Maintaining nutrient balance in hydroponic systems is a lot easier than it is with aquaponics. For newcomers to aquaponic growing this hurdle can be really frustrating, especially when most of what you read about this method of soilless growing simply says that the fish provide the nutrients for your plants. Technically, this is true, but you have to manage it in order to enjoy an ample harvest.
Fish waste is an awesome source of organic plant nutrients, and aquaponics is the best way to grow organic fruits and vegetables hydroponically, but there is a lot more to know about crop nutrition in the closed regenerating system. Just like with hydroponics, the mineral content of your water source at the beginning changes over time, but you don’t empty the tank and start over again with successful aquaponics like you would with hydroponics. Not if you’re goal is to produce food without wasting water, and why should you if it is possible to use the same water you started out with perpetually?
Since most people really don’t understand what plants need beyond the contents of a bag fertilizer found in any garden center and added to soil – aquaponic growing can leave them really puzzled. The problem is not understanding plant nutrition initially, and the many variables in play when you are dealing with the population of your aquaponic community. You have both crop and non-crop plants, fish, worms, and water quality to consider as you try to optimize the balance. There are deficiencies that can arise because not all the probable nutrition is available instantly. Creating the perfect environment here calls for more than insert plants and fish, and harvest in so many days.
Getting a grip on the plant nutrients in aquaponics starts with understanding what they are and how plants use them. The best visual explanation I’ve seen yet comes from Dr. Nate Storey at Bright Agrotech. He makes the chemistry and variables pretty easy to understand in the videos below.
There is a good deal more to know, but this will provide you with a starting point. He’s got a lot more great info vids and posts that get deeper into the nitty gritty of plant nutrients in aquaponics in his blog. Start near the bottom with the October 9 post, and work your way forward HERE
Image courtesy of Portable Farms