Aquaponics is the break-through blend of aquaculture and hydroponics, that’s changing organic cannabis farming. This revolutionary system makes it possible to grow great tasting organic marijuana with bumper hydro yields. It’s time to grow more weed without wasting resources.
WHAT IS AQUAPONICS?
In ordinary decent stoner terms, aquaponics can be defined as the combination of hydroponics and fish farming. Instead of a grow operation, you are essentially creating a kind of cannabis “Bio-Dome”. The whole system is self-sustaining. Fish waste feeds the cannabis plants, with the root zone acting as a biological filter to clean the water. Thus forming a natural animal-plant symbiotic relationship. An aquaponics system can be created indoors or outdoors.
THE ROOTS OF MODERN AQUAPONICS
The credit for developing an effective flood and drain system using gravel vegetable garden beds and effluent from Tilapia fish must go to Missouri farmers Tom and Paula Speraneo. The Speraneo’s refined and improved earlier aquaponic greenhouse systems during the early 1990’s and changed organic farming forever. Their super efficient system favouring high plant rather than high fish yield became the model for commercial agricultural aquaponics.
HOW TO GET GROWING WITH AQUAPONICS
If you already have a hydroponics setup and some experience under your belt, then you’re already halfway there. A standard small-scale hydro home grower can make the transition with low start-up cost. Custom kits, that convert a typical 50l aquarium into self-sustaining systems can be found online.
Alternatively, if you have an existing fish tank in the house, you can modify it with the help of one of the many YouTube DIY aquaponics tutorials. A fish tank can be readily integrated into familiar hydroponic systems like flood and drain and NFT. Plus the same hydro clay pebbles are the perfect medium for aquaponics too.
Robust Tilapia fish, that can are natural born murky water survivors might be tricky to source. Instead, ornamental fish like Goldfish can be sourced from the local pet store and will also perform well in aquaponic systems.
CANNABIS SPECIFIC MODIFICATIONS
THE DUAL ROOT ZONE SYSTEM
Creating a self-sustaining ecosystem takes time. Nitrifying bacteria must be part of the system or plants will experience all kinds of nutrient problems. Building up colonies of beneficial root zone microbes won’t happen instantly. This is why most cannabis aquaponics growers will effectively create two root zones.
Usually, a pot is sat atop the aqua clay pebble bed root zone. Top and bottom root zones are typically divided by a fabric barrier like a piece of burlap cut to size. The grower can then supplement the top root zone without killing the fish. Gradually supplementation becomes less of a concern as the system eventually becomes self-sustaining. Some growers will even use nutrient-rich soil in the container for the top root zone.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME
Over time, as you become more familiar with the day to day work and gain hands-on experience you will eventually dial in the system. Less and less supplemental fertilisers are required and the system becomes virtually fully automated.
Some early experimentation and probably some trial and error will be required to figure out the nuances. The goal is to create a closed loop system that does most of the work for you and requires minimal maintenance. Full spectrum LED is the lighting of choice for most systems to ensure energy efficiency and happens to be perfectly suited to cannabis.
THE BENEFITS OF AQUAPONICS
The obvious benefits for the conventional hydro grower to convert to aquaponics are you already have most of the cultivation experience you need and making the switch doesn’t cost much. Organic growers will naturally be attracted to aquaponics. With good reason, because this it is a 100% natural cultivation style, that functions independently of chemical fertilisers.
No other known method of cannabis cultivation can produce as much bud with as few resources. Essentially aquaponics checks all the boxes. Mastery of aquaponics is the zero point of cannabis cultivation.
WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS AND COMPLICATIONS?
Aquaponics is not for everyone. For the beginner grower or those with little experience of hydroponic cultivation, it’s not advisable to dive straight in. Soil growers will certainly appreciate the potential, but won’t necessarily possess the hands-on experience either. Let alone know anything about fish farming. Even practised hydro growers will need to brush up on organics and quit relying on chemical fertilisers. Personal research and study will be essential to build up a knowledge base.
Raft aquaponic systems are a terrible idea for marijuana. Don’t even go there. You can’t crop top-shelf buds in swamp-like conditions. Stick with hydroponic systems, that have already proved themselves amongst cannabis cultivators. High-quality oversized piping and additional water filtration to remove solids will be necessary to avoid blockages. Figuring out the optimal ratio of fish to plants for your system or the feeding rate ratio is not easy and will be the greatest challenge.
Long-term aquaponics cultivation will necessitate a second system, if you intend to take cuttings and/or rotate crops. One system will need to be tuned to the vegetative growth stage lighting schedule and nutrient requirements, while the second must be adapted specifically for the bloom cycle.