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Aquaponics For Growing Cannabis

May 29, 2020
Gardening Tools & Equipment

Everything You Need to Know About Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a simple way to cultivate plants and farm fish at the same time. Though it’s been used with great success for years, the cannabis sector is only now showing interest in using aquaponic methods for marijuana seed cultivation. Read on to learn about the aquaponic method, its advantages, its challenges, and its uses in the cannabis industry.

Getting Started With Aquaponic Cannabis Cultivation

Although the aquaponic method is time-tested, many cannabis farmers have only recently heard about it. Getting an aquaponic setup right takes time, effort, and preparation. Aquaponics is like growing plants in an aquarium with living fish inside, so striking the right nutrient balance for the fish and your cannabis plants can be rather tricky.

If you’re at the beginning of your cannabis cultivation journey, it may be best to start with another cultivation method. Due to its complexity, aquaponics is appropriate for those with prior weed-growing experience. This article will serve as a basic guide for those who are ready to dive into the aquaponic method.

Aquaponics: What Is It and How Does it Work?

As mentioned above, aquaponics is like growing plants in a fish tank. It’s a combination of aquaculture and hydroponic methods. In the simplest terms, aquaponics is a way for a cultivator to use their knowledge of nutrients and fish to create a balanced ecosystem that suits the needs of the plants they’re growing.

As far as cannabis is concerned, it’s a matter of ensuring that the fish are excreting a high volume of nutrients. Marijuana plants need constant nourishment, and the fish will have to work very hard to meet the demand. When the fish are well-fed, their excretory products feed the plants growing directly above.

Now that you’ve learned what an aquaponic garden is, it’s time to learn the advantages and drawbacks of this relatively new cannabis cultivation method.

The Benefits of Aquaponic Cannabis Cultivation

If you’ve ever grown weed in a hydroponic garden, you may wonder why it’s necessary to bring in a tank full of fish. Why are so many growers turning toward aquaponics? Traditionally, these setups were used as an inexpensive way to cultivate fish and plants at the same time.

Compared to hydroponics, aquaponics is a very technology- and energy-efficient way to grow plants. Growing marijuana in a hydroponic garden requires a substantial amount of water and the manual addition of nutrients regularly, making it a time-consuming endeavor.

If you like taking care of a fish tank, the idea of simultaneously farming fish and cannabis may seem exciting. For most indoor weed seed growers, though, aquaponics is merely an energy-efficient way to grow cannabis in places that may have infertile soil, insufficient rainfall, or other cultivation challenges.

In most cases, the amount of water required for fish farming is substantial. However, when fish excretory products are consumed by plants, those water requirements diminish. Many of today’s commercial cultivators use the aquaponic method if they’re farming fish that work well with classic cannabis strains.

Growing with aquaponics is fun because you won’t just end up with a big weed crop; you’ll also end up with a thriving fish farm. It takes a grow op to a higher level, creating a new ecosystem to provide the nourishment growing Lemon Kush or Master Kush cannabis plants need. With aquaponics, the product is 100% organic because it was farmed in a permaculture method. I49 marijuana seed growers use aquaponics not just because it yields a healthy and clean product, but because it provides a fun learning experience.

Challenges Faced by Aquaponic Farmers

No matter which approach a grower uses, they’re sure to face challenges. This is particularly true for perfectionists. However, with time and patience, it’s possible to master the art of aquaponics.

The most significant challenge is to maintain the proper nutrient level. As cannabis cultivators already know, high-THC plants like Bruce Banner and White Widow need a lot of nutrients, and it can be quite difficult to get the level right when those nutrients are coming from fish. Once things are in balance, though, an aquaponic system essentially maintains itself.

If you aren’t planning to consume the fish you’re farming, you’ll have to decide what to do with them. As fish grow, they’ll eventually need to be replaced with smaller, younger ones. The fish in an aquaponic farm can be eaten, sold, or preserved for later use.

