Do You Need A Greenhouse For Aquaponics?

With aquaponics, the idea goal is to cultivate plants and crops in a controlled environment to achieve the best harvest at a faster rate than with traditional in-soil farming. This can be undertaken in either an indoor or an outdoor setting, where the results will be virtually identical.

The difference between the two will be in the amount of work required in an outdoor setting to combat the weather conditions, to control pests, to fight diseases, and even to protect the fish from harsh direct sunlight. Constant vigilance is required to offset these challenges, and that incurs more expenses and more stress.

A practical solution to balance the scales between starting an indoor or outdoor aquaponics farm is a greenhouse. It eliminates a host of challenges, affording protection against the elements while offering more control over the infrastructure.

Benefits Of A Greenhouse In Aquaponics

Practitioners of aquaponics understand the requirements of having a balanced system where the interdependent nature of the bio-sphere needs to flow seamlessly. Outdoors, there are numerous obstacles looming to create pitfalls that interrupt the cycle if not constantly brought under control.

With large commercial aquaponics farms, larger areas are needed to set up the system that most brick-and-mortar dwellings cannot house. The options are either to install the farm completely outdoors and overcome the challenges as they occur, or opt for constructing a greenhouse that can be customized to suit your personal circumstances.

Immediate advantages of a greenhouse stem from being able to create and nurture a micro-controlled enclosure where out-of-season crops can be cultivated.

Establishing this sheltered environment in a location where there is normally insufficient sunlight or heat can encourage the crops within to be grown to healthier fruition, and the fish reared in a protected underwater world, 

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Surrounded by ever-changing seasons or just a naturally colder climate, that warmth can be provided by heat lamps, heat blowers, or some other source of artificial heating. To discharge any excess heat build-up, air vents can be installed to reduce overheating and regulate the temperature.

Conversely, if there is too much heat on the outside that, too, can be mitigated from the glass or plastic material that the greenhouse itself is composed of, or from cooling fans installed inside.

The prime objective of selecting an aquaponics greenhouse is to optimize the health and growth potential of the crops by creating ideal growing conditions and at the same time nurture the lives of the fish. One of the best ways to do that is to protect them from adverse weather fluctuations, pests, and diseases.

A greenhouse affords all of these benefits and is undoubtedly value for money even after the initial investment needed for extra equipment.

The Future Of Aquaponics Greenhouses

Recent studies have highlighted the benefits of utilizing greenhouses for aquaponic farming, not just for commercial growers but for personal ones as well. The flexibility in size availability makes it convenient for all types of environments and growers.

A popular type of greenhouse is euphemistically called the Growing Dome. It is classed as the best for a variety of reasons that include its diverse sustainable growing environment, its ability to foster hybrid conditions, and the inclusion of an above-the-ground year-round pond that is a perfect site to house a fish tank.

Within the Growing Dome greenhouse, there are generally two types of systems, Stand-Alone or Modular. Both have exceptional components that enhance the operational capabilities, but the choice of which is better boils down to the preference and objectives of the individual farmer. With either one, there is a possibility of having two income streams under one roof.

Traditionally in aquaponics, the fish are just a part of the biosphere with their waste being the main bi-product. In a Growing Dome, they can be harvested and sold on to create additional revenue, a major boon for growers both large and small.

This increase in profits will significantly attract more investors into this sector of greenhouse aquaponics farming, especially in colder climates where growing seasons are shorter and more challenging.

Tips For Using An Aquaponics Greenhouse

At the outset, it is important to take under consideration that there are two distinct lifeforms housed under one roof, each requiring different needs to survive and thrive. Crops require more sunlight and heat but can cope with slight fluctuations better compared to their fishy co-inhabitants

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To maximize their potential, placing the grow beds in a position where they can take advantage of those two life-giving resources will result in heavier crops and increased production.

Fish, on the other hand, fall into the sun-dodging category, preferring to reside in the shade. If the tanks overheat due to incorrect placement in direct sunlight, the dissolved oxygen will decrease to dangerous levels and can risk the lives of the fish. A key point to remember is that it is a much more arduous task to cool down a fish tank than it is to heat one up.

Fortunately, there are greenhouses specifically manufactured for aquaponics, having an insulated south-facing wall to guard against direct sunlight, yet allowing in enough heat and light for plants and crops to flourish.

Employing the use of one of these greenhouses is a perfect choice to encourage year-round crop growing and harvesting. Its construction allows the warmer interior to be maintained at a stable temperature, while the north wall is ideal for placement of the fish tank, being as it is in a more shaded and cooler zone.

This level of strategic insulation saves on heating expenses and assists in minimizing unwanted temperature fluctuations.

There can be no denying that insulated greenhouses retain more heat than uninsulated ones. They are simply easier to manage in seasonal areas where the temperature can swing from one extreme to the next, from freezing cold to blazing hot.

In harsh winters, an uninsulated greenhouse can be unviable to run, the frozen temperatures on the outside mimicked on the inside, heating costs through the roof, and the effort required to keep the crops and the fish from freezing a constant battle of life and death.

Better Aquaponics Crops In A Greenhouse

Maximum productivity is the ultimate goal when deciding to erect a greenhouse over an aquaponics operation, not only from the choice of fish and crops that need to complement each other but also the layout of the farm itself.

With a brand-new greenhouse infrastructure, a blank canvass is there for your specific requirements and goals. Those can range from the walking distance between crops that need to be tended to regularly, to what the surface of the ground is composed of.

Concrete is a top choice as it can be laid level and smooth and, although expensive, is a good option if wheelbarrows are to be used frequently, as well as being easy to clean. Gravel, pavers, and even dirt can be used, each having its pros and cons, from price, ease of availability, to lack of drainage and uneven surfaces that can impede the movement of produce and equipment.

When the pros and cons of utilizing greenhouses in aquaponics farming are weighed up, the questions to be asked are not whether they should be used, but why are they not being used more often? The reasons for their usage easily fall into the positive categories.

Experienced farmers understand that aquaponics doesn’t need greenhouses to be a successful endeavor. But if greenhouse usage can increase productivity, can further protect the living organisms within, and in some quarters is being hailed as the future of agriculture, then surely, it’s better to be ahead of the curve rather than be left behind it.

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Do You Need to Change Water in Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is very similar to Hydroponics in function and system design to a certain degree. Both are soilless systems and use water as the primary way of delivering nutrients. Hydroponics requires frequent water changes, so new gardeners can often ask the following question.

Do you need to change water in Aquaponics? Besides using fish as the source of nutrients in an Aquaponics system, the second most significant difference is you never need to change the water. You will need to top up water lost to evaporation, etc.; however, the system is self-cleaning when in operation.

Why Aquaponics Works?

Aquaponics is the perfect answer to a fish farmer’s need to dispose of nutrient-rich water, and a hydroponic grower’s nutrient-rich water demands.

Aquaponics mimics natural waterways and is a highly efficient way to grow food crops in small areas, yet systems are sustainable.

The primary input in Aquaponic systems is fish food, and as this is eaten, there is fish waste. Over 50% of the fish waste produced by fish comes as ammonia they secrete in urine and smaller quantities through their gills.

The remainder of this waste is excreted, where it goes through a process called mineralization. Here, heterotrophic bacteria consume the fish waste, decaying plant matter, and uneaten food, and all these create ammonia and other compounds.

Once the levels of ammonia rise above certain levels, they become toxic to fish and plants.

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In soil, air, and water, you find Nitrifying bacteria, which can convert ammonia first into nitrites, and from there, they create nitrates that plants consume.

Heterotrophic and nitrifying bacteria cling to tank walls, under rafts, growing media, and organic matter in your system.

Such beneficial bacteria are natural and inhabit an aquaponic system when there is any sign of ammonia and nitrite present.

You have three things to keep alive and healthy in an Aquaponic system. You have your fish, plants, and the resulting beneficial bacteria.

All these rely on each other to live and create a circulating system where every party’s needs are fulfilled. Bacteria consume fish waste to keep the water clean for the fish. Meanwhile, the bacteria provide plants with a supply of usable nutrients.

As the plants grow, they use these nutrients, and by doing so, they act as a filter to clean water the fish live in.

Is There Any Reason to Change Water in Aquaponics?

One of the key reasons you may need to intervene and change the water in an Aquaponic system is if you have a severe algae problem.

Algae is a major nuisance and can cause many problems. Two areas that it can affect are the nutrients for your plants and your system’s pH.

An aquaponic system is a self-contained eco-system, and it is for this reason you shouldn’t have ever to change your water.

