Is Microgreens A Profitable Business? (We Ask The Experts)

Growing microgreens is not a small business. This burgeoning industry is gaining traction and putting down roots all around the world as casual gardeners along with commercial farmers are supplementing their income by going small.

But all in all, is it a profitable business to enter into? Are there customers willing and waiting to buy these micro vegetables and salads?

Fortunately, the barrier to entry is low, and the profit to be made is high, with potential customers from farmers’ markets to top-end restaurants ready and waiting to go micro.

The Business of Microgreens

A microgreen business is not necessarily a micro business. The investment required to start is very minimal, possibly as low as $100, and the investment in time can be measured in a couple of hours per day, depending on objectives.

The popularity of microgreens has reached a stage where demand is outstripping supply, where consumers are electing to purchase these vegetables over their larger relatives, confirming that if there was ever a time to enter into this lucrative field, it would be now. 

Numerous restaurants relish the opportunity to garnish their dishes with these nutrient-dense greens and are more than willing to purchase these quality, organic, GMO-free products at a premium price.

With the right crop selection, marketing, and dedication, a small-scale operation with just 10 – 20 trays can make a healthy profit of between $500 – $1,000 a month. If that can be achieved on a part-time basis with minimal work, then imagine what could be achieved with a full-time operation.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

A simple method to calculate what level of revenue can be attained is by cost analysis. That would start with the cost of such things as the trays, grow lights, growing mats, seeds selected, and even packaging. Factor in the time allocated and a ballpark figure can be reached to what the overheads would be.

Each tray should have the capacity to have three yields a month, and each yield should be about 10 oz. The market sale price is generally around $20 per tray, so with 10 trays, it’s possible to make $200 a month. Multiply that figure by the three yields from each tray and revenue of $600 a month is within reach.

Scaling up amounts to adding more trays and varying the seeds implanted to broaden the sales possibilities. From there, further expansion and increased revenue would be dependent on growing the customer base.

The Experts On Microgreens

Many experts attest to the sustainability of microgreens as the direction that farming has to take for the foreseeable future. They themselves have seen sales quadruple within a matter of months, acknowledging that it isn’t just a passing trend as more and more environmentally conscious consumers are eating wiser and healthier.

From the point of view of the casual farmer, a gap is being filled and buyers serviced on a more personal level than from a big corporation. That personalized attention is capturing an ever-increasing sector that is appreciating the quality of the greens on offer, a quality product that they can forward onto their ever more discerning clients.

The impact that microgreens are having is echoing through multiple sectors, from restaurants, to marketplaces, to personal chefs, to supermarkets, the wave of a revolution taking shape. A major factor is the ability to grow microgreens anywhere being an attractive lure for someone with green fingers who is confined within a concrete jungle.

This advantage of being able to grow microgreen vegetables and salads in even a small apartment indoors means that unpredictable weather conditions can be avoided. If run as a business rather than garnishing personal meal dishes, they can be located close to potential customers, making for easy deliveries and cutting down on the carbon footprint of having to truck the stock in.

Growing within this type of protective setting, opens wide the opportunity to grow a diverse range of agricultural microgreens that uses up to 95% less land than traditional outdoor farming.

The lack of experience is not a barrier to entry as this trade can be easy to learn, improve upon, and perfect, and the small amount of initial investment required makes this method appealing.  It can be started from a single tray of seedlings on a windowsill, and a trial-and-error method can be employed for complete newbies with very little risk.

Experts predict that the acceptance of microgreens throughout so many sectors will continue to increase nationwide, with many more urban farmers importing the farm to the city, bringing fresh produce to those hard-to-reach inner-city zones, at affordable prices.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

There are a plethora of blogs, books, and videos out there that can walk anyone through the start-up and growing phases, and how to overcome problems as well as how to repeat harvests profitably.

Even before the crops are harvested, however, the experts recommend contacting at least 25 – 30 local restaurants to sell to as well as scope out farmers’ markets and some supermarkets. And then beyond that have a regular routine to continue searching for buyers until a core group is purchasing what you’re growing regularly.

Another option is to sell directly to the consumer, either through Facebook or advertising. Whatever sales channel is selected, though, consistency is the key, to the quality of the product and to providing a good service to the growing client base.

A Microgreen Season

In the world of microgreens, growing seasons are not even a consideration. Couple that with the fact that within 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the crop chosen, a plant can be harvested, and seedlings replanted quickly, then it’s plain to see and appreciate the lure of growing salads and vegetables the micro way.

Due to this fast-growing period, the grower has more scope to experiment with the plants selected, either to eliminate them completely or have them under a rotation cycle to maximize sales. This quick turnaround time also allows scope for experimentation with different varieties rather than having to wait a full growing season to see if the results are a success or a dismal failure.

As in any business, some crops will have higher sales in some months than others, so it’s important to be able to swap out some crops quickly to take advantage of fluctuations and demand. If the interest in the quality of your produce increases dramatically, upscaling the microgreen farm is just a matter of adding a few more trays to satisfy the increased demand.

If maximizing the space available is a priority, experts recommend using racks to utilize unused vertical space. They are easy to install and this technique has enabled growers to boost their yields substantially, by properly organizing their crops, and many farmers have reaped the benefits of growing upwards.

Further methods of increasing the bottom line, according to experts in this field, can be augmented by taking note of the small details. For instance, can the yield be increased by adding a few more seeds to each tray? Can the overheads be reduced by cutting back on the light from the grow lamps to save on electricity costs?

A minor tweak here or there can make a big difference in any business, so it is advisable to keep records to understand where changes can be made, and new initiatives introduced.

There is also a temptation to grow as many varieties as possible to increase revenue opportunities, and there can be nothing wrong with that if there is already an established client base. However, keeping proper sales records can shine a light over a short period of time on which crops are selling well, and which need to face the cut.

The Best Microgreens To Grow

Essentially, the variety of microgreens that are selected can depend on the level of experience of the grower as some salads and vegetables are easier to start with than others, but may not command the highest resale prices.

If making a living is the goal or to supplement an income, then crop selection is important from the outset even though the time from seed to harvest is pretty fast.

Advice from expert microgreen farmers is to keep it simple. There is always a temptation to differentiate your business from the rest by planting obscure crops that will command higher sales prices but may not sell in sufficient quantities on a regular basis to provide a stable income.

Hard to grow and hard to sell, is never the way to go.

Choosing to start your microgreen farm with radishes, salads, sunflower seeds, or even pea shoots is the smart way to go as either of these three appeals to consumers, are easy to grow, and can be re-grown quickly to provide multiple harvests.

They offer a diverse variety of tastes, textures, and colors to dishes that appeal to chefs in particular. An added bonus is that they can be refrigerated after harvesting to extend the longevity of the product to keep them fresh if they cannot be sold immediately.

A rule of thumb is the wider the potential customer base due to the produce on offer, the better option of repeat sales, a regular income, and a profitable business.

As the business starts to grows more varied crops can be added and the growing space extended. Once this starts to happen additional attention to detail has to be increased in regards to crop health, maintaining the correct temperatures in the coolers, and ensuring there is sufficient light for optimum plant health.

Detrimental issues such as mold and pests can undo some of your hard work so it is important to periodically monitor these to avoid problems with the crops. Optimum health equals optimum quality and that will impact the demand for your microgreens.

Expert Tips For Your Microgreens  

One of the best ways to advance your micro business is to listen to the experts. All of them have been where you are now and have learned the ropes by planting one seed at a time. Some of them have started on kitchen countertops and windowsills and grown from there.

Mistakes and missteps they have made along the way and the owner of Minifarm Box in La, Conor Fitzpatrick, has a few wise words to impart.

