Growing cannabis with a hydro system is a well-established practice that some growers are already familiar with. However, aquaponics presents a different growing method that can introduce some challenges to beginner growers. Described as a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and plant production, aquaponics relies on efficient systems that work symbiotically—creating a seamless cycle for plant and fish production. Unlike hydroponic systems, aquaponic growing methods depend on the presence of fish or shellfish.
By combining these two systems, growers can benefit from creating a seamless cycle that produces both fish and plants. Cannabis growers who use this method experience both benefits and drawbacks. This blog aims to provide a brief overview of the aquaponic growing method while also exploring key benefits and notable considerations for cannabis growers.
Understanding the Aquaponic Growing Method for Cannabis Production
In an aquaponic system, cannabis depends on the fish for their nutrients. Instead of adding plant nutrients into the water, growers can rely on the fish to produce the waste needed for cannabis to grow. Here, fish ingest their own nutrients in the “rearing tank” from the fish food you provide, releasing their waste into the water. Bacteria, which act as your “biofilter,” then convert this waste into plant nutrients. Plants take in these nutrients and simultaneously clean the water for the fish.
Cannabis typically requires lots of nutrients to grow in an aquaponic system. For this reason, growers will add extra fish to the tank, selecting ones that can thrive in tight spaces—like tilapia (edible), koi, or goldfish. Growers can also employ the “double root zone” method by physically separating plant roots into two sections. This includes:
- Submerging the bottom of the roots in water
- Placing a physical barrier between the two sections (i.e. burlap or mesh)
- Adding nutrient-rich soil to the top
The Benefits of Using Aquaponics for Those with Cannabis Careers
Aquaponic systems might be slightly difficult to set up, but they can be very rewarding. In addition to producing cannabis, growers can also farm their own edible fish in the same system. By using aquaponic-specific fish food, those with cannabis careers can ensure a toxin-free environment for their plants—easily contributing to their health and growth.
Cannabis growers rely on aquaponics for a faster growing rate, where their plants can be harvested on average around 10 days earlier than with regular methods. Using this method can also help the environment. Less water is needed to maintain these systems, particularly as the water has a double purpose—making it more sustainable. Cannabis growers also benefit from growing their crops organically, where fertilizer is replaced by nutrient-producing fish.
Notable Considerations about Growing Cannabis Using Aquaponics
It should be noted that aquaponic systems can be costly to set-up and slightly difficult to manage. Due to reliance on fish as a necessary ingredient of the process, growers will need to know about best practices for aquarium maintenance. This includes paying particular attention to water temperatures and the welfare of these marine creatures. Those taking cannabis training will know the importance of a sterile growing environment. As such, it’s important to be mindful of any algae growth that can develop and harm your plants. Here, regular cleaning plays a key role in a healthy aquaponic system for cannabis production.
Before experimenting with aquaponics, cannabis growers should be prepared to have increased responsibilities. It would be a good idea to understand how to optimize your aquaponic systems to ensure the best nutrients for both vegetative and flowering cannabis while maintaining the safety of the fish. In this case, growers can plan ahead and test the water to make sure plants take in most of the nutrients before the water is circulated back into the “rearing tank.”
Are you interested in taking cannabis industry courses?
Contact AAPS for more information!