Not only this, but when you first build a system, they need to cycle to produce the right environment for your plants and fish.

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Before you consider changing water, here are some things you can do to help prevent the accumulation of algae.

Shading

Shading is the quickest and easiest way to reduce algae in your system. Green algae need light to grow and reproduce. You can use either shade your tanks or cover them with a dark-colored tarp or plastic.

Many growers do paint sump tanks and any transparent plastic black and then white on top as this can reflect the sun and stop water heating up.

On media beds, if you have algae issues on the surface of your media bed or Bato buckets, you can shade by adding more rock or gravel to stop light from reaching the moist areas.

Filtration

Mechanical filtration can play a significant role in algae removal. Equipment can be expensive, although it’s easy to build. You can use filters, screens, and vortex or centrifugal settlement equipment to remove algae from your system.

A grow bed in your system will act as a large mechanical filter and straining algae from your water.

Alternatives

One alternative some gardeners resort to is using Humic Acid. In a deep tank, you can see the water darken from the addition of this. It is this that helps stop algae growth. You can add humic acid as it is beneficial for your plants to help chelate plant nutrients.

Why You Don’t Need to Change Aquaponic Water

Besides ensuring all your pipes and pumps are clean and working correctly. You will find little you need to do in dealing with your water besides checking pH levels.

You will discover much of this because an aquaponic system creates an eco-system rather than a system, which is fed nutrients as in Hydroponics.

Here you can see the functions of the three zones you will have in your system. It is the function of these to deliver nutrients by breaking down waste—the distribution of this nutrient-rich waste and the sealing layer that aids in preventing evaporation and algae growth.

One thing to note is the depth of your grow bed. It is recommended to have 12 inches, although many growers say you can use a regular hydroponic flood table. While possible, it makes the zones far thinner and restricts the range of vegetables you can grow.

Besides the volume of growing media (gravel) and your grow beds’ weight, it is advisable to aim for twelve inches for the best conditions.

Here is a breakdown of the zones and their function.

Zone 1 – The Surface Zone

The uppermost 2-inches of the surface serves two functions. First, we saw it stops a considerable amount of moisture evaporation because of the dry zone it creates.

Second, pea gravel that is dry in this area helps stop collar rot on your crops. You’ll also find the chances of powdery mildew are reduced, and as we have seen, it can stop algae growth.

Zone 2 – Root Zone

Of all the three zones, it is here where the most activity happens, and all the magic happens. You’ll find this root zone ends up around 6-8 inches in depth. Once the bed has been flooded and drains, you get optimal oxygen delivery to your crops’ roots.

All the activity comes from microbes, worms, and beneficial bacteria that accumulate.

It is the flood cycle that distributes all the waste particles across the growing bed. Works break down any solid matter and release minerals into the worm tea. When you flood again, this worm tea mixes with your water to spread around the roots of your crops.

Zone 3 – Mineralization

In the lowest 2 – 3 inches, you find a slurry of fish waste solids and worm castings. From the first entrance to the system, they will be reduced by around 60% in volume.

Once you carry out your flood and drain cycles, the zone receives a boost of freshness by the actions of the most recent delivery of oxygen-rich water.

Conclusion

You have no reason to change the water in an aquaponics system, yet this doesn’t mean you won’t have maintenance. Even with filters and everything else in place, you can end up with blocked pipes or water pumps.

Your system will do as much as it can to care for itself, yet to make sure you get the best results, it doesn’t hurt to add a helping hand.

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Do Rapid Rooters Have Nutrients?

When looking to begin your crops to add to your aquaponics or hydroponics system, you will need a suitable quality starter plug to give your plants the best chance of growth in the early days. One of the biggest names on the market is Rapid Rooter Plugs. Many gardeners often wonder because of the popularity.

Do Rapid Rooters have nutrients? Rapid Rooters are made from natural components of composted tree bark and other plant-based organic materials. The material is soilless, chemically, and pH inert.

It also comes with no added nutrients or pre-fertilizer besides micro-nutrients in the substrate.

Are Rapid Rooters Organic?

Rapid Rooters are made from organic materials such as the composted tree bark and other plant-based components to create the polymer-bound grow plug.

While the packaging doesn’t show these grow plugs are certified organic, you will find the plugs organically inert in several ways:

  • The substrate is made from peat moss and plant-based polymer
  • The grow plugs are not water soluble
  • There is a 6.5 pH of the grow plugs

All parts of the Rapid Rooter are made from natural components; thus, you won’t find any chemical or genetic alterations.

Plants grown in Rapid Rooters won’t be affected or altered by starting life in these growth plugs.

What is a Rapid Rooter Made from Exactly?

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General Hydroponics is the Rapid Rooters manufacturer and one of the prominent names for Hydroponics and Aquaponics gardening materials and supplies.

A Rapid Rooter composition is a unique mix of peat moss (composted tree bark) and plant-derived polymer binders. The medium and polymer combination has proven to have an optimal air-to-water ratio, and because of this, they help result in explosive root growth in the early stages.

Will Rapid Rooters Go Bad?

Rapid Rooters are chemically and organically inert as they are packaged. However, they are like any other growing medium specially designed to improve growth performance.

As a result, they can be prone to anything that could inoculate a growing medium, such as mold, mildew, or rot, if they are not stored correctly.  

Proper storage would entail keeping the Rooters in their packaging until you need to use them. 

Unused portions shouldn’t be handled if possible and kept in sealable plastic bags such as a Ziploc. It is possible to add a small amount of purified water during storage, so long as you place them in a cool, dark place.

With the correct storage, you can find they will last three years or more.

How Does a Rapid Rooter Work?

Consider Rapid Rooter Plugs to be a growing media on steroids. They’re full of powerful and much-needed nutrients for germination. They’re designed specifically to allow seeds to grow well, even though they don’t have any added nutrients in the manufacturing process.

You can make sure your young crops get off to a good start using media designed to help seeds grow to seedlings in the best possible way. The primary advantages come from the air-to-water ratio, which is determined by the medium’s structure.

The medium must be able to hold water and provide oxygen to the developing seedlings’ delicate roots. Plants of any stage or maturity will die in low oxygen conditions, and you can’t afford to take that chance when you’re investing in new crops.

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Most of what occurs during the germination phase impact mature plants later, so it’s a good idea to care for your seedlings using the best grow media.

The composition of this brand of starter plugs uses organic materials bound in a breathable matrix.

It’s all maintained by an organic polymer made from compostable and environmentally friendly materials. These plugs promote the rapid growth of solid and healthy root systems.

Should I Soak My Rapid Rooters?

When searching, you can find many techniques growers use. However, the quick answer is yes; Soak your Rapid Rooter plugs in cool, distilled water before you seed.

Some growers soak plugs in weak nutrient solution before planting; however, Rapid Rooter plugs naturally come with sufficient fertilizers in the compounds.

You can also find some disagreement on the right amount of time to soak your Rooters. Twenty-four hours is the typical recommendation. Positive results can be got when soaking for 1-2 hours, although you are advised to follow the first recommendation if you are in no rush.

The critical part is making sure your water is cool or cold, as this can help simulate the last frost when in soil. Besides this, you’ll find the cold water permeating the grow medium without it dissolving any of the polymer bindings.

Be sure to let plugs drip-dry be moist in the germination phases as excessive soaking will wash away micronutrients in the medium.

How Wet Do My Rapid Rooters Need to Be?

Some growers report plug-germinated-seeds don’t crack open and sprout. A common reason for this is over-watering.

Following the first soaking, plugs should be placed in plug trays with drain holes to let excess moisture drip away. 

Placing your plug trays into a propagation dome helps ensure that excessive runoff can contribute to the chamber’s humidity, thus offering a more even distribution of moisture. 

Water, your Rapid Rooter, plugs enough to maintain their moistness, or so they are above 75% saturation.

Conclusion

Rapid Rooters are one of the best ways to give your plants the best chance to grow strong, right from the start.

Should you have all the right equipment such as your trays, propagation dome, and more, you’ll find the Rapid Rooter makes your life easier and helping your plants.

Related Questions

Here are a few Rapid Rooter and germination-related questions you may like to know the answers to.

How to store Rapid Rooters?

Store Rapid Rooters in a zip-lock bag in the fridge to help them last longer. For using them, remove as many as you require and place them in a small bag, so they warm up without drying out.

How should I start seeds in Rapid Rooters?

Soak your seeds in pH-adjusted water for 12 hours. Place 1/2 inch of perlite in the bottom of your seedling cup. Add 1/4 inch of water to the bottom of a seedling tray.