He first points out a southern facing windowsill where the sunlight naturally pours in can make the difference between a mediocre crop or a robust harvest packed with flavors and vibrant colors, not to mention the extended life cycle afforded.

He reiterates the importance of proper drainage so the plants do not become waterlogged, and that a lightweight soil seed starter mix is ideally used to start with as it won’t become too tightly packed around the growing roots. Ensure also that it is soaked sufficiently to start the seeds better on their sprouting journey.

Once harvested the microgreens can be cleaned in diluted apple cider vinegar and rinsed with water to remove any unwanted bacteria and seed husks.

The founder of The First Leaf Microgreens in India, Swati Jain, hails microgreens as a superfood as they are packed with antioxidants and healthy nutrients, as well as vitamins A, B, C, E and K. In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, microgreens contain from four to 40 times more nutrients than the regular sized plants.

Regularly eating these nutrient-dense crops can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve heart health, especially if eaten in their raw natural state when the most amount of nutrients will be absorbed by the body to deliver maximum beneficial efficacy.

Broccoli microgreens, for example, have an anti-cancerous compound, sunflower microgreens are loaded with protein and fights the effects of aging in our cells, red amaranth microgreens maintain bone health, helps to control blood pressure, and even improves vision, and wheatgrass, juiced, and drank daily, purifies the liver and controls blood sugar levels.

Small they may be but microgreens pound for pound are a powerhouse of concentrated nutrients that are punching way above their weight class.

Is growing microgreens a profitable business? Ask the casual grower who is making over $2,000 a month from the windowsills in the comfort of their own home.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

10 Reasons Why Hydroponics Are Important

With hydroponics, you can grow what you want, when you want, and where you want. It is a growing system that is being embraced wholeheartedly by new and experienced farmers alike on a worldwide scale that is starting a food-growing revolution.

There are numerous reasons why growers are flocking to hydroponics. Let’s have a look at just 10 of them.

10 Reasons To Embrace Hydroponics

1 Space Saving

Many traditional outdoor farming methods rely on large tracts of land to grow agricultural crops. In an outdoor setting, plants need space to spread their roots in the search for nutrients and water within the soil in order to survive. Planting them too close together would create a survival of the fittest scenario, where some plants would wither and die.

And the farmer’s yield would suffer as a result.

Hydroponics does not have this problem. With the water and nutrients being delivered directly to the roots, it enables more crops to be situated closer together, and consequently, more of them can be grown in a much smaller area when compared to traditional farming.

So, in essence, it’s possible to grow more crops using less landmass.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

2 Less Labor Intensive

Picking vegetables and fruits is a labor-intensive job on outdoor farms, which is normally conducted in the picking season in high temperatures for hours on end. Farmers have to employ sometimes hundreds of laborers seasonally, and that comes at a cost that has to be passed on to the consumer.

Agricultural businesses are always researching ways to reduce overheads and to provide a more cost-effective product to their buyers. Many of these farmers are being attracted to hydroponics due to its reduced reliance on a large manual labor force, a labor force that is dwindling within the farming industry as retirees are not being replaced by younger recruits.

The appeal of harvesting crops quicker, cheaper, with fewer labor requirements, is a cost-saving advantage that cannot be overlooked by any savvy businessman in a competitive industry like farming.

3 Saves On Water

Recirculating water is one of the tenets of hydroponics, the same water flowing through a looped system to be used repeatedly. This controlled and efficient method uses at least 10 times less water than outside farming where water can be lost to evaporation, or simply lost as it just drains away unused into the soil.

There is no comparison to which farming method conserves more water. In fact, there is a disturbing statistic, in this period of climate conservation, that 80% of the water used in the United States is by field farms, a large quantity of it wasted to an unimaginable degree.

4 Doesn’t Use Soil

There are numerous locations in places such as Africa where once-thriving farms are now unable to grow crops due to soil erosion. This is generally down to agricultural practices that have eroded the soil over years of bad harvesting practices. This reduces the arable land available for growing food, which in turn leads to less food production for the local population.

The end result in such situations is that severe food shortages can rapidly turn into a serious problem for the local population, with the worst-case scenario being a full-blown famine. With the hydroponics system, the lack of soil enables crops to be grown in any environment, bringing food certainty where before there was nothing but trepidation.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

5 Faster Crop Growth                                                                                                                 There is a demand for plant-based protein foods that is not just a passing phase, and hydroponics is in a unique position to deliver fruits and vegetables to consumers not just at ever more competitive prices, but faster.

With an efficient nutrient and water delivery system devoid of chemicals or pesticides such as this, the crops can be grown faster. This enhanced crop rotation increases food production and helps to drive costs down while boosting profits for the farm.

Additionally, C02 omissions can be greatly reduced if the hydroponics farm is located in an urban environment close to their customer, reducing transportation time and costs, and protecting the environment at the same time.

7 Flexible Farming                                                                                                            

With the ability to grow fruits and vegetables indoors in a controlled collective, many more options become available to expand the range of crops that can be grown simultaneously. A wider variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables can be grown side by side, whereas traditionally these crops would never coincide seasonally in an outdoor endeavor.

This environment allows the hydroponics farmer to control every aspect of the enhanced growing period, from the lighting, the specific nutrients required for each type of crop, control of the interior climate, and especially the quantity of water to be delivered to the roots.

Everything can also be monitored constantly, with minute tweaks easily implemented if and when needed for maximum results and to control whatever pests infiltrate the system. With this level of control, the crops grow up to be healthier than their counterparts in soil, and, more importantly, get to market faster.

Based solely on per square foot, hydroponics is far and away a superior farming method, enabling a vast array of plants that can be prepared, planted side by side, primed to grow, and harvested again and again in record time.

8 Quality Control

No matter what type of farming method is being utilized, strict quality control guidelines must be adhered to. Hydroponics simplifies the procedures because, literally, everything is under one roof.

Every aspect of the growing cycle can be scrutinized constantly so that adjustments can be made quickly and easily, ensuring that plants are not being underfed, overfed, or are not being exposed to too much sunlight.

This level of precise control over the environment, which can be monitored day or night, produces consistent high-quality products, products that consumers demand in today’s health-conscious society.

This way of farming is revolutionizing the way fruits and vegetables can be grown, and being able to grow food faster, healthier and in a sustainable way, can only be a good thing for the planet.

9 Pricing

In an ideal world being able to afford fruits and vegetables should be within the grasp of everyone. Unfortunately, even crops that grow on trees have a cost, have overheads, so are not accessible to all budgets.

Hydroponics has two major benefits over outdoor farming that promotes it as the farming method of the future: it reduces labor costs and grows the product faster. Both of these factors contribute to the possibility of these fruits and vegetables being more affordable and being available to a wider consumer base.

There is a saying that if you build it, they will come. With hydroponics the saying should be if you grow it cheaper and faster, they will buy.  

10 Sustainable

There is a shortage of food in various parts of the world. This is often the result of inadequate arable land, harsh weather conditions, or lack of a regular water supply, to name just a few of the obstacles.

Hydroponics is not dependent on the quality of the land, is immune to harsh weather fluctuations, and water, once installed in the system, is not a problem. Sustainable is the keyword where the recirculating circuit has little to no water waste, that precious commodity being able to be used repeatedly.

In Conclusion

Hydroponics has to be at the forefront as one of the primary solutions for food insecurity on a global level. Its capacity for increased food production without soil erosion is protecting the planet, making it an extremely environmentally friendly way to grow food. 

Combine that with the flexibility to operate a hydroponics farm in a variety of locations, enabling whole communities to feed themselves with high-quality nutritious foods, ensures that this system is the future of farming.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

The 2 Best Hydroponic Water Heaters

When building a hydroponic system, water temperature is vital for the health of your crops. Within a temperature range, nutrient solutions and irrigation water are most effective. However, plants are vulnerable to damage if the liquid is excessively hot or too cold.

