For most cannabis cultivators, questions like whether or not they should grow fish sound completely insane. However, for some growers, taking their hydroponics setup and turning it into an aquaponics system is not such a wild leap of logic. After all, if you’re already keeping a very close watch on your water, why not make the most of it?
An aquaponics system bears a lot of similarities to a hydroponics system. You have a central reservoir, from which water is pumped to your cannabis plants, and the excess is drained back to the reservoir. Note that this definition excludes drain-to-waste hydroponics systems. Drain to waste systems generally require less maintenance. It makes it easier to flush your crop and is less prone to spreading pathogens, but they aren’t ideal for aquaponics, so if you have a drain to waste system, be sure to take the cost of switching to recirculation into account.
In an aquaponic system, instead of feeding the plants directly, you’ll be feeding fish, and letting the fish waste feed the plants for you. You’ll still have to provide other nutrients like phosphorus and potassium, but the fish will provide you plenty of nitrogen. Instead, you buy fish food and keep in mind there’s fish food out there specifically formulated for aquaponics. Depending on the temperature you keep your reservoir, you can grow a protein-rich tilapia to consumable size within 8 months. You get to harvest fish as well as cannabis.
Some things you should know going in: this is going to be more costly than a standard hydroponics setup. You’re adding complexity to your system too, trying to keep a fish population alive and thriving alongside your plant population. Keep a tight watch on your temperature range, and an even tighter watch on potential algae growth, as that can threaten your crop.
If you enjoy the beauty of symbiosis, and you’re fascinated by the idea of developing and managing a mini-ecosystem in your grow room, then you might want to give aquaponics some serious consideration. If, on the other hand, this seems like a lot of extra work for the occasional fish dinner, then at least consider trying it out on a small scale. Maybe get a little aquarium for the grow room and try growing one plant atop it? Best case scenario, you’ve got an office mascot that piques the interest of your grow room techs. Worst case, you get an object lesson in how your current setup works best for you.