Take a soaked seed and bury it 1/2 inch deep inside your Rapid Rooter with the pointed end downward. Cover the hole with a more Rooter plug and place the Rooter plug on the perlite.

How do I clone with Rapid Rooters?

Soak your rooter plugs in water for a few hours and then place them in the tray you’ll use to hold your clones. Take your clone’s plant cuttings and make sure they have a stem of at least 2 inches and have a few leaves.

Will seeds germinate in the dark?

Most seeds germinate better when in dark conditions. However, certain species require light to grow. Make sure you understand the difference between seed light requirements and the light requirements seedlings need (sunlight)

How do I germinate seeds faster?

To get seeds to germinate faster is by getting water to the embryo more quickly than usual. One way shown to make a plant germinate faster is to place seeds in a food-grade plastic container. Once you do this, pour hot distilled water to cover them. Likewise, it would help if you determined whether the seeds require cold temperatures to germinate.

Does rooting hormone help germinate seeds?

Soaking seeds in rooting hormone can enhance your seeds’ germination rate compared to merely using water.

When should I remove my propagator lid?

The time to remove your propagator lid is when you spot signs of the seeds germinating. Leaving the cover in place until all seeds sprout means the first plants can grow leggy.

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Do You REALLY Need A Biofilter For Aquaponics?

Any beginner entering into the aquaponics sphere at one point or another will have this question or topic raised. Being newbies, they simply won’t know what to do at this early stage of their learning curve. But to be honest, there are many experienced growers who are also on the fence, hearing many conflicting voices for and against its usage.

The need for a biofilter is bacteria-driven. Beneficial bacteria are an integral component in the recycling system in aquaponics and help to harmonize the existence and wellbeing of the fish inhabitants and the burgeoning plant life. For a harmonious co-existence, a biofilter is a must have

Why Is A Biofilter Needed In Aquaponics?

Imitating nature is the underlying tenet of aquaponics, creating an environment of co-dependency between fish life and plant life. To flourish symbiotically, each relies on the other for nutrients, food, filtration, the conversion of waste materials into nitrates, and the ability to recirculate cleaned water back into the system.

This self-sustaining environment combines the benefits of aquaculture with the system of hydroponics, but it wouldn’t function quite so harmoniously and seamlessly without bacteria. To understand the need for bacteria it is necessary to know how aquaponics work, and that will determine whether a biofilter will be required or not.

The overriding principle with aquaponics is that there is no reliance on fertilizers to aid in plant growth. That chore is undertaken by nutrients. But where do they come from and how are they replenished?

A closed-circuit system like aquaponics utilizes the water from the fish tank to transport nutrients and water in a closed-circuit cycle. known as the nitrogen flow cycle, to the roots of the plants and back again.

The process is initiated by the waste of the fish and as this waste material begins to decay it starts to be broken down into ammonia. If left unchecked, this ammonia will turn toxic to the underwater dwellers and eventually lead to their demise. Adding to this build-up of ammonia will be the decaying organic matter of leftover food and dead plant segments.

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In aquaponics, a conversion process starts to occur due to the interference of beneficial nitrifying bacteria, where the mounting toxic ammonia is converted into nitrite compounds. At this phase, the danger to the fish has been eliminated but the nitrite is still not usable for the nourishment purposes of the plants. What they need are nitrates.

A friendly bacterium called Nitrobacter is the leading protein in the oxidation process that will ultimately convert nitrites into nitrates, so the nutrients can now be absorbed as plant food. Without this beneficial bacterium, the aquaponics farm would fail.

So, if this system functions so seamlessly without any intervention required, why would a biofilter be needed?

The aquaponics closed-cycle system works when there are sufficient beneficial bacteria to complete the conversion cycle. If there is a shortfall due to a lack of surface area for the bacteria to grow, then more bacteria have to be introduced somewhere along the conversion line to make the world go around.

How A Biofilter Works In Aquaponics

Biofilters are essentially a large surface area attached to the aquaponic farm where additional bacteria can set up a colony and grow, increasing the efficiency of the nitrification process if it is underperforming.

Bacterial conversion, from ammonia to nitrites to nitrates, occurs in all aquaponics systems. The need for a biofilter can become necessary if there is an increase in the fish stock in the tank. This can be the result of a spike with breeding, and if so more fish generally equates to more poop, and proportionally more waste means more ammonia.

If this accumulation continues unchecked, the aquaponics farm can enter into the forbidden zone very quickly. Therefore, it is imperative to recognize when the biosphere is in jeopardy and act accordingly to expand the playing field. Fortunately, a biofilter will correct this imbalance automatically if connected to the circuit.

The setting-up process of interconnecting the two and expanding the surface area is not that complicated. It consists of another tank with one or more air pumps that are used to push water from the new side to the old, so they now operate on the same circuit.

Sand or gravel is most commonly used as the growing medium as it allows the colonization of the bacteria to progress easier. Nitrifying bacteria start to proliferate on the expanded surface area and, because bacteria require oxygen to grow and thrive, the biofilter should be set for additional aeration for maximum growth.

Plants will now be able to perform their duties after receiving the nutrients, by cleaning the water which is then returned back to the fish tank to start the cycle all over again. This expansion increases the efficiency of the nitrification process considerably.

All of this process is important to the chemical stability of an aquaponic biosphere, the wellbeing of your fish, and the successful growing of your crops. And the good thing is that nothing goes to waste, recycled as it is again and again.

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A Biofilter in All Aquaponics Systems?

An aquaponics farm is in essence its own filtration system. And an efficient one at that. But with two living organisms to co-exist together a balance has to be reached or one will thrive and the other will decline. There are several factors that need to be considered.

The pH balance is front and center among them. A reading of 7.0 to 7.5 is considered neutral and is ideal for both organisms. If that level drops below 6.0 the nitrification process will slowly grind to a halt and become toxic to the fish and the plants will not receive enough nutrients.

Regular monitoring will detect the pH imbalance which can then be corrected before it gets into this danger zone.

This recalibration occurs naturally in a system that has a growing medium of gravel, clay or lava stones as long as the surface area is large enough to encourage bacteria growth. In this case, a biofilter will not be necessary, the grow beds themselves being the ultimate biofilter.

Problems occur, however, when this natural filtration system is overwhelmed by fish waste. This imbalance arises if more fish are added at a later date, or more fish are birthed in the tank, or even if too much fish food is being entered into the habitat, not eaten, sinks to the bottom and starts to decay. Either one of these will spike the production of ammonia.

Types of Biofilters

When installing a biofilter the location has to be situated after the mechanical filter as it is not designed to handle large fish waste deposits which can become trapped in the pipes. If this happens, the waste will continue to accumulate, creating an aerobic zone that will encourage excessive bacteria growth away from the expanded surface area which will not be utilized, and that will reduce the efficiency of the biofilter.

The mechanical filter acts as a screening filter to control this build-up of solids so the level of ammonia will not become too much for the biofilter to cope with.

There are various models of biofilters but these three are the most frequently used:

A Moving Bed Filter, also known as a Moving Bed Biological Reactor (MBBR), is a biofiltration model that is constantly in motion and at its core revolves around K1 media and constant aeration.

K1 media are made of small plastic discs and are ideal at trapping particles suspended in the water, and their large surface area encourages the growth of bacteria. With their virtual neutral buoyancy ability, they are subjected to a steady stream of air pressure that aerates the water and pushes them around.

This type of biofilter is essentially a constant flow system that uses an air pump to keep well-oxygenated water churning over, essentially creating a biological reactor. This system keeps the K1 media floating and in motion, assisting in the collection of good bacteria, and is especially effective in a raft aquaponics system.

Due to the collision of the media, each disk performs a continual self-cleaning process and this helps by keeping the nitrifying bacteria rejuvenated for optimum ammonia and nitrite nitrification.

A Static Filter biofilter has the advantage of the ease of use and ease of setup. It is essentially a flat tray in a separate container next to the plants, filled with a media mat to provide a sufficiently large enough zone to grow the necessary bacteria needed for the biofilter to work to its fullest potential.

The deeper the media incorporated, the more beneficial bacteria will be nurtured. Here, the principal theory is the water flows through the tray at one end into the media, the conversion from ammonia to nitrates occurs, and the cleaned water flows out through the opposite side back into the closed system.

With a Drip Filter, the water drips into the system from the top, passes through the bio medium at a slow rate, performing the vital conversion process from ammonia to nitrates, and flowing out the bottom on its way back to the fish, completing the cycle.

