If you want to start a small garden with a minimal carbon footprint, aquaponics gardening is an excellent method to use. Aquaponics uses less water, less space, and generates less waste, but produces more yields than other gardening methods. With aquaponics, not only do your crops grow faster, but they also have more flavor and aroma than plants grown in traditional methods.
One type of crop that grows perfectly in aquaponics systems are herbs. Many people grow herbs for medicinal or culinary purposes, and through aquaponics growing methods, not only do your herbs grow faster, but they also have more flavor and aroma than herbs grown in traditional growing methods. However, to have a successful aquaponics herb garden, some steps need to be taken to ensure your herbs are healthy and thriving.
Why Grow Herbs in Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a sustainable way to grow food. It involves raising fish and plants in one integrated system, where fish wastes are converted into fertilizer for the plants by the nitrifying bacteria. In return, the plants clean the water for the fish to live, producing one continuous cycle.
Aquaponics is based on the nitrogen cycle. Where fish produce waste (ammonia), the bacteria break it down into nitrates. A pump carries the water from the fish tank that is high in nitrates into the grow bed where the plants are growing. The plants draw nitrogen from the water that feeds the plants and cleans them before returning to the fish tank. This cycle repeats over and over again. Aquaponics systems are easy to set up and require little maintenance. Here are some benefits of growing herbs in aquaponics:
- Aquaponics uses less water than any gardening method. Up to one-tenth of the amount used in soil-based gardening.
- There is no weeding involved in aquaponics because of the absence of soil.
- Growing herbs with aquaponics are organic. You can’t use any harsh chemicals or fertilizers in aquaponics because they might affect the fish.
- Herbs can be grown all year round in aquaponics because you can grow indoors, outdoors, or in the greenhouse with aquaponics.
- Herbs grown in aquaponics grow faster than those that are grown in the soil. Herbs in aquaponics have access to nutrient-rich water 24 hours a day.
- Aquaponics gardening does not need a large space of land to set up.
Essential Things to Consider for a Successful Aquaponics Herbs Garden
1. Choose Your Setup
You can choose between a media-bed system, a raft system, an NFT system, or a combination of these systems. If you want to save cost in building your aquaponics set up, you can do a DIY system using recyclable materials. You can also purchase a kit that includes everything you need to set up and run an aquaponics system within a small amount of time. The media bed system is the recommended setup for aquaponics beginners because it is the easiest system to set up, use and maintain.
2. Choose the Type of Fish you Want to Raise
Once your system has been set up, choosing what type of fish species you want to grow in your system is another consideration you have to make. One of the essential questions you need to ask is, are you growing fish for consumption or decoration only? If you want to harvest fish for food, tilapia, trout, catfish, and bass are great fish species for aquaponics. But if you want decorative fish species, goldfish and koi are a great choice. Your location, temperature, local laws, and fish availability will influence your choice of aquaponics fish.
3. Select the Herbs That Will be Grown for Cultivation
The great thing about aquaponics is you can grow almost any plant in the system. However, to ensure the success of your aquaponics garden, choose plants that grow best in your location and climate. The popular herbal plants for aquaponics are basil, coriander, sage, watercress, lemongrass, oregano parsley, and more.
4. System Maintenance
Keeping your herbs and fish healthy requires regular maintenance. Maintaining the water quality of your system is one thing to keep in mind. The water quality parameters that need to be maintained are; ph, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrates, and temperature. Fish need to be fed two or three times daily, so they must have regular feeding time and be careful with overfeeding your fish because this can affect the water quality in your system.
How to Grow Herbs in Aquaponics
Watercress is one of the healthiest and easiest herbs to grow in aquaponics. Watercress is an ancient green member of the cruciferous family, alongside kale, broccoli, arugula, and brussels sprouts. It has become popular now because of the growing awareness of its nutritional content.
How to Grow Watercress in Aquaponics:
- The easiest way to plant watercress in your raft system is to purchase seeds and line the bottom of your floating raft with cotton wool or hemp fibers. Then sprinkle your watercress seeds across the top in the same way you would if planting in soil. Gently place the floating raft in the water and wait for them to grow.
- If you’re using a grow bed, plant your watercress as you would with other plants.
- The pH requirement for watercress is between the range of 6.6 to 7.5.
- Watercress does well in a temperate environmental climate. Temperature ranges from 50° to 60° F will be ideal.
