Aquaponics 101 – Choices, choices.

My system, now fully cycled, but still vulnerable to Ammonia spikes, is providing more nutrients than my 12 grow beds can soak up. This may explain the phenomenal growth in most of the plants trialed.

The decision now is whether to stay with a mixed planting for variety and consume the veggies ourselves, or plant out one crop and sell it.

I am busy in the planning stages for two medium commercial systems that I am designing for clients, and these would, by necessity, be “single-crop” systems. The decision is then, what do we plant?

It would have to satisfy basically three criteria.

  • It must be easy to grow aquaponically.
  • It must be high value (because of the high capital setup cost.)
  • There must be a strong and consistent local market for it.

We could use the same three criteria to decide on the fish species, but I am pretty convinced that Tilapia is the way to go.

So what plants does one grow?

What I have found is that butternut grows like a weed and literally soaks up the nutrients. But high value? Mmm, maybe not.

Beans? Very easy, but high value. No.

Tomatoes? Very easy, but yields will determine how valuable. I am however, expecting bumper yields from all three of the tomato varieties that I have planted.

Basil? Now here is a crop custom-made for aquaponics. The secret is going to be to find a local market for it, or set up a small specialist basil pesto bottling plant.

Wasabi? Easy to grow, very high value, massive demand in the culinary and pharmaceutical markets (R200/kg +), but unfortunately needs temperatures of 8 – 18 degrees.

Ginger? Apparently grows well in an aquaponic system (I have tried some), has a high value per kg (retails for R40/kg) so maybe this is the product.

Strawberries? Grows like weeds, fruit is always in demand, and the prices are good. This is another good crop to consider.

Herbs? They love the system and are thriving. Small growing footprint, high value, especially if one can market it as “Aquaponically Grown”.

So many choices.

The record time, on a forum (mainly Australian) that I frequent, for green beans from seed to picking is a blistering 42 days !! My beans flowered after 35 days and the first beans appeared after only 40 days. Not quite picking size but quite unbelievable. Here is an image of the first baby.


The herbs (celery, mint, origanum and parsley) all doing well.


I think the next plant to flower and start producing will be the tomatoes. This is what they look like now.


Enough for now.



5 Responses

  1. Hi Synaptoman,

    Interested in your back of envelope assessment of what might be economically viable because I have a similar interest in a small way but use a raft system. (cf Oz forum).


  2. Hi Alchemist,

    Local growing and market conditions dictate to a very large extent. I’ll pop you a private email with some details. Thanks for your comment.


  3. Butternuts cost €3 plus each in Ireland. R30 and climbing.

  4. Lex,

    And these babies are going to be 2 – 3 kilos each gauranteed. Everything in an aquaponics system appears to grow faster, bigger and juicier. I will probably get 30 butternuts from this crop.

  5. Looking good. Picking up 3 drums today. Storm has R1200 to start with so we’ll be sending pics of a “budget”, begged, borrrowed and stolen aquaponics system soon. Need fish though!

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