The Need For The Biofilter

A biofilter doesn’t have to be a part of the aquaponics system from the initial set-up. It can be integrated at a later stage as and when needed. The good news is that its inclusion isn’t a costly addition, and some would say it’s better to have it in place on standby if needed urgently. It is always better to have a quick fallback solution on hand if a nasty build-up of ammonia surges unexpectedly.

The fact that a biofilter requires very little maintenance is a reason all in itself to have one. There is no downside to having one even in this self-sufficient aquaponics biosphere. It can be implemented at any time to regulate ammonia, supplying enough oxygen for additional bacteria growth when required.

Sometimes adjustments in the aquaponics system can create an imbalance between ammonia build-up and lack of nitrates. This can occur due to plants being replaced, reduced and the opposite reactions can occur if the fish population is increased.

What has to be considered, and is often overlooked by beginners and some experienced aquaponics farmers, is the age of the fish being added into this bio-sphere. To maintain the equilibrium a specific stocking method has to be adopted.

This includes having a staggered age range of the fish throughout the same tank and employing a harvesting regime every three months. A recommended approach is to harvest the more mature fish who are now weighing about 500g and restocking them with new fingerlings or juvenile fish weighing about 50g each.

This staggered approach is to avoid swapping out of all the fish at the same time and to alleviate the sudden impact on the system. If a full fish exchange took place at the same time, out with the old and in with the young, then that would result in too much of a drastic adjustment requirement in regards to the filtration process.

Another reason for implementing this rotation is because larger fish tend to eat more than their juvenile co-inhabitants. And when larger fish if eat more they are going to excrete more waste. If this re-stocking process is not utilized, ammonia can reach unfavorable levels, rising completely unnoticed until something starts to die off.

Monitoring and reacting to this fluctuation can take years of experience as well as constantly keeping a close eye on the ph level. With a biofilter connected, these fluctuations are automatically adjusted as the water and the waste are washed through it, maintaining the delicate balance of this bio-diverse system.

The bottom line, the final word, on if a biofilter is necessary for a self-sustaining system like aquaponics, is yes.

Without one, time-consuming re-calibration tasks would need to be incorporated into a more frequent maintenance routine.

With one, your aquaponics farm will be a problem-free dream to run, and your plants, your fish, and your precious time will be the happy beneficiaries.

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Bloombastic vs Big Bud: What Works Best In Hydroponics?

In hydroponics, the ultimate goal is to grow the best crop possible, in as fast a time as possible. This soil-less method is as organic as it can get, and promotes optimal growth of your crops without using pesticides nor harmful chemicals.

The aspiration to accelerate the growing process even further is also every grower’s mission in life. This ideal scenario of increasing food production, of increasing profits for the business itself, would be a dream come true for any farmer.

Two products that would make that possible would be Bloombastic and Big Bud. Bloombastic is ideal for use with flowers to augment the size of the bloom and sweeten the smell, while Big Bud has been engineered to increase the size and intensify the aroma of the buds on your marijuana plant.

Bloombastics Big Growth In Hydroponics

If you are an experienced hydroponics grower who has mastered this growing method, have fine-tuned the nutrition delivery systems, and are harvesting your crops on such a regular basis that it is making your outdoor farming buddy drool with envy, then you probably think that you have no room for improvement.

Surprisingly, there is a way to grow your crops even faster without sacrificing the organic nature that you have been nurturing for years and pack on extra size to your veggies at the same time.

As hard as that is to believe at first, the way to super-size your crops in a reduced time period is to use an organic bloom enhancer. All hydroponics stores keep them in stock, knowing that they are a secret weapon that should be added to the arsenal of every grower.

Composed of organic fertilizers and nutrients, this plant booster gives a continuous burst of additional hormones that accelerates the growing process to another level and will impress the most experienced growers with harvests delivered in record times.

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Flowers that have been dosed with this formulation tend to have an enhanced smell and a bigger bloom, as well as richer colors. Bloombastic is an accelerator that does what it says on the packet. The fact that it can improve the growing capability of plants grown hydroponically is a testament to its incredible enhancing ability, and that can only benefit every grower in this medium.

But what else does Bloombastic bring to the table apart from an incredibly accelerated growing period and a rosier smell?

The answer is in the taste. Being an excellent delivery system, Bloombastic increases the transfer of sugars from the plant itself to the produce, which ultimately influences the taste and texture of your hydroponic crop, making fruits and vegetables seem even riper, sweeter, and juicier. In the case of flowers, a bigger bloom can only mean a better flower.

One of the many reasons modern growers love hydroponics is that crops are grown in a much healthier environment than traditional farming, and every single one of them administers tender care to their crops with the ultimate goal of having bigger, better and more frequent harvests.

Yet even the most hermetically sealed hydroponics farms are not immune to possible infections and the occasional outbreak. By using a bloom enhancer, an array of extra vitamins are infused into the nutrient cycle to further boost the immune system in this inter-connected network, further throwing up a protective shield to ward against any encroaching diseases and to improve overall health.

Bloombastic has all the nutritional ingredients needed to turbocharge the growth and budding potential of flowers and plants in hydroponics. There are, not surprisingly, other bloom boosters on the market that present a lot of stiff competition, to see who can get the title as the blooming best.

Is Big Bud Better?

Another contender for the biggest budder on the market is Big Bud. It is a flowering stimulant specifically designed to kick the flowering process into overdrive. And it does so extremely well for the cannabis plant.

One of the reasons for its effectiveness is the high concentration of PK in the formula. PK, phosphorus and potassium, are two ingredients in the mix that are administered specifically during the flowering period to fatten the buds so they are denser and thicker and to supercharge the growing period.

This stimulation, used towards the end of the flowering period, creates an explosion in the blooming of the buds by thickening the actual cell walls of the plants. Because it is so highly concentrated, following the manufacturer’s instructions is vital to achieve a deeper aromatic flavor and to increase its intensity.

In hydroponics, organic nutrients are best and Big Bud should definitely be a welcome addition to the nutrient regimen, delivering 20 different forms of L-amino acids that help to bulk up your buds and augment the yield by up to an impressive 20%.

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It’s important to recognize that not all bloom boosters are created equal, or that one brand will suit all types of crops. In the case of marijuana plants, there are several stages of growth development, and the technicians that developed the Big Bud formula were very conscious of this fact.

Marijuana plants change drastically as they start to bloom, first through the early growing period, then into the peak budding level, and finally into the ultimate late bloom stage. Within the hydroponic growing system, these blooming phases have different nutritional requirements and with varying PK ratio needs, and Big Bud is an important component in each of these developing stages.

The Best Bloom Booster For Hydroponics

The decision to use a bloom enhancer in hydroponics should be an easy one, a no-brainer. They increase the metabolic rate of your plants so they grow up bigger and stronger, and these organic enhancers help to increase the number of harvestable crops. But which one to choose?

In the case of Bloombastic and Big Bud, it is largely dependent on the type of crops to be grown. Either one of these bloom boosters, if used at the right phases, will propel the growth potential of your product to the next level to make them bigger, thicker, juicier and tastier.

They will continue to do this for every new harvest, season after season, bursting the seams of your crops to their fullest blooming potential. Without a doubt these bloom enhancers are a winner no matter which one you opt for, either one is more than capable of giving a turbocharged boost to your next hydroponic harvest.

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Can You Grow Onions in Aquaponics?

Onions are a staple diet for millions of people around the world and are grown in a myriad of environments to add flavor and texture to many a dish.

The idea of growing onions in an aquaponic system is not only possible but maybe a preferred method of farming to achieve a growing system that would reap a more organic harvest than traditional outdoor planting.

You can grow onions in aquaponic systems. Flood and drain or Nutrient film technique (NFT) systems tend to work best as the roots of onions need plenty of moisture.

Let’s have a look at how this system would work.

Onions and Aquaponics

Growing onions in a field is a labor-intensive farming method and requires pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals to eliminate pests and diseases. And they need a lot of watering.

There are several new revolutionary ways to grow crops over the last few years that have enabled city dwellers to grow onions, fruits, vegetables, and even grapes in an urban environment. These methods have breached centuries of traditional farming and have, in many cases, made it possible to grow staple food products in areas previously unviable and unachievable.

All these systems rely on regular maintenance techniques and nutritional systems to assist in the growing process, and any failure in the chain can lead to a lost or diminished harvest.

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In aquaponics, the best of each of these techniques are utilized in a controlled environment to nurture the growth of onions, while the downsides of many of them are discarded.

