Growing Cannabis with Aquaponics: An Overview
Wednesday June 12, 2019
W hat if we told you that there’s a way to grow cannabis and provide organic nutrients to your plants directly from their source while giving some home-grown pets a healthy, happy environment in which to thrive? And what if we told you that, after the initial setup, your plants (and fishy pets) would be able to grow on their own with minimal need for outside interference?
The best part? This grow technique already exists and doesn’t require any fancy technology, either. In fact, aquaponics, or the act of growing plants and fish together in the same closed-loop system, has been in practice since 1000 AD by the ancient Mayans who grew plants on rafts afloat lake surfaces. The Aztecs (1300-1521) improved the technology through a series of canals and artificial islands on which crops thrived thanks to the nutrient-rich soil and ample access to water. Today, aquaponics is often used as a means of environmental protection or simply by those wishing to cultivate their own food in small spaces – and, of course, for cultivating cannabis!
What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is the combination of fish farming and soilless hydroponics. The premise of aquaponics is that nutrient-rich fish waste can be used to fertilize plants and that plants can filter out the waste to maintain a healthy living environment for fish.
Essentially, fish water is pumped directly onto plant root systems. Then, after the plants have filtered out the waste, the water is pumped back into the fish tank or pond.
Fish are happy, plants are happy, and farmers (who can cut their labor by 75 percent and increase plant size an average of 10 times) are extremely happy. When it’s all said and done, both plants and fish can be harvested and either consumed or sold.
Why Grow Cannabis with Aquaponics
There are many advantages to aquaponic cannabis cultivation that go well beyond easy, accurate nutrient applications. Aside from turning a cannabis crop into a fish farm, aquaponic grows take up considerably less space than soil grows while producing plants that are both larger and denser, as well. Plants also tend to reach maturity quicker thus speeding harvest time and turn-over rate. No other cultivation method produces the volume and speed of an aquaponics grow with such little effort and resources.
Additionally, aquaponic setups do not experience the weed and pest problems that soil grows do which helps eliminate the need for laborious weeding and pesticides like neem oil – a common potential contributor to conditions like Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome. Aquaponic grows also use 90 percent less water than traditional cultivation practices which is especially important given scarce water supply.
Best Fish for Aquaponic Grows
Though many different kinds of fish do well in aquaponic setups, choosing the right fish for a cannabis aquaponic grow requires a bit more consideration. First, because cannabis requires more nutrients than, say, lettuce, you’ll need to find fish that do well in crowded, sometimes unfavorable environments. Tilapia is the most common fish type to use in cannabis grows, followed by trout and goldfish because of their reliance and easy adaptability. They also thrive in temperatures comparable to cannabis’s ideal temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and require little attention to survive.
It’s also important to consider what will happen with the fish after harvesting the plants. Though fish have a lifespan of many years, eventually they will need to be displaced or disposed of to prevent excessive crowding. Aquaponics setups usually require one pound of fish for every five to seven gallons of water; if the fish breed, they’ll need to be thinned out for the best results. So, what to do with fish from an aquaponics grow? Should they be eaten? Moved to a more spacious pond? Answers to these questions will largely determine the type of fish to use in an aquaponics grow setup; ornamental fish like goldfish or koi adapt well to outdoor environments whereas edible fish like tilapia and trout can make for a nice entre come dinner time.
Aquaponics is both a fun hobby and an environmentally-friendly cultivation practice. Those with an existing hydroponic cultivation setup can easily modify their system to accommodate aquaponics and will no doubt be pleased with the results.
Have you ever tried aquaponics cultivation systems for cannabis grows? We’d love to hear about your experience.There are many different ways to grow cannabis, and some are more unique than others, Growing cannabis with aquaponics is not the most popular method around, but certainly is a fun way to take your marijuana cultivation skills to the next level and experience something new!
Aquaponics – An Introduction To Fish-Fueled Cannabis Farming
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.Imagine a hydroponics system, that’s completely organic self-sustainable and nothing goes to waste. Get ready to have your mind blown by aquaponic cannabis. ]]>