Please keep us up to date on your progress...and failures.


I for one would just like to see him complete his experiment.  Then when the results are in we can say "that test wasn't a fair comparison...etc, etc.", but I'd be interested to know what differences he is able to measure anyways.

Even this bit of data may help our cause.  If the AP-watered plants excel, awesome.  If not, then we will wonder why and most will suggest that there is some bio-magic happening with a plant in a recirculating system that must be the real key to AP's awesomeness.  ;)

Thanks Averan. Aquaponics as a whole is not very testable or comparable when it comes nutrients. When every single system is going to be different and it's not a measure/pour/monitor type of system, it's going to be hard to define a specific way to compare against over-the-counter products. But IMO it's going to need to happen in some way to prove its superiority over hydro solutions, otherwise not as many people will buy into it. We can sit here and criticize hydro solutions all day, but when it comes to actual comparison data it just isn't out there. We could probably revise this experiment for 10 years and still not get a definitive answer, but who is to say we shouldn't try. 


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