When water is too warm, it can damage the delicate roofing systems. Too cold and plants can face the same damage, and you can find issues with your system.

To solve this, hydroponic growers often ask. What are the 4 best hydroponic water heaters you can get? The best heaters all come from the same manufacturer and scale in sizes from 50 Watts up to 300 Watts. Gardeners can find these models in single heater packs, or they come in packages of two. It is worth noting; hydroponic heaters can only warm a particular volume of water.

Ideal Water Temperatures for Hydroponics

Because there are limited water heaters for hydroponics, we will also look at some of the best water chillers available. It makes no sense to heat water and then not be able to cool it if necessary.

A good hydroponic farmer should know the optimal temperature settings for their plants as there isn’t a single water temperature optimal for all hydroponic plants.

As a result, it is healthier to maintain a range of temperatures to maximize plant growth.

A good recommendation is to stick to a temperature range of 68 – 72 F (20-22 C) as this is suitable for beginners. Gardeners with more experience hover around the 75 F (24 C) range to cover a broader range of plant types.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Water that is marginally outside the optimum range won’t kill your plants; it doesn’t mean operating at daily temperatures ranging to the extremes is acceptable.

Overheating from warm water increases root tissue respiration rates and leads to the growth of germs and fungus. Conversely, frigid conditions will slow a plant’s metabolism and hinder overall growth.

One pro gardening tip is to group plants based on temperature types and grow them in separate systems based on these conditions.

 

Hydrofarm Glass Reservoir Heater

This submersible reservoir heater has a high-impact glass housing that is easy to clean and resists corrosion or degradation. Excellent for keeping liquid tanks warm.

Features

  • Resistant to heat and shock.
  • Glass tubing heaters will never rust or deteriorate and are simple to clean.
  • Temperatures are displayed in Fahrenheit and Celsius.
  • Completely submersible in fresh or saltwater, as well as nutrient solutions.
  • Freezing damage is avoided.
  • On/Off indicator.
  • Maintains a constant warm temperature to prevent solutions from freezing or becoming too cold for practical use.

You’ll find the submersible reservoir heater has a high-impact glass casing, resists shattering, and is easy to clean. The glass heater never corrodes. It can be used in other areas besides hydroponics, such as aquariums, and is suitable for fresh or saltwater, besides your nutrient-rich growing solution.

The design is functional and straightforward, comprising an On/Off display and a large surface area to warm solutions efficiently.

The Hydrofarm Glass Reservoir Heater comes in 4 models:

  • 50-Watt pack of 2
  • 100 Watts pack of 2
  • 200 Watts pack of 2
  • 300 Watts pack of 2

Like all hydroponic heaters, the most significant downside is that each heater can only heat around 1 liter of water per Watt power, so a pack of two running at 50 watts can only heat 21 gallons.

EcoPlus Aqua Heat Titanium Water Heater

The EcoPlus Aqua Heat Titanium Water Heater may be submerged entirely and is fully automatic.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

It comprises a double heating tube, which is exceptionally dependable. The heater delivers a temperature range from 68F (20C) to 93F. (34C).

The temperature management is straightforward to use, and if used in aquariums, it is suitable for saltwater and freshwater and nutrient solutions in your hydroponics systems.

Features

  • The heater tube is fully submersible.
  • The electronic heater operates automatically.
  • Double heating tube.
  • Exceptionally durable.
  • Temperature management is simple.
  • Ideal for both saltwater and freshwater.
  • A warranty period of one year.

The EcoPlus comes in two models:

EcoPlus 200W heater

  • Voltage 120V.
  • Water Volume heated: 30 Gallon or 120L.

EcoPlus 300W heater

  • Voltage 120V.
  • Water Volume heated: 50 Gallon or 180L.

Hydroponic Water Chillers

When you look for a water chiller, these are more significant than the above water heaters and can resemble small air conditioning units. In function, this is how they work in theory and cool water rather than air.

You’ll notice these sit outside your tank rather than you submerge them. With this, you could find your ambient temperature rising because of using a chiller to cool your nutrient solution.

Water Chiller Pros and Cons

To keep nutrients cool, there are many ways to try and do this. However, water chillers are the most effective and reliable technique for completing this task.

Depending on the location of your system, maintaining a cooler temperature during the day could be a challenge, thus using a water chiller makes this far more manageable, and you won’t need to monitor your solution temperatures continually.

Chillers can be highly beneficial, yet this comes at the expense of the running costs. Water chillers can take a significant investment, and if there need to be any repairs, they can be costly.

Running costs are the key area hydroponic gardeners find as the most significant downsides to water chillers. As these are not submersible, you’ll find they are not waterproof, and they will need to sit undercover if outside.

Another thing worthy of noticing is that most refrigeration-type chillers won’t come with tubing or a water pump, and thus you have a further cost.

Best Hydroponic Water Chillers

Hydrofarm Active Aqua Chiller

Active Aqua is a reputable brand in the hydroponics industry. They are well known for energy-efficient yet low-cost chiller units.

Their chiller offerings are classed as refrigeration units and are kitted out with a microprocessor control system, allowing for simple control and access to the chiller functions.

You’ll find construction robust, and the unit comes with a titanium evaporator, compressor protection features, and temperature memory. In operating, it sits outside your tank yet runs quietly.

The most distinct feature is the turbo function, which speeds up cooling by up to three hours, cooling your hydroponic reservoir while saving money.

EcoPlus Chiller

The EcoPlus is another hydroponic specialist chiller unit that comes in three different models depending on the size of your reservoir.

  • EcoPlus Chiller 1/10 HP
  • EcoPlus Chiller 1/4 HP
  • EcoPlus Chiller 1/2 HP

The models can manage tanks ranging from 15 to 42 gallons and up to 132 gallons for the most significant models.

The models are units with components like the Active Aqua. In addition, they are equipped with a microcontroller and automatic temperature control. The same features are used in the construction of a titanium evaporator and compressor and sensor circuit protection.

EcoPlus is well-known for manufacturing highly efficient and cost-effective hydroponic water chillers.

Besides these two models, there are more available yet geared more toward aquariums. However, these are more expensive, but they can deal with significantly larger volumes of a nutrient solution if you need such a device.

Conclusion

If you consider all the above in mind, you will identify the proper measures you have to consider for your hydroponic system. Your environmental circumstances are, to some extent, outside your control and will undoubtedly differ from one hydroponic system to another.

As a result, you must stay in touch with your surroundings and care for your system, be it using a hydroponic water heater, water chiller, or even if you are lucky and need neither.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Can You Use Seasol For Hydroponics?

Hydroponics gardeners are always on the lookout for the best additives or nutrients to use in their system that offer the best results.

One of the prominent names that come up is that of Seasol. It may lead to some confusion for new gardeners as Seasol is a brand name, and rather than being a fertilizer, the products are a tonic.

Since a tonic is not something you typically associate with delivering nutrients to your plants in the same sense as other two- or three-part nutrient packs. Many gardeners often ask the same question.

Can you use Seasol for hydroponics? Seasol can be used in your hydroponics system without any adverse effects. It is an effective growth stimulant and plant tonic made from seaweed in Australia. Seasol offers more than just promoting healthy, vigorous growth in plants; it also helps increase resistance to attacks from fungi and insects. Besides this, it helps reduce symptoms of stress from excessive heat.

What Is Seasol?

Seasol is an Australian company that offers a wide range of treatments for around the garden and yard. A number of these deal with lawns and grass, while others are suited to flowers and fruits. While some are granular or pellets, there are a few that are liquid and thus soluble.

