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Growing Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics – a Full Guide

Introduction to growing medicinal plants in Aquaponics

Medicinal herbs are almost universal in human culture; people have cultivated medicinal plants for self-care in nearly every time and place in history. These days herbal supplements are medical commerce unto themselves but come in a confusing array of forms and dosages which may or may not even have what it displays on the bottle. Whether it’s cost, convenience, or assurance, there are ample reasons to grow your own remedies! Not only will you always have the herbs you want on hand when you need them, but you can also be certain about exactly what you’re taking – and what went into growing it.

A step by step guide to growing medicinal plants in Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a realistic option for growing medicinal plants along with aquaculture under limited water resources to sustain water quality, ensuring safe fish production. Since with an increase in population and its demand resources are shrinking and it is very difficult to own space for gardening in such cases aquaponics is an amazing technique. Based on principle nutrient-enriched water from rearing fish can be re-circulated and utilized for growing a variety of medicinal crops while plant roots will remove the toxic components such as the excess of ammonia, nitrates, and other elements.

Advantages of the Aquaponics system

Aquaponics is most suitable where land is expensive, water is scarce, and the soil is poor.

Water Use Efficiency

Because of its cyclical nature, aquaponics is very efficient when it comes to water usage. For the same amount of yield, an aquaponics garden requires approximately 2% of water (source) that the traditional soil garden would use. That is basically due to the fact that water is not lost in evaporation from the land. When compared to typical aquaculture, for the same tilapia yield aquaponics system requires only 1% of water for regular pond culture.

Advantages of the Aquaponics system.
Advantages of the Aquaponics system.

Self-Sustainability and Resilience

One of the main benefits of aquaponics is that you can create a closed system that has need of very little outer input – principally, you just have to supply food for the fish and they will in turn produce food for your plant cultures. Also, aquaponics is perfect for personal and family food production because it offers you with both vegetables and quality animal protein.

Local and Global Food Security

Aquaponics might be a promising solution to increasing global food demand. By adding up aquaculture components to the hydroponic plant growing, aquaponics supply much-needed protein from fish, which is at the same time easy to grow.

Environmental Benefits

In addition to water use efficiency, aquaponics has other environmental benefits. There is no requirement of agricultural land – the negative impacts on soil are avoided, and no land conversion or enrichment is needed. There is no application of pesticide and fertilizer runoff which would pollute the surrounding land and water ecosystems.

Considerations for growing medicinal plants in the aquaponics system

Growing media

Grow media serve up as a support arrangement for the plants in an aquaponics system.  Not only does the media maintain plants in a stationary and upright position, but it also offers a surface area for bacteria to thrive within the grow beds, and a acts as a mechanical trap for the solid waste as it is barred out of the fish tank and into the grow beds. Moreover, aquaponics grows media serves as an exchange for oxygen and moisture and provides worms a comfortable habitat to live in.

Features of growing media for Aquaponics

Inert – Aquaponics grow media should be pH-neutral.

Size – If the media is too small, it is bound to cause compaction and clogging.  Large grow media is apt to cause air gaps, which can adversely affect the growth of the plants. Use an aquaponics grow medium that is roughly ½” to ¾” in size and has a good surface area for colonizing bacteria.

Weight – Aquaponics grow media shouldn’t be so heavy that becomes unmanageable, yet too light that it floats around and clogs up your system. Light to medium-weight media is ideal.

Depth – Allow for roughly 12” of growing media in your aquaponics grow bed.

Easy on the Hands –Choose an aquaponics to grow medium which is relatively smooth yet still highly porous.

No Decomposition – Aquaponics systems do not react well when growing media breaks down. Avoid growing mediums that will introduce anything harmful to the system.

Coco Coir – As is the case with most organic grow media, coco coir tends to break down in aquaponics systems. It also holds too much moisture, discolors the water, and may even cause your pH to go out of whack. Coco may work just fine as a top layer, but we don’t recommend filling your entire grow bed with this media.

The growing media in an aquaponics system is conquered by clay pebbles because they are ideal for the root structure and maximizes surface area accessible for beneficial bacteria. Clay pebbles are the most common growing media in Aquaponics and are also recognized as clay balls, or Light Expanded Clay Aggregate (LECA). Often perlite is used in growing channels in aquaponics systems (inside net pots) as it is a cheaper media.

pH Management –The optimal range for most aquaponics systems is a pH of 6.5-7.0. Monitor your pH closely and adjust accordingly.

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Types of Aquaponics Systems

Following are the four common components of every aquaponics system:

  • Aquarium (fish tank)
  • Grow bed for plants
  • A scheme of transporting water from the aquarium to the grow bed (water pumps are often used)
  • A system to drain water from the grow bed back into the aquarium (pipes or siphons are often used)

Below are the most frequent designs discussed which are used in planning an aquaponics system

Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)

Ebb and Flow is the most well-liked design of aquaponics. Beginners who are developing their aquaponics plans can consider this type of system.