No pesticides or chemicals are used, the time-consuming maintenance process is eliminated and even the harvesting process is simplified.

Aquaponics is about harnessing the power of nature itself to create a self-sustaining eco-system. It works by converting the natural waste of fish into nutrient-rich water that is transported through the system to be absorbed by the roots of the onions, and then the cleaned water is returned to the fish tank.

Once the system is installed there is very little ongoing work or maintenance required. This closed-loop aquaculture works harmoniously with the onions and the fish flourish mightily within this self-contained eco-system.

How to Grow Onions in Aquaponics

Creating a continuous cycle is the tenet of aquaponics.

This particular method requires an aquarium, a pump to move the water back and forth from the aquarium to the roots of the onions, a grow bed where your onions will be located, and a selection of fish for the tank itself.

The grow bed can either be placed on top of the aquarium or off to the side. The grow bed, or flood table as it is also called can simply be a plastic tray or a large container as long as the support structure is strong enough.

Once you have decided on the location and how big you want your aquaponic farm to be, select the size of the aquarium. By using an aquarium instead of a solid container, gives you the benefits of having and enjoying your pet fish while growing your new onion crops at the same time.

At this stage prepare the fish tank as normal by dechlorinating the water and then allowing sufficient time for the bacteria to build up over the following weeks.

This is the starting point to set up your very own fully integrated ecosystem. It works by having the natural waste from your fish being broken down into nitrates, and then a pump carrying these nitrates to feed the roots of the onions. Nitrogen is then released by the plants, cleaning the water which is then safe to be pumped back to the fish, and then the cycle is repeated.

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This process is on a continuous loop and the only time water has to be added is if there is a marked level of evaporation or if it is transpired by the plants.

Three Ways to Grow Onions in Aquaponics

There are essentially three types of aquaponics that are used depending on growing experience, the space available, and the scale desired.

The Deep-Water Culture Set Up lets the onion roots drop into the water and take nutrients directly from the water. This method is suitable for a larger scale operation.

The Nutrient Film Set Up is where the roots are left to dangle in a PVC pipe drilled with holes. The water is drawn into the pipe to run over the roots, delivering much-needed nutrients before being fed back into the tank. This method is suitable where space is a consideration and is flexible enough to allow crops to be grown vertically, horizontally, up walls, or even hung from ceilings.

The Media Bed Set Up is the last method and is the most convenient for home growers with little experience, and who opt for a smaller-scale operation. Here the plants are seated in a bed of expanded clay pebbles or gravel, and a pump draws the water from the tank to flow over the roots.

Normally onions require space between the next clove to grow as about a dozen shoots sprout above ground. In aquaponics the bulbs can be set a mere inch apart, allowing more to be grown in a smaller area.

Caring for your Onions in Aquaponics

Growing onions with aquaponics will give you the option to decide how big you want to grow, whether your intention is to feed a small household or a community of onion lovers.

It all depends on the size of the area you have available, from a ledge in your bedroom to a large greenhouse in a nearby field, and, of course, what your goals are. Even the strain of harvesting can be mitigated with the grow bed set to a height totally at your discretion for comfort.

Less water is used due to the closed-loop ecosystem, with hardly any at all being wasted. With this consistent water availability, the bulbs have a tendency to start sprouting quickly as long as the temperature range of between 55°F to 75°F is maintained.

Aside from the importance of having the correct temperatures, having the ph level right is just as crucial, but it can be a little tricky. The onions, the fish and even the bacteria being formed in the water are three distinctly separate living organisms, and all have different ph requirements.

This ph level can be affected by the fish waste, and that can adversely impact the ability of the plants to absorb nutrients, which will reflect negatively on the lives of the fish. So, as you can see the balance of the eco-system as a whole has to be finely tuned regularly.

The optimal range of ph for aquaponics is around 7.0. To ensure a continued harmonious system, it is advisable to monitor this neutral ph balance on a daily basis to avert any wild fluctuations and to keep within this ph safe zone.

And the type of fish selected for this project can make the task of maintaining your onion farm easier also.

One of the ideal types of freshwater fish to use is, believe it or not, is the humble goldfish. They tend to excrete large amounts of waste so your onions won’t be short of nutrients in the conversion process.

But koi can be used, as well as tilapias, and really any hardy fish will do that require minimum maintenance. After all, the beauty of aquaponics is not just the onions you will be growing tenderly, but the aquarium full of colorful, interesting fish that you will be enjoying at the same time.

Harvesting Aquaponic Onions

Aquaponics is a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish and goes hand in hand with sustainability. This collaboration uses less water which is cost-effective and good for the environment and produces 100% organic produce.

Really there is no limit to where your onion crops can be grown with aquaponics and an added bonus is that the growing times are accelerated. This results in a quicker crop of onions being harvested more frequently and, due to this system being so self-contained and self-reliant, the whole interconnected process becomes a game-changer in the field of growing onions.

All in all, aquaponics combines all the new innovative growing methods together with the flexibility to be scaled to fit over a small aquarium filled with an array of multi-colored fish, or scaled upwards for a much larger industrialized farming operation.

Can there be a better way to grow your onions?

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Can You Grow Broccoli in Aquaponics?

When you first run either a hydroponics system or an aquaponics system, it’s hard to know which crops are best to grow.

The smaller systems lean toward shallow rooting vegetables, which are mainly herbs or leafy green sorts of vegetables for salads. However, larger systems can cater to larger crops, and with space, they are perfect for tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, or other vining vegetables that need room to spread.

The question comes down to root vegetables and the possibility of growing them. You can find out the answer, and then other information about growing this healthy vegetable.

Can you grow Broccoli in Aquaponics? You can grow broccoli in your flood and drain media bed or Dutch bucket type system. You find broccoli isn’t so much a large crop; it is heavy. This weight makes it unsuitable for floating rafts, nutrient film, or other similar systems. It is worth growing in larger, supportive beds. However, there are a few other growing demands of this healthy crop you need to know.

Broccoli and Nutrient Requirements

To grow broccoli efficiently, they require lots of nutrients, and thus you may need to adjust the fish population to accommodate this crop.

You will also find it far better to attempt growing broccoli in aquaponic systems, which are well established. Fish levels may be better if they are around 1lb of fish per eight gallons of water rather than 1lb of fish for every 10 gallons.

With a perfectly functioning system, the nitrates’ levels should be 50ppm or as close to this as possible. Besides this, the levels of ammonia need to be low, even with increased fish density.

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Besides this, the other two key nutrients are magnesium and phosphorus, or you may see crop growth slow.

Growing Instructions

When you come to transplant seedlings into your media bed, you ought to do this once they have 4-5 true leaves showing. Your crops at this stage will be around 5.5 to 8 inches tall.

The germination time to reach this stage can be around 4 to 6 days. Besides this, you need to consider the spacing for transplanting as broccoli comes with a large root system.

Seedlings should be planted from 17 to 20 inches apart from each other. Closer than this, and you can see your crops producing smaller central heads.

Growing Conditions for Aquaponic Broccoli

Broccoli is a winter vegetable and won’t take too kindly to growing conditions that are too warm. While it is a beneficial crop to grow, it is on the side of moderately difficult.

You can find seeds that will be bolt resistant to help, though trying to maintain the ideal temperatures will help considerably. Broccoli thrives the best in daytime temperatures of 57 – 62 F (14-17 °C).

Winter varieties will require temperatures around 50 – 59 F (10-15 °C) for the head formation. Temperatures above these are possible, so long as there is a higher humidity level available. Should temperatures be too high (over 65°F), this will cause premature bolting.

Also, broccoli likes full sun for around 6 hours per day. It can cope with a little partial shade, although this could make broccoli mature at a slower rate.

Broccoli can deal with swings in pH levels, although for the health of the rest of your system, aim to keep it at a more neutral level of pH 6 to 7. A digital pH pen is ideal for checking the levels frequently.

Harvesting Broccoli

It would be best if you started harvesting broccoli for the best quality when head’s buds are firm and taut. Harvest immediately when the buds separate and show their small yellow flowers. To preserve taste, it is important to harvest the broccoli in the morning.

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You should cut the heads off your plants and take at least 6 inches of stems diagonally below the head.

Most varieties of broccoli have side shoots that develop after the chief heads are harvested. You can harvest from one plant for several weeks, sometimes, from winter to the beginning of summer as long as summer temperatures are not too hot.

Pests and Disease in Broccoli

Many crops in your aquaponics and hydroponics systems often face less intrusion of pests and disease. Although broccoli is one that, like cabbage, can be prone to the effects of cabbage worms and other pests.