Seasol original and Seasol Gold are the two main products you could use in your hydroponics system. Before proceeding, these won’t replace your nutrients, they are an addition, and the doses would be very weak based on the volume of water in your system.

  • Hydroponic seedlings would use 2 mL per gallon of water.
  • Established hydroponic would use 4 mL per gallon of water in your system.

Here you can find the benefits and significant features of adding Seasol and Seasol Gold into your hydroponic system. Note some are specific to the soil as it is intended as an additive to soil-grown crops.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Seasol

  • Vigorous root growth and healthy soil microorganisms are stimulated.
  • Encourages vigorous flowering and fruiting, as well as overall garden health.
  • It helps plants deal with external stressors, including heat, drought, and frost.
  • Improves the resilience of plants against insects and fungal attacks.
  • Use any time your plants need a boost.
  • Reduces transplant shock and improves seed germination.
  • As a result of the increased nutrient uptake, fertilizers and nutrients are more effective when used.

Seasol Gold

Seasol Gold does all the same as the regular solution and builds on it.

  • Unique proprietary formulation to enhance seaweed efficiency and advantage to plants.
  • It is fortified with calcium and other nutrients to give crops a boost during the growing season.
  • Promotes better nutrient uptake for robust, strong root development.
  • Improves the development and production of flowers and fruits.
  • Improves plant resilience to heat, drought, frost, pests, and disease by strengthening and boosting plant health.
  • It can be added at any time.

Helps tomatoes at the flowering time by the following.

  • Increases the overall amount of nitrogen and calcium in the soil.
  • Increases organic matter totals in soil.
  • Increases the amount of organic carbon in soils.
  • Soil microbe populations increase.

Seaweed is a brown alga, which they have used in agriculture for generations, but scientists had limited knowledge of its unique qualities.

Seasol is a 100% Australian liquid seaweed extract manufactured from Durvillea Potatorum, a unique kelp species found in the clean waters of Southern Australia.

The Great Southern Ocean’s huge seas wash masses of bull kelp onto the beaches of King Island, and it is here they harvest it from the beaches without touching any still in the wilderness. It is in Tasmania you find the only production plant in the world.

Seasol is a dynamic growth stimulant and plant tonic; it isn’t a fertilizer, and it gives benefits that a regular fertilizer can’t.

Why Use Seaweed Additives and Tonics?

While you can use Seasol and other seaweed-based additives, it is good to understand why these are so beneficial to your plants above different formulations, or even the benefits they offer besides your regular nutrients.

Liquid seaweed or Seasol is one of the best additions you can use on your hydroponics plants, although it could be the last thing on your mind when looking for crop additives.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Not only are liquid seaweed solutions organic, but they also originate from a sustainable source and are harvested without harming the environment. Most seaweed-based remedies come from kelp, which can grow to be over 150 feet long.

It’s full of trace minerals like magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, and nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential because it creates nitrate, which is a vital component for photosynthesis in plants.

Here are some benefits of using liquid seaweed additives in your garden or hydroponic system.

  • A liquid seaweed solution aids budding.
  • If applied ten days before harvesting, it can help extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
  • If cut flowers are sprayed a day or two before cutting, they will last longer.
  • It can be used as a rooting solution. Place cuttings in a solution of liquid seaweed and water until they develop roots.
  • When applied to pasture crops, the algae boost nutrient uptake, protein content, and overall crop quality.
  • Seaweed extract increases crop yields, increases inorganic ingredient uptake from the soil, enhances stress resistance, and minimizes fruit storage loss.
  • On fruit, flowers, vegetables, lawns, and other plants promote vigorous development and help repel pests and illnesses.
  • Organic farming benefits from seaweed solutions.
  • Every micronutrient is present in chelated forms.

Related Questions

Can I use regular fertilizer in hydroponics? Although possible to use regular fertilizer in hydroponics, it is not recommended as they lack many chemicals found in hydroponic nutrients.

How often do you change the water in hydroponics? Hydroponic water needs to change every two to three weeks on average. If you add Seasol, ensure you check your pH levels as you may need to change more often or adjust with pH Up or pH Down.

What kind of fertilizer should I use for hydroponics? Measure six teaspoons of a high-quality fertilizer into the water. This will be from your part A if you have a multi-part pack. It would contain a 20-20-20 mix of 20 percent nitrogen, 20 percent phosphorous, and 20 percent potassium. You can add Seasol at the same time to boost macronutrients and trace elements, or you can add your Seasol later.

How Long Do Hydroponic Nutrients Last? You will find your nutrients last around 7 to 10 days; thus, you can see the addition of Seasol later means you can bolster the effectiveness of weaker nutrients when they are most needed.

Conclusion

Using Seasol in your hydroponics system can deliver many benefits to your crops and your yields.

One of the best things is that it won’t have any adverse effects if you stick to the recommended levels as you administer your dose. All you would need to do is check your pH, as this could impact your growth, yet since the dosage levels are low, you may not notice any difference.

Seasol can be a fantastic base to make your organic hydronic nutrients or add to them to offer what your other compounds don’t. If you do this, you’ll find many formulas use seaweed as a key component, and with Seasol, you are already there.

Seasol is a terrific addition and the safest way to give you crops a boost in vitality than anything else you can find on the market.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

What Is A Fogger In Aeroponics?

Hydroponics is an established form of growing crops with the roots immersed in water that has been around for a number of years now and is a highly successful and environmentally friendly method of growing a wide range of harvests.

Aeroponics is a similar method but without immersing the roots completely in water, the roots dangling freely in the air, unencumbered by soil or water. A fine mist of water is periodically sprayed to deliver the essential nutrients and hydration with equally impressive results.

And now there is Fogponics.

This method takes nutrient delivery to the next level, enshrouding the plants in a fine cloud of water that works extremely effectively, bringing additional benefits through this all-pervading fog.

So How Does Fogponics Work?

The established framework of aeroponics acts as the base for this revolutionary system, but the fog doesn’t just appear by itself. Water has to be siphoned from a source and vibrated through a system of electric foggers to create a haze similar to what is encountered in rain forests, and that haze forms the new humid climate conditions for optimum crop growth.

These ideal conditions found in the atmosphere of rainforests are in a constant cycle of being hot, humid, and extremely wet. Under these conditions, it has been found that vegetation becomes very lush and becomes very abundant very quickly.

The fog created artificially in fogponics, however, is generally dry and laden with minute droplets of water. In fogponics, the contents and the fog itself can be controlled in regards to its size, the frequency of its appearance, dispersion, and the variety of nutrients contained within it. And the beauty of it is that establishing a farm is not too difficult.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

If already established, converting a large commercial aeroponics farm into a fogponics one can put a squeeze on the finances, but a smaller installation doesn’t have to break the bank and can be done on a budget.

Once the scale of the operation is settled upon and goals established in regards to crop selection, the apparatus can be reconfigured, scaled up or down to conduct a series of trials if necessary to confirm whether this growing method is the right direction for your farming ambitions.

What would be required to either conduct a small experiment or to start a small-scale operation within a budget, is a construction-grade storage container. The size of the container will be dependent on what goals are set in regards to operational parameters and the growing potential of the plants to be installed.

To incorporate the plants, several rows of approximately 2-inch holes need to be drilled into the lid of the container, evenly spaced out in a grid formation to allow for plants to grow unencumbered by neighbors set too close.

Before being able to insert the plant stems, foam-filled net cups need to be glued into the holes with notches cut into them to support the cloning plants themselves, and allow the stems to dangle within the container in anticipation of the sprouting roots.

Water then needs to be added to the container along with the nutrient mixture, and finally, the fogger can be added to the equation to complete the set-up.