  • a grow bed is placed on top of an aquarium, which permits for gravitational draining
  • plants grow up in a media-filled bed (such as clay pebbles)
  • a submersible water pump is located in the fish tank, which pumps water into the grow beds
  • to manage the amount of water being pumped into the grow bed, and to drain this water back into the reservoir (fish tank), either a timer with a standpipe, or a bell siphon are installed
  • a timer is used to turn on/off the pump – for interval flooding – and a standpipe is a drain placed in the grow bed to permit water to return into the fish tank
Deep Flow (Raft or DWC)

Deep Flow, also known as the Raft System, is a Deep Water Culture (DWC) technique in which plants are floated within a foam raft, and roots are suspended in nutrient-rich water. Any solid waste is filtered prior to the water reaches the plants. Often, the raft tank is separated from the fish tank, and water flows constantly between one tank, through filtration components, and then into the second tank. Other Deep Flow methods basically use one tank to both store fish and raft plants.

This method is admired by commercial aquaponics growers, as plants can be maintained and harvested with effortlessly.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Nutrient Film Technique is one more aquaponics system that is better suited for smaller, leafy green types of plants. NFT functions by flowing a thin stream of nutrient-rich water down enclosed channels. Plants are located in small net pots or plastic cups, and their roots are raised and hydrated by the nutrient-rich water as it passes by the root zone. A separate biofilter is necessary for this type of system.

Growing Aloe Vera Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

This is a medicinal plant, a succulent that is reported to be an excellent plant to use for burns, wounds, and other skin infections. Aloe vera can be raised in aquaponics but certainly not for beginners. Aloe vera grows well in raft and ebb flow systems and is considered one of best plants for aquaponics fish tank

Growing Basil Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

Basil is a member of the mint family, which explains its ability to grow up rapidly. One of the best growing herbs aquaponics is the Thai Sweet Basil. It is naturally tolerant of heat and moisture, making it an outstanding choice for your aquaponics system. It is also fast growing. It can germinate within five days and be ready to harvest within 25 days. You will have to remove any flowers as soon as they appear; this will lengthen the growing season. You must not remove more than a third of the plant at a time; this will make sure that it keeps growing.

Growing Chamomile Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

Chamomile is widely recognized as an herbal tea made from the dried flowers of the plant. Its gentle fragrance and the warm steam of the tea are so relaxing. Chamomile’s tiny seed does not root well in many hydroponic growing media, so if you’re planning to grow aquaponics chamomile, spend in some starter plugs.

Growing Feverfew Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

Feverfew tends to have a preference for the sun, so it may get leggy indoors. Its small seeds grow better in starter plugs placed directly in aquaponics media.

Growing Lavender Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

Lavender is well known for its distinctive scent, almost used anywhere else someone might wish for a rich, clean, relaxing fragrance. Its most regular medicinal application, like chamomile, is as a gentle relaxant; lavender is often used in infusions or even as an essential oil to aid calming and sleep.

Lavender can be a little bit complicated to grow, particularly in hotter climates where it tends to wither away in the summer, and it has a repute for disliking soggy grow media and needs good drainage in the aquaponics system.

Growing Peppermint Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

Peppermint should be a go-to for any stomach issues. It has also been shown to help with alertness and headaches. Peppermint can be grown successfully in the aquaponic system and is one of the best plants for small scale aquaponics as it will grow quickly without much demand.

Growing Ginger Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

Ginger is a robust herb that is a surprisingly good plant for medicinal plants for aquaponics. It is worth noting that this is a long term crop. Ginger is not known to be a fast grower, even in an aquaponics system. The best thing is to put a couple of cuttings in one corner of your system and leave them alone. It can take as much as 12 months to grow up. During this time, the plant will send out new shoots until a thick dense root base inhabits the entire corner. You will have to keep the leaves trimmed to make sure your other aquaponics plants are not suffocating.

Growing Alfalfa Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

The name “Alfalfa” literally means “the best forage.” In addition to being a livestock feed, folks give importance to Alfalfa for its medicinal purposes. Because of the small size of Alfalfa, it is crucial that you have a flat, full surface to grow them. The two best methods to grow the crop are Deep Water and Media Bed aquaponics growing system. Alfalfa doesn’t have to need full sunlight. In fact, it is suggested to keep the plant away from direct sunlight as it is a low light aquaponics plant. Largemouth Bass is a hardy fish that can endure low water temperatures. This makes the fish one of the best to compliment when you are growing Alfalfa Sprouts in Aquaponics gardens.

Growing Sage Medicinal Plants in Aquaponics

Salvia officinalis or Sage is a member of the “Lamiaceae” or Mint family like other herbs in the Mint family, Sage is also a powerhouse of nutrients. Growing sage in aquaponics prefers a pH range between 6.5 to 7.0 and temperature between 60°F to 70°Ffor its optimal growth. You can expect the first harvest after transplanting in 4-5 weeks, and 5-7 weeks in winter.

Suitable fishes for the aquaponics system


Ideal Temperature Range:   72° – 86° F edible, warm-water aquaponics fish, easy to breed, and fast-growing best fish for aquaponics in India.


Ideal Temperature Range: 56 – 68°F Edible cold-water fish, high dissolved oxygen levels, and close pH monitoring.


Ideal Temperature Range: 70 – 82‎°F Edible, hardy, slower to mature, and carnivorous diet.


Ideal Temperature Range: 78 – 86°F Edible, fast-growing fish Sensitive to water temperature, water quality, and pH.


Ideal Temperature Range: 75 – 85°F Edible and accessible aquaponics fish, requires constant monitoring to ensure proper conditions.

The Conclusion of growing medicinal plants in Aquaponics system

It is an excellent system to consider grow herbs and medicinal plants along with aquaculture.

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