Here are some pests or disease you will need to be wary of when growing broccoli in aquaponics.

  • Aphids: Curled leaves may show the sap from your broccoli is sucked up by insects. A way to combat this is to apply soapy water on all sides of your leaves whenever you see aphids.
  • Cabbage Loopers: If you see small holes in your leaves between the veins, they may result from green caterpillars. Check the underside of the leaves. You can pick these off by hand if the problem is small or fight the problem with Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural bacterial pesticide.
  • Cabbage Worms: Such worms, Whiteflies, or cabbage root maggots can be treated the same way as you treat any cabbage loopers.
  • Clubroot: Rapid wilting of plants can be attributed to this fungus. Your entire plant, including all its roots and tendrils, needs to be carefully unearthed and removed from your media bed. If roots appear gnarled and misshapen, then the root of the club is causing the problem. You will need to remove infected plants swiftly, so the fungus will not continue to spread throughout your system.
  • Downy Mildew: When purchasing broccoli seeds, make sure you purchase varieties resistant to downy mildew. Otherwise, you will spot the yellow patches that are caused by moist conditions. Aim to keep crops dry, and they have plenty of air circulation.
  • Nitrogen Deficiency: Broccoli is a nutrient-loving vegetable. If your fish tank isn’t large enough to cope with numerous broccoli plants, it could lead to a slight yellowing of the bottom leaves rising upward on your plants.

If you have the capacity, you can plant marigolds or calendula flowers close to your broccoli as these help fend off the above pests that take a liking to your crops.

Aquaponic Broccoli Varieties

While there are many varieties of broccoli available, not all are suited to aquaponic cultivation. Here, we have the top three to consider should you decide on broccoli for your soilless system.

Chinese Broccoli

Despite being a broccoli variety, it differs greatly from other cultivars because it grows without florets. Also known as Kai-Lan or Chinese kale, this variety has large, thick leaves with a bitter taste compared to Calabrese and sprouting broccoli.

Chinese broccoli grows quickly, at around 35 days, and thrives well in warmer environments, making it ideal for growing in the summer.

Sprouting Broccoli

In contrast to Calabrese, this kind of broccoli shows more stems and smaller single florets than a central head. Sprouting broccoli is more bitter than other species and can be purple or white.

White-sprouting broccoli is milder and slightly sweeter in flavor than its purplish equivalent.

Calabrese Broccoli

You will be more familiar with the Calabrese Broccoli since it is the most commonly sold variety in stores and markets. The heirloom plant was named after Calabria or “the toe” from the Italian peninsula.

Gardeners highly recommend it because Calabrese broccoli offers an extended harvest period, as it forms side shoots that remain in place after removal of the main head.

Conclusion

Although broccoli can be more challenging to grow than many other crops, so long as you have deep grow beds to offer support and maintain the desired temperatures, there is no reason you can’t dedicate a grow bed to this crop.

While it is usually a large grow bed, you can use a Dutch bucket system to make sure they have ample support. You then have the flexibility of your spacing and won’t waste valuable space in your main bed.

While a challenging crop, broccoli is worth the effort because of its rising costs in the stores and its many health benefits.

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What Size Gravel is Best for Aquaponics?

In the same way that hydroponics is a soilless means of growing, so is aquaponics. One of the key differences being the way the grow beds are constructed. While hydroponics systems tend to grow in pots in various systems, an aquaponic system most often uses flood and drain grow beds, which are full of growing media. Gravel being the most common.

What size gravel is best for aquaponics? There are many sizes available, and in theory, any size gravel can be used. Most hydroponic gardeners prefer pea gravel, which is between 1/8 of an inch up to 3/8 of an inch in size. Although, the smaller 1/8 sized pea gravel being the gravel size of choice. 

Considerations of Aquaponic Growing Media

When you first build any aquaponics system, there needs to be a few considerations when choosing the ideal growing media. Here you can find the things you need to think about, and you can see why pea gravel is the ideal media to use.

Inert: Any aquaponic grow media needs to be pH neutral. Similarly, as a hydroponic system, the pH level in an aquaponic system needs to be controlled.

Fish and plants have their preferred range of pH range, and ideally, you need to aim for a range of pH 7. Many media can change the pH level, although pea gravel isn’t one of them.

All you need to do is thoroughly cycle your system before adding fish or plants to clean away any dust.

Grow Bed Depth: Any grow bed in aquaponics should be a minimum of 12-inches deep for most crops.

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Weight: Any grow media in use in a hydroponic system should be too heavy to handle. It should be light to medium weight, so you can easily dig your holes when you plant your seedlings. On the flip side, if they are too light, they can float in the grow bed and won’t offer support.

Easy to Work With: Grow media can comprise any size or shape, although sharp edges are best avoided. If you use sharp-edged stones, these can be hard on the hands and damage any grow beds that are not constructed from solid materials.

Non-Decomposing: No aquaponic grow media should break down because it can work its way through your system and clog your water pump and reduce dissolved oxygen in the water for your fish.

Pea Gravel for Aquaponics

Pea gravel fits all the criteria and then some. The smaller pea gravel has a large surface area that bacteria can thrive on. With this, the nitrogen cycle is complete and, in turn, delivers robust plant growth.

From the fish waste, the broken-down compounds create ammonia, which passes around your system. Once it flows through your smaller sized pea gravel, it is converted into nitrites by two bacteria strains (Nitrosomonas bacteria).

From here, these nitrites are consumed by the second strain of bacteria (Nitrobacter bacteria) and converted to nitrates. Your crops then use the nitrates as fertilizer.

As there is more surface area on the gravel, a larger number of nitrates are being produced than if larger gravel was being used.

Pea Gravel with Limestone

Generally, your pea gravel won’t contain anything to change your aquaponic system’s pH level radically. However, if there are any traces of limestone, the results could be different.

Before filling your grow beds, you can carry out a test to check whether your bags of small pea gravel.

Take a handful of gravel, place it in a container, and then cover it with some white vinegar. You can see the vinegar fizzles if there are traces of limestone.

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You need to avoid limestone as this will keep your pH above 8, which can harm your plants and your fish.

You can place some gravel in distilled water and check the pH after a couple of days, although it is better not to purchase any gravel you think may be suspect.

One thing to note is that the name pea gravel isn’t a type of gravel, it is because of its size. One dealer can sell something different to another.

Grow Bed Depth and Pea Gravel

One thing any gardener needs to understand when using pea gravel is the depth of the grow bed. The recommended depth is 12 inches, and for a good reason. When building a system, you may be tempted to go for a shallower bed.

Even while pea gravel is the cheapest media you can purchase, the amount you need could be considerable. However, there are reasons why you should opt for a grow bed of this depth, if possible.

Here you can see why avoiding the shallower bed sizes can be beneficial, and it is advisable to scale your system to support the larger bed and the increase in the size of the fish tank you will require.

You will face limitations if you decide to go for a shallow grow bed filled with pea gravel.

Eco-System & Dead Zones

In deep aquaponics grow beds, you naturally create a layered eco-system. One significant benefit of this is that you will prevent any ‘dead zones’ dotted around your grow beds.

Besides this, as you have a thriving environment packed full of beneficial bacteria, worms, and lots of space for roots to grow. You don’t have to clean out your grow bed.

These bacteria and worm communities, along with your plants, do all the cleaning for you. Anything less than 12 inches, and you won’t be able to reap these benefits of a stable eco-system.

Plant Limitations

If you are growing nothing but crops similar to lettuce, you may get away with a grow bed shallower than 12-inches.

However, if you grow indeterminate tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn among the many other crops that can benefit from aquaponics, these shallow beds can’t support them. You won’t receive the same base nutrients and beneficial bacteria for these longer living crops.

One thing not to forget is your aquaponic system can be highly configurable, and you can mix grow beds and use raft systems for short rooting crops and larger grow beds or Dutch becket systems for deep-rooted crops.

Three Zones of Pea Gravel Grow Bed

Zone 1 – Surface Zone

The top 2-inches serve two purposes. It allows for light penetration and acts as the dry zone to limit evaporation. The second reason for this dry zone in your pea gravel is to prevent collar rot and stop any algae forming as the nutrient-rich solution faces light exposure. Also, the infection from powdery mildew is minimized.

Zone 2 – Root Zone

It is in the second or middle layer where the plant activity occurs. Making up this layer is around 6 to 8 inches in depth. As you drain after flooding your grow bed, water drains away completely and presents highly efficient oxygen delivery to the roots, microbes in the soil, worms, and beneficial bacteria.