Choosing the right fogger is the key to success and its installation either into a small-scale operation or into a larger commercial endeavor is crucial.

First, it is important to understand that there are foggers for fogponics and foggers that are used for different applications, such as the elimination of bugs with pesticides, for example. These fumigation foggers use aerosol propellants to create the fog to eliminate pests such as cockroaches.

The fogger that is to be introduced for a fogponics network works differently from those types and has to have the capacity to go ultrasonic, its role being to convert water into a specialized vapor.

What enables the fogger to convert the water into the much sought-after fog, is its high oscillating capacity to reach a crescendo of 2MHZ, which equates to an incredible two million vibrations a second. By generating this level of ultrasonic frequency, the water becomes nebulized, which is another way of saying that it becomes a fog.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

These specialized foggers are the key to fogponics, and the small droplets that are generated within the fog are then either blown slowly over the plants or are fed into an enclosed space where the roots are encased.

This is an extremely efficient form of delivering ultra-low volumes of nutrients and water for hydration and supplementation and is impressive in its simplicity.

In this environment, plants tend to absorb the maximum level of nutrients required to thrive and grow. This is due to the ability of the fog to penetrate and seep into every nook and cranny of the crops, unlike spraying, ensuring a constant supply and complete delivery to all the plants so they all grow uniformly.

In Fogponics Size Matters

The droplets of water in aquaponics used in the misters typically have a water psi pressure sufficient to produce water droplets of 50 microns or larger. These size droplets wouldn’t work in the system of fogponics, being way too large to float in the air as part of the fog.

To reduce the size of the droplets and create the fog itself, the water pressure is dialed up to 800 to 1200 psi to atomize the droplets and reduce the size of the droplets to 5 to 30 microns. At this size, the fog can be created using a high-pressure pump, distribution piping, nozzles, controllers, timers, and then basically the system is ready to go.

This precision high-pressure reduction in the size of the water droplets is the key to the effectiveness of fogponics, and is especially suitable for seedlings and cloners from cuttings owing to their undeveloped roots which are susceptible to not absorbing sufficient nutrients in other methods.

Fortunately, fogponics tends to be gentler and more pervasive. This means that the appropriate level of moisture can be delivered, and more importantly be controlled to deliver the right amounts of water so the roots do not dry out from being overlooked by the spraying system, or become waterlogged because they are on the front line.

With the correct timers and monitors installed, the fog can be emitted at a level of frequency desired by the grower to provide the necessary quantity of the mixture for plant sustainability, for all the crops.

Herbs and green vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuces, and spinaches also flourish under this fog-covered environment.

Why Choose Fogponics?

Being a sub-technique of aquaponics, the adjustment to Fogponics isn’t a great leap in regards to equipment or structural changes. But why make the change, why go that route?

The answer, surprisingly, lies in oxygen delivery, and the size of the water droplets.

For optimum oxygen delivery to the plant roots, the water droplets ideally need to be within the range of between 5 – 30 microns. In aquaponics, the water emitted from the sprayers is between 30 – 100 microns. They can be reduced to the lower range but the density of the water has to be increased, so in the end, it is not a practical solution.

Something that is not widely known even aquaculturists, is that the bigger the water droplets the less oxygen is contained within them, and the less oxygen that is delivered to the plant roots. To counteract that deficiency, even in such an efficient system as aquaponics, more water has to be utilized to provide enough oxygenation. 

Alternatively, if the droplets within the fog are too small then not enough nutrients will be delivered for the plants to grow.

With Fogponics, the ultrasonic nebulizer takes those reduced-sized water droplets and converts them into the fog that hangs in the air, fully loaded with oxygen and nutrients, ready for the plants to absorb what they need.

And there is an even more beneficial by-product of these nebulizing foggers.

With the smaller droplet sizes, there is a more efficient and faster nutrient solution absorption by the plant roots, resulting in a much faster growth rate and a quicker harvest. Due to this abundantly high level of oxygen and the constant supply of water saturation, a dramatic boost to the metabolism of the crops occurs.

How does this work exactly?

Under this environment, the roots develop what’s known as trichoblasts, fine hairs that sprout along the stems. It is these fine hairs that are responsible for turbo-boosting the metabolism and increasing the plants’ ability for a heightened level of nutrient absorption.

These fine hairs on the roots thrive within the atmosphere of the dense fog, extracting oxygen, water and nutrients at increased levels compared to other farming methods.

This hyperactivity doesn’t oversaturate the roots, fortunately, it just allows them to absorb a greater amount of nutrients efficiently from the constant presence of the fog, with the results that the plants grow at a faster rate.

Overall, the introduction of a fogger elevates an impressive farming endeavor to the next stage of evolutionary growth. It becomes more cost-effective and more profitable, no matter what crops are being grown.

Marijuana growers especially appreciate the faster growing times under this system. The additional boost to profits accumulated at harvest time as well as the savings on water bills is also an important factor in the decision for them to change over to growing their produce in this manner.

This water-saving aspect is accomplished because the fog is trapped within an enclosed space, and the minute water droplets are utilized more conservatively in comparison to other farming methods.

 Under this environmentally friendly farming umbrella, the water used is also not lost to evaporation, and that lack of wasteful evaporation saves on crucial nutrient depletion that could be detrimental for the plants.

Additionally, in this system these nutrients are evenly dispersed to the roots of all the plants to ensure equal growing capabilities across the board, so no favoritism is shown.

A Fogponics System

Fogponics is a revolutionary, energy-efficient indoor farming system that is more than worth the investment in terms of money and time. Just ask NASA.

Through experimentations and in-depth research, the technicians at NASA have practiced and trialed a plethora of growing scenarios with various plants and crops, such as potatoes, to gauge the most efficient growing methods in an effort to reduce cargo costs for future space missions.

They discovered that it could be a game-changer for the future exploration of space, the efficiency of the foggers easily boosting the capacity to actually grow produce faster without installing heavy, cumbersome equipment. In space, the only missing component, however, would be sunlight and photosynthesis.

In the fogponic farming system, this photosynthesis is encouraged by the use of LED lights to imitate the life-giving properties of the sun itself. A process of conversion is then initiated with the artificial light being converted into chemical energy.

Further reactions within this process instigates the separation of the oxygen and hydrogen molecules to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for the crops to soak up.

All of this is undertaken automatically within the system that is fully controllable, scalable, and starts from a simple fogging machine.

So, if it’s good enough for NASA…

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Can You Use Snails In Aquaponics?

With an aquaponics venture, a symbiotic agreement exists between the crops being grown and the fish in a connected tank, each washing the hand of the other, so to speak.

This closed system is extremely efficient, is beneficial for both organisms, and pays dividends for the farmer in the form of better crops and healthier fish. Into this harmonious environment, would it be wise or advisable to add a third living component in the form of snails?

Easily overlooked and flying under the radar, the humble snail is not immediately considered as a potentially important addition that would have anything to add to an already efficient aquaponics bio-sphere. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, the benefits being surprisingly numerous.

Aquaponics With Snails

The work that snails undertake in aquaponics can be compared to the work done by worms in soil. Earthworms by their nature increase nutrient availability, boost drainage efficiency, and improves the structural stability of the soil, and that in turn enhances the productivity of the farm, making a happy farmer.

Snails are the worms in aquaponics and can be just as beneficial, if not more so. They act as an early warning system to emerging problems as well as having a natural instinct to keep a clean house.

That’s not to say that fish are messy aquarium mates, but sometimes uneaten excess food can find its way to the bottom of the tank, stay there and start to rot. That decaying food matter can adversely affect the well-balanced ecosystem if not continually removed on a regular maintenance routine.

