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Aquaponics vs. Hydroponics: Which is Better?

aquaponics fish tank

Are you planning on growing cannabis? When it comes to beginning your home grow, numerous factors go into kick-starting the growing process. Preparing the setup for your homegrown weed means deciding what’s best for you and today we compare aquaponics vs. hydroponics.

Although there is no “best” growing medium, aquaponics and hydroponics have become popular growing methods in cannabis. Both require large amounts of water rather than soil. While the question of which is better is a hot debate, the truth is there is no simple answer. When growing weed, learning and understanding the differences between aquaponics and hydroponics will help you decide which system will work best for your homegrown journey. 

Photo: Unsplash

Growing Cannabis with Hydroponics

hydroponic grow sytem
Hydroponics Grow System (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Hydroponics is a popular method of growing plants by using only water and chemical nutrients, no soil is needed. Instead of extracting nutrients from the soil, plants grown in a hydroponic grow system can absorb nutrients through a water solution. Hydroponics has become a common method for homegrown cannabis. It has also become the primary technique for growing and cultivating basil, lettuce, and tomato throughout the U.S. This is because of the consistent growth and high yields that are associated with plants grown in hydroponics. The different types of hydroponic systems make this method ideal for home growers who do not have a lot of space or are searching for a more versatile option. 

How Does Hydroponics Work?

Hydroponic systems works by growing and saturating plants in a water-based solution that is mixed with an abundance of nutrients. The roots of the cannabis are suspended into the nutrient water solution, giving them the vital nutrition needed to grow. The rest of the growing plant (basically everything but the roots), interacts with the oxygen in the air and water to continue steady growth. Depending on the type of weed you are growing, some plants will require different levels of hydroponics nutrients compared to others. Hydroponic growers should remember the important role the water solution plays in the plant’s growth cycle. This means regulating the water and plant’s temperature and ensuring that no additional microorganisms or bacteria harvests in the system. 

Growing Cannabis with Aquaponics 

aquaponics fish tank
Aquaponics System (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Aquaponics is similar to traditional hydroponics but with a combination of aquaculture. In aquaponics systems for growing weed, two main components are happening simultaneously – enhancing plant growth and raising healthy marine animals. Aquaponics is entirely reliant on various species, from living bacteria, worms, or even small fish. All living organisms, both animals and plants, share the water and nutrients source in aquaponics. Aquaponics is traditionally the method used in growing other plants such as: watercress, herbs, chives, and basil on a larger scale.

How Does Aquaponics Work? 

When growing weed with an aquaponics system, the water from the tank containing fish is pumped out and up into the roots of the plants growing above. This supplies the plants will all the necessary nutrients needed to thrive. In return, the plants extract the nutrients and clean up the water that is shared with the aquatic life. Then, the plants are returned to the fish tank and the process repeats. The aquatic fish and organisms in an aquaponics fish tank must be regulated and kept clean. This is key to prevent harmful bacteria or issues in the plant’s growth. Because of the way aquaponic systems function, the setup usually requires a decently large amount of space depending on the number of plants being grown. 

What is the Difference Between Aquaponics vs Hydroponics? 

Both aquaponics and hydroponics offer high yields and fast growth for weed plants. However, many differences stand out between the two which can be a deciding factor in the method you choose. 

  • Maintenance: Hydroponic systems require daily maintenance to check the electric conductivity of the water. This is is crucial to the plant’s health and growth. Since aquaponic systems require the presence of fish or small aquatic life, the natural ecosystem that occurs keeps the water chemistry relatively consistent. With either system, it is helpful to check and regulate the water’s pH levels and conductivity as needed. 
  • Cost of Nutrients:  When growing weed with hydroponic systems, chemical nutrients are needed to form the nutrient water solution the plant is submerged in. These nutrients are available online or in any local gardening store. However, the price and availability of these nutrients have become more expensive and scarce over the last few years. In comparison, aquaponic systems with natural ecosystems do not need as many chemical nutrients, fish feed is used to produce the nutrients needed. 
  • Cleaning: Because of the high concentration of nutrients in the water, hydroponic systems will need to be cleaned out with fresh water weekly. If not properly cleaned, the salt and chemical buildup that forms in the water can be toxic to the plant. On the other hand, aquaponics water does not have to be replaced because of the natural balance of nitrogen in the water.

Aquaponics vs. Hydroponics: Which is Better? 

With aquaponics and hydroponics you can better control the environment your cannabis is growing in because of its indoor growing method and soilless medium. Both systems require water and electricity, as well as regulation of the temperature and space to ensure high yields and consistent growth. 

Deciding which is better between aquaponics vs hydroponics is solely based on the details of your plant growing experience. Consider the difference in supplies, nutrients, and overall maintenance to determine the right growing method for you. As long as you feel happy and comfortable with your growing technique, there is no wrong choice!