- Watercress herbs thrive in full sun.
- Ensure you give your plants adequate spacing so they don’t compete with nutrients, space them around 9 to 12 inches apart.
Sage belongs to the mint family, alongside other herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary. Sage has a strong aroma and earthy flavor and is usually used in small amounts, but it’s packed with essential nutrients and compounds.
How to Grow Watercress in Aquaponics:
- Sage grows well in aquaponics grow media and likes to receive at least 8 hours of full sunlight every day.
- The pH requirement for sage’s optimum growth is between the range of 6,5 to 7.0
- Sage likes the temperature of between 60° to 70°F.
- Place sage on the spot where it will receive full sunlight.
- In planting sage, provide plant space between 18 to 27 inches to ensure that every herb gets the same nutrients.
Parsley is a herb that is native to the Mediterranean and Europe. Parsley is a popular ingredient in many recipes and is cultivated worldwide with its refreshing and high market value. The two most common types of parsley are the curly-leaved parsley and the Italian or flat-leaved parsley. Labeled as one of the most potent disease-fighting plants, parsley provides nutritional value and offers many potential health benefits.
How to Grow Parsley in Aquaponics:
- Parsley is a simple, undemanding crop that grows well in aquaponics systems.
- Parsley thrives in the pH range of between 6.0 -7.0.
- For optimal growth, parsley requires a temperature of between 60°F – 80°F.
- Grow your parsley in a spot where it catches at least 5 hours of sun daily.
- Parsley requires shade when the sun is too hot.
- For greater yield, plant parsley 15 cm to 30 cm apart to avoid nutrient competition.
- Parsley is a great companion plant for asparagus, tomato, and corn.
Thyme is an herb from the Mint family that is fast gaining popularity for its medicinal qualities. This herb is always present in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Latin, and Central American cuisines because of its lovely aroma.
How to Grow Thyme in Aquaponics:
- Thyme prefers a pH range of between 6.0 – 8.0 to thrive.
- Thyme is a drought-friendly herb and prefers a temperature of 70°F.
- Plant thyme 12 to 24 inches apart to obtain a higher yield and avoid nutrient competition.
- Thyme loves total sun exposure of at least 6 to 8 hours every
Oregano is one of the staple herbs from many recipes around the world. It has a strong flavor and can be used fresh, dried, or as an oil. Although oregano is usually used in small amounts, it is still packed with essential nutrients.
How to Grow Oregano in Aquaponics:
- Oregano prefers a pH range between 6.0 – 8.0.
- Oregano loves sunny weather, so plant them in a spot where they receive full sunlight.
- Plant your oregano 8 to 10 inches apart to give enough space to spread.
Chamomile is a fragrant herb that is a member of the sunflower family. Chamomile is famous for its healing qualities but is also often used in dessert recipes because of its gentle and sweet taste.
How to Grow Chamomile in Aquaponics:
- Chamomile can attract beneficial insects that can ward off harmful pests in your aquaponic garden.
- It is recommended to use media beds in cultivating aquaponics chamomile.
- Chamomile requires a pH range of between 5.6 – 7.5 to thrive.
- Chamomile prefers temperatures between 55°F – 60°F.
- The herb enjoys full sun exposure of at least 4 to 6 hours every day.
Rosemary is a beautiful herb to add to your aquaponics system. Besides its benefits, rosemary is a natural pest repellent that will help protect your other plants from pests. Rosemary prefers at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day to thrive. So make sure you can provide this requirement before growing rosemary in our aquaponics system. Rosemary is a perennial evergreen herb. Meaning it does not shed during winter, plus it remains green throughout the year.
Common Varieties of Rosemary:
- Arp – This grows 3 to five feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.
- Tuscan Blue – This variety grows blue-green shrubs to shear to the shape you want quickly.
- Prostratus – Also called Creeping Rosemary, this variety works effectively as a groundcover.
How to Grow Rosemary in Aquaponics:
- Rosemary thrives in the pH range between 6.0 – 7.0.
- The temperature requirement for rosemary is 70°F.
- Plant your rosemary 2 to 3 feet apart to avoid nutrient competition and higher yield.
One essential thing to remember in aquaponics gardening is that the ecosystem balance between fish, plants, and bacteria should be maintained at all times to ensure that everything is running well. An imbalance may happen at times, but you’ll have a successful aquaponics herbs garden with regular monitoring and fast action.