Snails are similar to auto cleaners and whatever excess food falls to the bottom of the tank is disposed of in short order.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

And talking of eating. If the fish are not being fed sufficiently, they will, like any other creature, search for another source of food. That search will quickly lead to the snails and will put them squarely in the center of the new menu.

It may seem a bit harsh but in the role of natural selection, and the hierarchy of the aquaponics farm, the fish are ranked as more important in the system than the snails. Once the feeding level for the fish is back to normal, they will, fortunately, return to their normal diet and cease snacking on the snails.

Conversely, this situation can work the other way, but not in a survival of the fittest way.

This generally occurs if a dead fish goes unnoticed by the farmer, which is easily done in a vibrant underwater environment and, just like decaying food, the body will start to rot on the floor of the tank, which in turn will raise the ammonia to a toxic level.

Being prolific eaters with insatiable appetites, snails will gravitate towards any dead fish and the remains will be gone in a matter of days, restoring the delicate balance.

How Are Snails Important In Aquaponics?

With a bustling farming endeavor, it can be a relatively easy matter to either overfeed or underfeed the fish in aquaponics, to treat them just like a component in the closed-circuit system rather than a living, breathing organism, and not prioritize their nutritional needs.

In both events, the snails can be an early indicator of what is happening in the fish tank in regards to the well-being of the aquatic livestock. Due to their presence overfeeding can be quickly recognized as, when there is an overabundance of food, the snails eat more and tend to breed more, multiplying rapidly in just a few weeks.

So, it is a clear indication when there is a sudden snail population explosion that too much food is being allocated to the fish, who, unlike the snails who hoover up any excess with wanton abandon, only eat until they are satiated.

The reverse can be noticed if the fish start to snack on their slow-moving tank mates. If one morning all the snails are gone, leaving behind only empty shells, then the fish are definitely not being fed sufficiently. Once noticed, and before it gets to the complete decimation stage, adjustments can be made accordingly.

Not only are snails a good barometer of proper feeding levels, but they can also be a reliable indicator of the quality of the water. If, for example, there is a very low level of oxygen available to adequately sustain life or if there is some other problem, the snails will decide it’s time to find a better environment and head towards the exit, and the edge of the tank.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

It is not necessary to be a snail whisperer to interpret what they are trying to communicate from their clustered position at the lip of the aquarium – they want out. Their positioning can indicate a whole range of problems, but more importantly, it is an early warning klaxon that something is going wrong.

Once noticed, the exact problem needs to be identified and a quick solution found before the situation worsens and jeopardizes the entire aquaponics farm, risking the loss of fish life and the loss of a valuable harvest.

Types of Snails for Aquaponics

It is important, however, to choose the right snails from the outset, as not all snails are suitably efficient for aquaponics.

Two that fit the bill are the Malaysian trumpet snails and Ramshorn snails. Out of the two, the Ramshorn snail is the preferred option for aquaponics, acting as an early warning system, keeping the fish tank free from decaying matter, and in the eventuality that the fish are underfed, they can be a readily available food source.

Their ability to breed faster than the Malaysian trumpet snail is one of the things that sets them apart. The lifespan of a snail is generally about one year, although in some cases that can extend to between 2 to 3 years, so it is beneficial if they can reproduce quickly to keep the population at a good level.

Adding snails into an aquarium enhances the underwater environment by simple diversification. Apart from the aforementioned benefits they bring to the aquarium, incorporating another species such as snails adds another dimension of enjoyment and splashes of slow-moving intricate colors and unusual shapes.

They tend to be compatible co-inhabitants to most species of fish and, even though some species can over-reproduce rapidly if left to their own devices unmonitored, they can make interesting pets in and of themselves.

In-depth research is required before introducing even one snail into the tank to prepare yourself for their needs and in expectation of the changes they are going to bring, which can be both positive and negative if overlooked.

On occasion, an over-abundance of snails can enter the aquarium by hitching rides on plants, in gravel or even on decorations as minute transparent eggs. And before you know what’s happening, there are dozens of snails that have not been accounted for, negatively affecting the finely tuned system and creating an imbalance.

To combat this over-population and strain on the filtration system, some of the snails would have to be removed. Yet even this can be a challenge in itself as they are very adept at hide-and-seek. An interesting method of tracking them down and eliminating them is to send in a snail to catch a snail.

This solution calls for a type of snail that eats other snails. Once in the aquarium, these Assassin snails being carnivores will set to work straight away to reduce the over-population and re-balance the equilibrium that was initially strived for.

An Aquaponic Snail’s Pace

Choosing the correct and right quantity of snails for your aquaponics farm can expand the efficiency of the farm. They can alleviate the need for constant surveillance and be an early warning system for the little, unseen problems that can easily be overlooked, and become major problems.

Incorporate them, treat them as well as you do the fish, as a valuable member of the aquarium. You will be amazed at how the humble snail can make your life easier, and how it will slow the hectic pace that comes with a high- maintenance aquaponics project right down to a snail’s pace.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Do Fish Need Light in Aquaponics?

When building an aquaponics system, you’ll already know the direct link between plants and fish and how they both require each other to survive. Light is essential for plant growth, yet many new growers are not sure about their fish’s position.

Do fish need light in aquaponics? Even though plants need sunshine, fish like to have some shade. While fish don’t need sunlight to grow and thrive, they need periods of light and darkness like fish in an aquarium. Without changes in day or night periods, many fish can become sluggish, sick, or stop eating. Based on where your aquaponic system is, you’ll need to provide your fish with light, be it artificial or indirect sunlight, daily.

Why Fish Need Light in an Aquaponics System?

Fish only need light so they can see their food, yet there are newer studies showing light delivers additional advantages for your fish.

Aquatic animals are light sensitive by nature, and based on studies, fish productivity, activity, and overall health may be affected by light intensity, wavelength, and duration.

Some light types control temperature and can be suitable substitutes for heaters. So, if you live in colder climates, it allows you to raise fish used to thrive in warmer climates, such as tilapia.

Adding artificial light to your aquaponic fish tank can help with egg development and health, as well as helping avoid stress and poor health.

Choosing Light for Your Fish

One thing you will find is whether you have an indoor aquaponics system or an outdoor one. If your garden is outdoor, you may not need additional lighting since you can use daylight and night.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

However, if your garden is undercover or indoors where light is potentially limited, you could require such additional lighting. You may need light, yet you will need to make sure it is the right light for your fish.

LED Light

Although on the newer end of the scale, it is recommended to use LED lights if possible. They cost more upfront, yet they can easily be adjusted, and there is little heat output. The significant advantage with LED lighting systems is they are far cheaper to run than alternatives.

Incandescent and Fluorescent Lighting 

Incandescent and fluorescent lamps are other types of lights that can be used as well. However, these forms have minimal functionality, and it is not possible to change the strength or temperature of the light.

If you plan to use these, do so with extra caution, as they can lead to abnormal light-induced responses like your fish being too aggressive to each other. Heat problems caused by these types of lights may also influence the health of your fish.

Light Distribution

The light distribution also needs consideration, so it covers all your tanks rather than just part of it. This is truer should there be any heat output from your lights, as it could cause warm and cold spots. 

Lighting Periods for Aquaponic Fish Tanks

You will never leave your light on around the clock as this would give the impression of permanent light and doing so would have severe effects on the health of your fish.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Besides fish health, you could find an increase in the number of algae that grows in your system. Once you have an influx in your system, it can begin consuming nutrients meant for your plants and your fish. One area that would be affected is the amount of oxygen available in the water for your fish.

The best way to control this is by using a timer for your lighting system. You use one already for your water pump, so adding another for your lights wouldn’t be an issue.

