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Wednesday June 12, 2019

By Abby Hutmacher


What if we told you that there’s a way to grow cannabis and provide organic nutrients to your plants directly from their source while giving some home-grown pets a healthy, happy environment in which to thrive? And what if we told you that, after the initial setup, your plants (and fishy pets) would be able to grow on their own with minimal need for outside interference?

The best part? This grow technique already exists and doesn’t require any fancy technology, either. In fact, aquaponics, or the act of growing plants and fish together in the same closed-loop system, has been in practice since 1000 AD by the ancient Mayans who grew plants on rafts afloat lake surfaces. The Aztecs (1300-1521) improved the technology through a series of canals and artificial islands on which crops thrived thanks to the nutrient-rich soil and ample access to water. Today, aquaponics is often used as a means of environmental protection or simply by those wishing to cultivate their own food in small spaces – and, of course, for cultivating cannabis!

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the combination of fish farming and soilless hydroponics. The premise of aquaponics is that nutrient-rich fish waste can be used to fertilize plants and that plants can filter out the waste to maintain a healthy living environment for fish.

Essentially, fish water is pumped directly onto plant root systems. Then, after the plants have filtered out the waste, the water is pumped back into the fish tank or pond.

Fish are happy, plants are happy, and farmers (who can cut their labor by 75 percent and increase plant size an average of 10 times) are extremely happy. When it’s all said and done, both plants and fish can be harvested and either consumed or sold.

Why Grow Cannabis with Aquaponics

There are many advantages to aquaponic cannabis cultivation that go well beyond easy, accurate nutrient applications. Aside from turning a cannabis crop into a fish farm, aquaponic grows take up considerably less space than soil grows while producing plants that are both larger and denser, as well. Plants also tend to reach maturity quicker thus speeding harvest time and turn-over rate. No other cultivation method produces the volume and speed of an aquaponics grow with such little effort and resources.

Example of an aquaponic set-up for growing produce. photo credit

Additionally, aquaponic setups do not experience the weed and pest problems that soil grows do which helps eliminate the need for laborious weeding and pesticides like neem oil – a common potential contributor to conditions like Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome. Aquaponic grows also use 90 percent less water than traditional cultivation practices which is especially important given scarce water supply.

Best Fish for Aquaponic Grows

Though many different kinds of fish do well in aquaponic setups, choosing the right fish for a cannabis aquaponic grow requires a bit more consideration. First, because cannabis requires more nutrients than, say, lettuce, you’ll need to find fish that do well in crowded, sometimes unfavorable environments. Tilapia is the most common fish type to use in cannabis grows, followed by trout and goldfish because of their reliance and easy adaptability. They also thrive in temperatures comparable to cannabis’s ideal temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and require little attention to survive.

Goldfish fish are frequently used in cannabis aquaponics. photo credit

It’s also important to consider what will happen with the fish after harvesting the plants. Though fish have a lifespan of many years, eventually they will need to be displaced or disposed of to prevent excessive crowding. Aquaponics setups usually require one pound of fish for every five to seven gallons of water; if the fish breed, they’ll need to be thinned out for the best results. So, what to do with fish from an aquaponics grow? Should they be eaten? Moved to a more spacious pond? Answers to these questions will largely determine the type of fish to use in an aquaponics grow setup; ornamental fish like goldfish or koi adapt well to outdoor environments whereas edible fish like tilapia and trout can make for a nice entre come dinner time.

Aquaponics is both a fun hobby and an environmentally-friendly cultivation practice. Those with an existing hydroponic cultivation setup can easily modify their system to accommodate aquaponics and will no doubt be pleased with the results.

Have you ever tried aquaponics cultivation systems for cannabis grows? We’d love to hear about your experience.

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske (license)


Abby Hutmacher Abby Hutmacher

Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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