Growing Marijuana With Aquaponics
Aquaponics is an entirely contained grow system that involves marijuana plants (or any other kind of plants, for that matter) growing from the nutrient-rich water that comes from fish living in it. It might sound somewhat strange, but to anyone interested in creating something that sustains itself and is, therefore, environmentally and budget friendly, it is a perfect setup for growing marijuana plants.
The difference between aquaponics and hydroponics
You have likely heard of hydroponics before, but this system is not the same as an aquaponics system — despite the fact that the two names seem to mean more or less the same thing. Hydroponics is a system that involves growing plants (marijuana plants as well as any other kind of plant) in water. A hydroponics setup can be an extremely effective way to run a marijuana growing operation.
So why would anyone want to change from hydroponics? The fact is, a hydroponics system often involves plenty of chemical fertilizers that are mixed into the water to get your plants the nutrients they need. Because aquaponics is an entirely organic system, you wouldn’t need any chemicals at all — and that means a healthier, more Earth-friendly setup (as well as a highly successful one).
In an aquaponics setup, the fish give the plants the food that they require, and the plants clean up the water that goes back to the fish, so both sides of the ecosystem are happy and healthy. You simply take care of the system to keep things going, and the rest takes care of itself.
An aquaponics system is a win-win. The fish need the plants to clean out their water because otherwise, you would have to constantly change the tank’s water. This is because of the natural processes of the fish: they eat, and then they produce waste. If the waste is left to sit in the tank, it could eventually kill your fish because nitrates will build up.
Incidentally, nitrates are exactly what your marijuana plants love to eat. They crave the ammonia-rich waste that changes into nitrites and, after that, nitrates. Once the plants have eaten their fill, the now-clean water is cycled back around and into the fish tank, where the fish eat and produce waste and then provide plants with some more nutrients once again. The cycle goes on continuously, forming a sustainable system.
Some people do their own simpler version of an aquaponics system by simply keeping the water from their own fish tank (that stands alone rather than being part of an actual aquaponics system), and then using that water to feed their plants. It requires more hands-on effort, but it is also highly effective and cheaper in terms of up-front costs.
Generally speaking, it is said that the pH level is highly important in an aquaponics system. This is doubly important since you are going to be maintaining it not for just one type of organism, but two: the marijuana plants and the fish. For that reason, it’s important to consider the ideal pH level for each species.
Marijuana plants growing in water do best when the pH level is between 5.5 and 5.8. Fish do best if their water is between 6.5 and 7.5. Since there isn’t any overlap, a compromise is in order: keep the pH level a consistent 6.2. If the pH level changes dramatically and suddenly, the fish could easily die, so only change it at a speed of 0.2 at a time. Any pH changes should be done using some sort of an organic substance.
At this point, you probably have more expertise with marijuana plants than with fish. For that reason, let’s take a look at the specifics behind the fish in your aquaponics system. Most growers prefer to use tilapia for their system, but that is by no means the only type of fish possible. There have been reports of fish such as beta fish, goldfish, or even largemouth bass getting the job done in an aquaponics system.
Additionally, you don’t even necessarily need to use only fish for your aquaponics system. People have successfully used snails, crayfish, and shrimp in their system. The key is finding a balance that works with the size of growing operation you are running. Be sure to have at least some basic knowledge of fish species behavior (i.e. male beta fish can be aggressive towards one another)
Is aquaponics for you?
If you are someone who has never grown marijuana before, then trying an aquaponics system is not for you. You can do plenty of research about marijuana, but until you have firsthand experience about growing the plant, you will not have reached the level of understanding that you need for a more complex setup such as an aquaponics system.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t try it. If you are willing to put in the money and take the risk, it might be an interesting challenge for you anyway. If you like to build things, try building the aquaponics system from scratch — plenty of people have done it before. If you would prefer to make it as easy as possible, you can purchase a “home aquaponics system” on Amazon or other websites. You can also purchase each of the components that make up an aquaponics system and assemble the setup yourself.
Current use of aquaponics
Aquaponics systems are still pretty new, but they are already being used in various ways. Some smaller scale marijuana growing operations use them, but also urban farms. Aquaponics are growing in popularity in the non-marijuana world as well — for example, people might use them indoors to have access to freshly grown produce during any season, or smaller scale farms use them to grow vegetables to sell at local farmer’s markets.
Because they are sustainable, aquaponics is beginning to crop up around the world where sustainable living is being established. The system enables those living in urban environments to grow crops without living out in the country.
By Robert Bergman, founder of ilovegrowingmarijuana.com. Robert has been growing cannabis passionately for over 20 years and shares these insights to educate growers avoid mistakes and to fully capitalize on a bud’s potential.