Aquaponic System Requirements

Knowing that you should have a period of nighttime for your fish to rest, it is handy to understand the other areas of your system at the same time.

Here’s a quick breakdown of other vital areas for your fish and every area of your aquaponic garden.

Water Source

Water is among the most critical areas of your entire system. Both your plants and your fish rely on it to survive.

When you first build your system, you will cycle it, so the water is suitable for your fish and plants. However, over time, you need to top up this water to counteract the effects of evaporation and use of your system.

You have many options available, yet many gardeners use regular tap for this. It is okay to use this rather than harvested rainwater, yet you must understand your municipal water.

You would need a separate tank for this use where you fill it with tap water and mix in some ascorbic acid; let this sit for a couple of days so the ascorbic acid will self-neutralize. It needs this second tank because you can’t put chloraminated water or ascorbic acid into a live aquaponics system.

Water Temperature

The water temperature can be affected through your lighting, although it would cool again when lights are not used. Tilapia, Bass, Goldfish, and Catfish are good examples, and like warmer water with temperatures of 65° to 85°F. Fish such as Trout are cold water and thrive in ranges of 55° to 65°F.

Both kinds of fish can be affected if water temperatures are too warm or too cold.

Water pH Levels

Your lights and the temperature can lead to changes in your water’s pH levels. In your system, you will see changes if ammonia rises from your fish or when you add water to top up the levels.

You must monitor the pH levels as often as you can, so you have a good understanding of what they are and how they stand against the ideal levels of a pH at 6.8 to 7.4.

Oxygen for Fish

Most fish are happy when they have dissolved oxygen ranges 5-12 mg/L. If they are too low, and your fish suffer. You could find fish stress, have stunted growth, and probable death.

Oxygen depletion can occur through heat from the summer or through your lighting. The design of many aquaponics systems can introduce dissolved oxygen by the crashing of return water. However, it doesn’t hurt to use an air pump and air stone to be safe.

Oxygen for Plants

When you use gravel in your flood and drain system, this offers near-perfect oxygen levels getting to the roots of your crops. However, there will still be oxygen in the water they absorb, which would have an impact if it weren’t present in the ideal volume.

Conclusion

With the above, you can see that while it is good to have some light for fish, you need to be sure that this light may not generate heat.

The type of fish you have is powerful dictators to lights that heat or not, as is the growth of algae. You will get algae growth from sunlight hitting the water, and you would need to make sure no light gets in the side of your tank.

Since fish don’t like direct light, only introduce moderate light, and make sure they have a dark period for 8 hours as a minimum.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Do Fish Breed in Aquaponics?

When gardeners build their systems, they often do this to grow vegetables and fish to eat. While they fully understand the vegetable side of things, they may not be fully aware of the fish’s side. Sometimes, this leads to the question.

Do fish breed in aquaponics? You will find a handful of fish that are suitable for aquaponics, and along with this, not all fish breed in captivity. Some species breed quickly, which causes issues with overstocking and could lead to a separate breeding tank for the protection of the small fish.   

Fish Care in Aquaponics

Fish rely on the water where they live, and any sudden changes can affect health and well-being. If you have fish species that can breed, they will only do so in ideal conditions.

Many changes in your system’s conditions can lead to disease, most of which are not visible. However, there are symptoms you can see.

Disease Symptoms:

  • Cloudy or swollen eyes.
  • Patches or spots that are cloudy white or gray.
  • Rapid movement of the gills.
  • Opaque, clamped, or frayed fins.
  • Distended or hollow stomach.
  • Wounds or fungus growth.
  • Unusual swimming patterns, darting as if alarmed, hanging at the surface or being shy and hiding.

Reasons for Fish Disease

Once your aquaponics system runs, it will be a closed-loop system, and fish and plants thrive together.

However, there are times you need to do something, and it could be the time a disease is introduced. Diseases may be introduced by introducing new fish, plants, live food, or changes in equipment used in your system.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

You will have a delicate balance in your system to make sure your fish are healthy. Fish can be carriers for bacteria, viruses, and fungus as with other animals. While not all are harmful, you’ll find pathogens (microorganisms) that can cause diseases.

Here you can find several factors that can lead to fish disease:

  • Poor water quality
  • Stressed fish
  • Fish species clashing with another
  • Poor or unbalanced diet
  • Fish Stress

How to Prevent Fish Diseases

Although you can get diseases in your fish, there are things to reduce the impact or prevent them from starting.

  • Quarantine new fish for two weeks before introducing them in an established fish tank. 
  • Feed fish on a good, well-balanced diet.
  • Check water quality and make sure it is clean. Too many fish can overload your bio-filter if you have one.
  • Check all your parameters for pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are in line with the fish you have.
  • Make sure you have sufficient aeration. Add an air-stone and air pump to your sump tank or fish tank.
  • Limit the times you open and close the lid of your tank to inspect fish as this can stress them, particularly if you scoop them out to examine them. 
  • Treat any disease as soon as you identify it.

Common Fish Species for Aquaponics

Tilapia      

Tilapia is the best fish for aquaponics since they quickly adapt to their environment and cope with various water conditions. Tilapia breed quickly in small-medium aquaponic systems and like water temperatures of 82 – 86 °F and pH of 6.5 – 9.

Tilapia are resistant to many pathogens, parasites and can deal with stress as it is a very hardy fish. They also eat a diverse diet and are omnivores who eat plant and animal-based feeds.

Harvest time for tilapia is six to eight months, though this will vary based on water temperature, diet, and size you are harvesting.

Pros of Tilapia

  • Fast growth rate.
  • Quickly adapt to the environment.
  • Great eating.
  • Will reproduce quickly.
  • Omnivorous diet but won’t eat other fish.
  • Can cope with reduced amounts of dissolved oxygen. 

Cons of Tilapia

  • Need warm water above 55 °F.
  • Reproduction speed can be an issue in small systems.

Trout     

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Trout are carnivorous cold-water fish, which are closely related to the salmon family. You will find them suitable for indoor and outdoor systems, as they can cope with an extensive range of water temperatures. Trout prefer colder waters of around 56 to 68 °F, so they are suited to cooler climates. Trout are slow growers and are approximately 1 pound in weight in about four years in their natural environment.

Trout needs high-protein diets compared to tilapia and carp. They offer a high tolerance to salinity and survive in freshwater, brackish water, and other marine environments, so a range of conditions in your system should be suitable.

  • Pros of Trout
  • Great fish to eat and packed with protein and omega fatty acids
  • Ideal for cooler climates
  • Have a varied diet and can eat fish, insects, or small invertebrates

Cons of Trout

  • Slow growers.
  • Can’t mix with other fish.
  • Require large tanks for proper growth.
  • Need clean water.
  • Require close monitoring of pH levels.
  • Need lots of dissolved oxygen.  

Largemouth Bass   

The growth rate of bass varies based on tank size, numbers of fish and diet. The average bass could grow between 2 to 8 inches during the first year. From that point, to mature at 10 inches could be another two years.

For breeding bass and eggs to hatch, your bass needs water temperatures of 65°F to 75°F, with 72°F being the optimum.

Eggs hatch in a couple of days after fertilization, and fingerlings are fast growers and can reach 2 inches in 6 months. 

Besides the range of temperatures bass can deal with, they can also cope with low DO and pH levels.

They are carnivorous and need high-protein diets, and you can harvest at one year from fingerlings.

Pros of Largemouth Bass

  • Bass eats almost anything from pellets, insects, and more
  • Great fish to eat

Cons of Largemouth Bass

  • Potassium levels need monitoring.
  • Conditions need monitoring to ensure clean water, oxygen, and pH levels.
  • Bass doesn’t like bright light or poor feeding.