When you are in the flood cycle, incoming water will distribute all the fish waste particles containing nutrients through the entire grow zone. Worms are highly active in this middle zone, where they break down solid matter to release minerals and add to the underlying worm tea. On each successive flood and drain, this beneficial tea is spread around all your crops.

Zone 3 – Solids & Mineralization

Once you reach the bottom 2-inches, you find all the fish waste solids and worm castings are gathered together. By the time it reaches here, it will have been reduced by around 60%.

In each of your flood and drain cycles, this zone is kept fresh from the effective delivery of oxygen-rich water.

Conclusion

Once you see the benefits of using 1/8-inch pea gravel, you can understand why it is among the most popular media.

It is highly affordable, and any gardener is advised to lean toward the deeper grow beds when possible. Besides this, there is nothing you need to do with pea gravel, and it is one of the easiest materials you can work with.

There is nothing but benefits you can get from using this smaller sized pea gravel than if you used a larger gravel, or an alternative growing media.

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How to Fix and Prevent Nutrient Burn

When growers first start running a hydroponic system, one of the first problems they encounter is what we call ‘Nutrient Burn.’

The problem sounds much worse than it actually is, and manifests from growers who give their plants too many nutrients or fertilizer. The way it manifests comes in a couple of differing ways. The first being leaves which appear scorched on the tips, and the second area, which isn’t as obvious, is that of root burn.

This can be more severe on your plants as there will be the drying rims of the leaves. Roots, which are turning brown, will accompany this and plant growth will be slowed quite considerably.

Here, we will look at all you need to know about the exact causes of nutrient burn, and what you can do to fix the problem and prevent it occurring again.

Why Do Plants Get Nutrient Burn?

Because it is down to the grower to provide the correct nutrients to plants in a hydroponic system, the problem ultimately comes from the grower.

A logical thought when first beginning a system can be, the more nutrients, the better my plants will grow.

Unfortunately, this is far from the reality. When growers overfeed their plants, it will lead to them being ‘burned’ in either of the two ways previously mentioned. To fully understand why this happens, it is good to know what these burns are.

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These spots are not physical burns as if the plants were on fire. These are more like burns you get on your skin from a toxic compound. Nitrogen is one of the major compounds that makes up hydroponic nutrients.

Even though overfeeding plants is the main cause of this problem, it can stem from other areas.

  • Mixing nutrients too strong
  • Over-watering – plants need dry periods where they can absorb oxygen
  • Boosters for blooms – used on some plants, and when used too often or too strong it causes toxicity
  • Plant growth stimulants – if these are used to frequent, it can cause dwarfism in plants and they will try to absorb too many nutrients

Once you begin overloading your solution with these compounds, your mixture quickly turns into a toxic substance. Hence, this is where leaves begin burning. Any grower who overfeeds their plants can spot the following.

These are early indicators their plants are over-fed and will end up with nutrient burn.

  • Tips of leaves burn and turn yellow
  • Leaf tips turn bright green
  • Leaves turn darker green
  • Stalks and branches may turn dark red. Purple of magenta
  • Leaf tips bend at 90 degrees

How Do I Fix Nutrient Burn?

We saw Nitrogen is one of the main compounds, which leads to these issues; it isn’t though the only one. Once plants are reaching the end of the vegetative stages of growth, plants will be looking for more calcium and magnesium.

If these are overfed, the same symptoms will transpire in your plants. Fixing the problem may appear daunting to new growers, yet it is easier than they may think.

Following some simple steps can mean the difference between saving crops and losing a host of plants.

  1. Get rid of burned or damaged leaves
  2. For extra security, trace backward on the calyx clusters to their supporting branch and remove the entire floret.
  3. Discard any dead leaf matter as this will rot and cause contamination
  4. Flush your growing pots and the growing medium with clean pH balanced water.
  5. Check your tank’s pH and EC levels. Adjust this using fresh water only. You can drain your system to be sure you have no nutrient excess in your reservoir. Run for 24-hours with just fresh water and test EC. If high, drain and repeat the process, and check. Continue until your EC levels are acceptable.
  6. Depending on the extent of the nutrient burn, you can ease back on the nutrients in your mixture and supplement this with an organic liquid tea for around seven days.

Preventing Nutrient Burn in My System

This kind of problem usually happens by mistake, and for this reason, it can be something, which is easy to prevent happening again.

Taking on some, good habits can help prevent this. Here are some pointers, which will help prevent nutrient burn:

  • Use the right nutrients for the correct growth stage
  • It is advisable to use 3/4 strength, which is given on the packaging – manufacturers are not always right.
  • Use digital pH/ EC meters to check your nutrient strength at regular intervals or when you are topping up your reservoir.
  • Always flush your growing medium and pots with your system to stop salt buildup.
  • Use the best measuring device for the nutrients. A kitchen-measuring spoon, which is exact to the dose, makes things easier.
  • Never look down on the line of measuring jugs. Always look at eye level when reading measuring lines.
  • Be sure to use distilled water, as this won’t aggravate the problem by adding more nutrients.

As you go through all of these steps to eradicate the problem, you need to try to figure out what caused it in the first place. Fixing the issue is only any good if you know what not to do next time.

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Additional Steps for Prevention

One of the main things new growers do is to not fully understand their plants requirements. Each type of plant differs. Understanding this as well as what is already in your solution are the very first steps in prevention.

Different crops do have different requirements. A good rule to follow is that leafy crops like herbs, spinach or lettuces need higher levels of nitrogen. If you are growing fruits like cucumbers, peppers, eggplants and tomatoes, then these will be seeking lower amounts of Nitrogen.

If you attempt to grow any root vegetables, these require higher amounts of potassium.

Regardless of which plant type you are growing, there are different nutrient requirements for different development stages. Understanding what plants need in their flowering or bloom phase as compared to their growth or vegetative stage can make a massive difference.

One final thing, which has an effect, is where your plants receive their light source. If you are using grow lights indoors for your crops, these will again be looking for different nutrients and levels than crops grown outdoors.

Generally speaking, crops require more nitrogen if they are receiving full amounts of daylight, or they are being exposed to high doses of artificial lighting. This has more of an effect when crops are outdoors.

If your plants are following regular growing seasons, crops which produce fruits will be looking for more potassium in the late fall or winter when levels of light are reduced. Although the levels of Nitrogen and Potassium can be increased to double the requirement in wintertime, this will not be the case under grow lights where conditions will be consistent.

Problems with Concentrated Nutrients

It can be a good cost saving to use concentrated nutrients. However, the use of these needs plenty of due care and attention. These concentrated formulas are often where new growers become mixed up and don’t fully understand the bottles instructions. 

Not making a conversion in your quantity can leave plants open to burn straight away. As well as this, if these nutrients go anywhere near your plants in their undiluted form, they can quickly kill your crops. No grower should be mixing concentrated formulas in their grow room.

Conclusion

Adding too many nutrients won’t deliver bigger plants and larger fruits. This is a common mistake, yet when you look at all the above information, you can see it can be resolved quick, and while saving your plants.

The good thing is that any grower can learn from their mistakes, so for this to happen a second or a third time? There is no excuse.

There is only so much you can give you plants before you smother them. It is like being a regular parent with your child. Give them what they require and they will blossom, give them too much, and the results are never what you expect.

Related Questions:

Is nutrient lockout the same as nutrient burn? The two are similar, and some of the symptoms may appear to be the same. However, nutrient lockout is where your plants are unable to absorb the nutrients you are giving them.

What causes nutrient lockout? Over time, your pots and growing medium will have an excess of salts that build up in certain areas. If these are allowed to carry on accumulating, they can bind some of the nutrients and prevent them from being available to your plants.

How do I fix nutrient lockout? The good thing is you can solve nutrient lockout by following the same steps as for nutrient burn. Although these two things are different, they cross paths and begin to show similar symptoms. The main thing is to use plain water to dissolve and flush this salt accumulation from your system. If these remain, the problem will occur as soon as you begin adding more nutrients.

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Can You Grow Grapes Aeroponically?

The simple answer is yes. But it’s not just as easy as popping a piece of the vine on a stick or a trellis and you’re good to go.

With proper planning and finding the right space to suit your needs, however, growing grapes aeroponically can reap rich rewards, enabling you to harvest healthier grapes faster, eco-friendlier, and pesticide-free.

Aeroponics vs Tradition

Growing grapes outside has been around for centuries, being a very successful farming method passed down from one generation to the next. The view of a large field filled with rows of vines is a spectacular sight, an iconic picture on many an Italian or Spanish hillside as well as in numerous other countries in the world.