Though it may take up to a year for the ecosystem to develop and offer maximum bioavailability of nutrients, the wait is worthwhile. Once that occurs, the plants will grow much faster, offsetting the space taken up by the fish tanks. In a conventional soil-based garden, water is lost through evaporation and ground absorption. However, in an aquaponic garden, water losses are minimal and primarily due to evaporation.

Setting Up a Basic Aquaponics System

To succeed, an aquaponics system needs two parts: a place for the plants to grow and a place for the fish to live. These systems work in tiers, and the bottom level is where the fish produce waste. The water makes up the middle level, where bacteria convert the fish waste into absorbable nutrients.

In turn, the nutrients provide food for the cannabis plants’ roots, which are hanging in the water much like they would in a hydroponic system. Finally, the uppermost level looks like it would in a conventional garden, with lights, fans, and other equipment.

Choosing Fish

In an aquaponic system, it doesn’t matter which fish species are used. Some people use shrimp or minnows, while others use ornamental fish like koi because of their good looks. Many species, including goldfish, are tough enough to stand up to the rigors of life in an aquaponics system.

On the other hand, some growers use edible fish that can be enjoyed once their time in the system has come to an end. For instance, tilapia is an edible fish that can be cultivated alongside cannabis plants.

The Bacterial Biofilter

Of all its components, the most important part of an aquaponic system is the bacterial colony. This family of microorganisms is known as the biofilter, and it’s up to the grower to decide whether to keep it separate or to grow it as a biofilm within the tank. The biofilter is a colony of microbes that ties the entire system together.

Without the biofilter, you’ll be left with a hydroponic system that’s not likely to succeed. In a hydroponic setup, the grower would have to add nutrients, but in aquaponics, the bacteria take care of it. When bacteria aren’t cycling through the water, the plants won’t have the nutrients needed for healthy growth.

In the absence of bacteria, the fish waste products won’t be converted into absorbable nutrients. The bacterial filter bridges the gap between the Pure Indica plants and the fish, and without it, an aquaponic system simply can’t succeed.

The Pump & Filter

Your fish habitat will need a water pump and filtration system. For the health and vitality of the fish, it’s important to filter the water occasionally. By putting the drainage system and pump on a timer, it’s easy to conserve water and make the fish farming process more efficient.

A Dual Tank Setup

Some aquaponic cannabis cultivators use dual tank setups because their plants’ nutrient requirements vary during the flowering and vegetative stages. When the plants are vegetating in one tank, growers can prepare the other tank with the right nutrient blend for flowering.

Purchasing an Aquaponics System

For those looking to get into aquaponics quickly, there are ready-made systems on the market. These pre-assembled systems make it easier for new cannabis growers to get started. With a prefabricated aquaponics system, all you’d need to add is a few fish!

Achieving a High Crop Yield With Aquaponics

To get the highest possible yield from an aquaponic crop, it’s crucial to ensure that nutrients are constantly circulating throughout the system. Indoor-grown cannabis needs a lot of nutrients, and without the proper balance, the plants’ health will suffer.

Striking the right balance between the plants and the fish will take time, experimentation, and patience. After all, an aquaponic setup is a small ecosystem, and getting things right is as much an art as it is a science.

Attaining the correct nutrient balance and production level is a matter of cycling the bacteria with the fish. The cycling process should be done gradually so the plants aren’t put in too early. If the planting phase is rushed, growers run the risk of losing some great seeds. For the health and wellness of your plants and fish, the nutrient balance should be almost perfect. You should also be sure to germinate your regular or feminized seeds using our recommended method before transplanting into the aquaponics apparatus.

In Conclusion

Though aquaponic cannabis cultivation is challenging and requires attention to detail, it’s rewarding to create and nourish an entire ecosystem. Aquaponics will get you into marijuana and fish farming at the same time, and the learning curve can be steep. It’s a big eye-opener that teaches us how numerous components work together to create the rich complexity seen in the natural world. Work hard, be patient, and have some fun cultivating cannabis and farming fish!

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