Koi     

Koi are a popular fish for aquaponics yet are not an eating fish and more for decoration. Koi live a long time and breed comfortably in an aquaponic system.

Koi can live off many foods and, in lots of cases, are disease and parasite resistant. Koi like temperatures of 65 – 78 °F and pH level of 6.5 – 8. 

Pros of Koi

  • Disease and parasite resistant
  • Deals with a broad range of temperatures
  • Attractive ornamental fish
  • Long lifespan

Cons of Koi

  • Not suitable for eating.
  • May produce excess waste as they age. Systems may need more cleaning, or numbers need to be reduced.

Goldfish     

Goldfish are another ornamental fish that can be suitable for aquaponics. They are easy to care for and are tough, hardy fish that copes with varied water conditions. Goldfish prefer temperatures of between 78 – 82 °F, with a pH range between 6 – 8.

Since they are small and can carry parasites, goldfish are not suitable for eating.

Pros of Goldfish

  • Beautiful fish
  • Hardy and tolerates pH changes
  • Copes with less-than-optimal water conditions
  • Large producers of beneficial waste for plants

Cons of Goldfish

  • Can’t mix with other fish
  • Not an edible fish

Alternative Fish

There are other fish that are suitable breeders in aquaponics, such as catfish. However, since these are bottom feeders, you need a longer tank than it is in height. For many gardeners, this could rule out this fish.

If you have space and the capacity, you’ll find these are fast-growing and easy to breed fish. You can also mix these with other fish as they stick to the bottom of your tank.

Fish Considerations for Aquaponics

If you want to grow fish to eat and are looking to breed, then you’ll need to meet specific criteria to do this. Here’s a rundown of what you must think about.

Temperature

Some fish species like colder water than others, and as fish are cold-blooded, adjusting to varying water temperatures can be a challenge. Water will have a natural temperature based on your location. Check this before you consider heating or warming your water.

Availability in Your Location

Availability of certain fish can be a factor. Some fish are available in certain areas. You also need to check whether fingerlings are available where you live.

Maintenance

Some fish species can take care of themselves so long as you feed them. They can be hardy while others need more care and can cost more to raise. Tilapia and Koi are hardy fish compared to Trout that need more attention.

Space Requirements

All growers need to know the size of their fish once they mature. Often, you need to thin out your numbers as fish get older to avoid too much ammonia build up. Tank space will also determine the type and number of fish you can have.

With this, you’ll find the filtration capacity of your vegetable section can be affected. Overpopulation, or under population, will affect the growth of your crops.

Conclusion

The above fish can all breed in an aquaponics system with the right conditions. You need to monitor the birth and possibly remove these to another tank.

One of the primary conditions is the chances of overloading your system and introducing the extra ammonia through more significant numbers of fish.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Can You Grow Root Vegetables With Aquaponics?

With aquaponics, the majority of crops associated with this system tend to be of the leafy or flowery variety, with the harvestable part being on the upside of the grow bed, leaving the roots dangling beneath to absorb the life-sustaining nutrients. This tends to be the standard configuration and a very successful one at that.

Many growers are unaware that root vegetables can also be grown with aquaponics in just as healthy an environment, with equally impressive growing results.

Growing Root Vegetables With Aquaponics

Anyone who is immersed in the world of aquaculture can attest to the numerous benefits and the ease of growing herbs and leafy vegetables under this umbrella. For some, it is just a pleasurable pastime, while for others it is a blooming business, with flowers being one of the many beneficiaries of this system.

Perhaps looking to expand the business or wanting to broaden the variety of crops they cultivate, many farmers are looking at the possibility of adding root vegetables to their range of crops. But are all root vegetables compatible with the aquaponics way?

Root vegetables such as potatoes, beets, onions and carrots, for example, are top contenders for aquaponics, but certain changes have to be implemented to make these additions possible, with the growing process not being as straightforward as with leafy plants.

Carrots are probably the easiest vegetable to start with, not only because they can thrive in the aquaponics environment, but because of its hardiness and the colorful varieties available.

Apart from the classical orange variety, there are red, yellow, white and even purple carrots in the marketplace that, although not generally found in local supermarkets, are gaining in popularity. These uncommon varieties, Nantes, Danvers, Imperators and Chantenay, are just four types of carrots being incorporated in the root vegetable section by adventurous aquaponics farmers.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

They can be a challenge Like all root vegetables in aquaponics there are initial challenges that need to be overcome, but if done correctly the successful harvests can be an eye-opener, and add different flavors and a splash of color onto the dinner plate.

Traditionally, all root vegetables are immersed in soil for absorbing the right amount of nutrients and water. With aquaponics, this soil has to be replaced by an alternative grow media to achieve a successful harvest.

Growing Carrots Aquaponically

Gravel and hydroton are the medium of choice for underground vegetables in aquaponics, either giving the roots something to grip onto for stability. An alternative to them is coco coir, a grow media that functions exceptionally well if the vegetables are to be potted in a cloth bag or a pot.

In this set-up, the nutrient-rich water from the fish tank will run through unimpeded, and the gentle compression effect from the coco noir encourages the root vegetables to grow to their standard recognizable shapes, rather than shapes that consumers consider to be deformed.

The fish selection also plays a defining role when deciding to go underground, and the most common fish in this type of aquaponics farm are tilapia and trout. These are ideal because many root vegetables can be grown in cooler climates and these fish thrive in cooler waters. Koi and goldfish can also be used if they are not be eaten.

Once the system has been set up and refined, and the correct fish selected for this endeavor, the crops can generally be harvested within two to three months. If there is sufficient space and if configured correctly from the outset, several other types of root vegetables can be grown within the same closed-circuit system.

To make the introduction of root vegetables into an established or brand-new aquaponics farm, there are full kits that can be purchased online or at gardening centers. These greatly simplify the process and reduce the time it takes to set up a fully functioning system.

These kits give detailed instructions on how and when to place the fish in the tanks, the ratio of fish required in relation to the number of root vegetables to be planted, and even when to increase the density of fish. All of this information takes the guesswork out of the installation process, eliminating costly mistakes that could otherwise be made.

Additional instructions on how long to wait after the set-up is completed before planting the root vegetables, the space required between the seedlings so growth is not inhibited, and even when to intersperse more seedlings among them, are invaluable to either an experienced grower or a complete newbie.

Residential Aquaponics Growers

Growing fresh fruits and vegetables has never been more fun and more accessible to residential growers owing to the simplification of the overall process.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

Even those home gardeners living in cooler climates and with limited space can take advantage of aquaponics to grow all manner of vegetables indoors or in a shielded environment. The added ability to harvest crops at any seasonal time of the year increases the appeal, and the popularity of aquaponics continues to grow.

Once the mechanics have been mastered, the maintenance routine refined, then the expansion to include root vegetables is an easy step to take. There can be no doubt that in aquaponics healthier onions, potatoes, beets and carrots can be grown organically, and if they can all be accessible right from the bottom of your own garden…even better.

These ventures are sometimes started to save money, to grow healthier, more nutritious vegetables, in an environment that is not at the mercy of nature. What they morph into is a lifelong journey that either stays at the bottom of the garden or grows into a bigger business adventure.

The low maintenance aspect, the convenience, the harmonious nature of aquaponic farming itself, not only make this system sustainable for short-term harvests but ensures that it will continue to expand profitably into other farming categories not previously considered viable.

With the increasing demand worldwide for bolstering the food supply in impoverished countries, growing root vegetables with aquaponics could be a game-changer. Combine that with the fact that this farming method is constantly evolving and discovering better and faster ways to put a healthier meal on a plate, and it looks like aquaponics is finally getting to the root of the food problem.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

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, 

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

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

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook

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.

Hydroponics Unearthed eBook