So, to diverge from this renowned method to one that is relatively new, well, there has to be more noticeable benefits. 

Above all, what aeroponics allows is for your average person to start growing grapes without having to own large swathes of land, without having decades of experience or a large bank account,  and being able to take advantage of unused areas in an urban setting.

Scientific progress and invention, as well as advancement in machinery and equipment, has cultivated this new innovative system of growing grapes, eliminating many obstacles in the standard grape growing process.

Cultivating the grapevines in an indoor, controlled environment has numerous advantages. The first is space. 

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Although seeing a field filled with vines as far as the eye can see is a sight to behold, perhaps it is not the most economical method to grow grapes for the masses.

A huge amount of land is required to do this, and that land, that soil can determine the quality of the grapes. Another determining factor is the weather that fluctuates with the seasons throughout the year-long growing season and can adversely affect the crops.

Growing grapes inside with aeroponics eliminates these two barriers to successful grape growing immediately. 

Also since the roots are free-hanging they do not need to be planted deeply in the soil, the vines do not need to be planted to face the sun and six feet apart, as well a host of requirements to be undertaken painstakingly just to keep them alive and pest free.

As long as certain requirements are met for optimal plant health, for growth, and the indoor environment is optimized for grape development, the aeroponically growing grapes could be the way to go in the future on whatever scale or size imaginable, big or small.

After this article, you’ll have more of an idea of what to do, what not to do, and even how to do it.

First, let’s look at what exactly aeroponic growing is and why it’s the new way to grow.

Aeroponics? What’s that exactly? 

Awareness of indoor farming has been increasing in popularity recently as the potential of growing crops in a controlled environment is becoming more apparent and appealing. 

With this flexible method of indoor vertical farming, crops can be grown year-round regardless of any extreme changing weather conditions in the area, and also it allows a higher number of grapes to be harvested with less spoiling due to infestation, disease, or a variety of mitigating circumstances from excess rain, to adverse weather conditions and even to too much sun. 

For growing grapes, aeroponics can prove to be very advantageous.

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Traditionally growing grapes in soil requires a distance of about 6 feet of space between each vine and each plant is going to need a lot of sunshine to ripen the fruit. Once the new shoots start to develop, called canes, they are then pollinated by insects and the wind. 

An irrigation system can be set up to provide sufficient water and pesticides and chemicals are used to ward off insects and protect against diseases.

It can take up to a year of pruning, spraying, and watering before the plant bears any fruit.

Aeroponics does it faster, cleaner, and eco-friendlier.

Easy Aeroponic Set Up

Vertically growing grapes in an indoor space turns all of this system on its head, so to speak.

In fact, there are two methods of indoor growing. 

The first and more common method is hydroponic growing.

This involves submerging the roots of the vine in a container with filtered water that has a pH level of between 6 -6.5 and using a filtration system to regulate the amount of water applied to the roots.

Growing grapes aeroponically compared to hydroponically is a little bit more of a complex system, however.

Aeroponic growing involves suspending the plant roots in the air and watering them periodically rather than submerging them in a container.

This is achieved by suspending the vines in a foam plank, for example, with the roots left to dangle in thin air. Water is applied by using a misting system that is set on a timer to spray filtered water every few minutes that is mixed with a nutrient-rich solution to provide sustenance.

This method is extremely effective but requires a fairly complicated set-up that is easy to master in a short space of time. With a bit of patience, all can be set up and operational in no time at all.

After a period of trial and error, if you are new to this process, you will become aware of what needs to be done periodically to help your vines to grow healthily and steadily in these conditions, which will make every re-growing season in the future that much easier.

Benefits of Aeroponics

Rather than waiting up to a year for your harvest to ripen, the grapes can be cultivated in a shorter period of time, being harvestable up to 25% quicker, a major benefit if you’re short of space and even shorter on patience.

That’s one of the benefits of this system. 

It’s as if devoid of the constraints of soil or a containerized system, the roots of the vines take advantage of the extra oxygen flowing constantly and being so readily available, that the results are a faster growth spurt.

Efficiency is also a key benefit here also, with less water actually being used and lost to evaporation, 95% less in fact, and the water can even be recycled along with the nutrients to make this process cost-effective, saving on wastage and being good for the environment.

Pesticides are a thing of the past here as well, as they are simply not needed. When the equipment needs to be cleaned and maintained, everything can be sterilized simply, eliminating the need for harsh chemicals.

Growing vertically also reduces the amount of space required to grow larger quantities in a smaller space compared to outdoor lateral growing, and the upside of the closed-loop irrigation system is that there is no runoff of harsh chemicals to foul the surrounding ecosystem, making this method eco-friendlier.

If a small DIY model is all you’re after without automation, then it can be set up inexpensively from as little as about $100. 

A professional aeroponics turn-key system, on the other hand, could cost well into the four figures if built at scale, with nutrient monitoring equipment, a backup power supply, pumps, timers, thermostats, tubing, and a pressurized water tank capable of delivering the finest possible puff of moisture, to name just a few equipment requirements.

Constant Grape Attention.

The system utilized for aeroponics is a closed system that has to be monitored on a regular basis, not only to check that the spray timing hasn’t failed, but also to maintain the misters to ensure that there is no clogging of the spray holes. 

The nutrient concentration also has to be recalibrated constantly so the precise parameters required for the crops are the same and do not fluctuate excessively. Too much variance in the cocktail of the pH balance can be detrimental to crop growth, and can even lead to loss of an entire crop if not monitored regularly.

Another worst-case scenario is if there is a power cut for a certain amount of time, the roots can stop being misted and become starved of nutrients. However, with proper vigilance and the right monitoring back-up systems, this worst-case scenario can easily be avoided, and a hassle-free growing cycle can be achieved time and time again.

Aeroponic Needs

Everything needs food and light to thrive, stay healthy and productive and grapes are no different. In their case, they need nutrients that aeroponically will be provided by adding magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and other nutrients to the water periodically. And they need light and energy to survive and thrive.

Because aeroponic crops are grown indoors in a sheltered environment special lighting has to be installed to provide this life-giving nutrition.

These energy-intensive lights have to be installed to harness sufficient light to give the plants the energy needed to grow and these are normally run using electricity. Solar energy could be a good alternative option, however, if possible.

So environmentally wise this is not an optimal situation. And since the water pumps rely on electricity, well, you can see that the profit margin can take a hit as the pumps have to be running constantly.

Growing Indoor Temperature Changes

Something to consider when looking at growing grapes aeroponically is the space that is going to be used as that will determine the equipment required. Humidity is also a factor that has to be considered as is temperature, and air quality.

If you were setting up in a greenhouse, for example, circulation fans may have to be installed to control the temperature. The fans would be required because the use of lamps installed to create light often emits a fair amount of heat and this hot air has to be vented. 

If the temperature is too high problems can occur because the vines will require more water than usual which will affect the timing of the misting system and the nutrient content in the water.

In other words, the vines will get thirstier and need more water to survive. So, if the temperature fluctuates too much, the misting systems would have to fluctuate accordingly, which would make a complex job even more complicated.

Conversely, too low a temperature will slow down your plant’s growth and absorption of nutrients, creating another problem.

The solution with the fans is to have them connected to a thermostat for automation, exchanging the heated air inside with cooler air from outside to maintain a controlled atmosphere.

If a different indoor space is being used apart from a greenhouse for aeroponic growing, a similar system can be set up but just on a smaller scale.

The Humidity Factor

Mold problems can occur if the humidity is too high and the vines can even overheat if the ambient atmosphere is already saturated with moisture. While rare with aeroponics, too dry an atmosphere will cause excessive water absorption of the vines. 

To maintain balance, a humidistat can be used alongside a thermostat or a single combined thermostat/humidistat as a better option to tackle this potential problem.

Automation is highly recommended to keep a close eye on the temperature and to maintain a humidity level of between 60% to 70%, perhaps with a warning signal to alert you to anything requiring immediate attention.

Wrapping Up

The advantages of aeroponically growing grapes in this fashion are numerous and far outweigh the teething glitches initially encountered with setting up this system.

However, with the numerous benefits of a faster growth time, more control of the environment, an organic, pesticide-free product, well, it’s definitely worth the small initial hassles.

So, whether it’s just to have a better, tastier grape for your own consumption or to make your own wine, this revolutionary system could be for you. For the casual grower, having your own crop of grapes hanging from the vine and grown by your own hands can’t be bad either. 

What’s not to like?

Have a grape day!

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