Every passing year, all manner of weird and wonderful approaches to growing cannabis creep out of the woodwork. Just when you’ve been reliably informed that one particular method represents the most incredible advances in cannabis cultivation in history, some other expert comes along to tell you something entirely different.
First there was soil growing, replicating the natural environment in which cannabis grows in the wild. This was followed by hydroponics – a system designed to go one step further than soil growing giving plants exactly what they need in a highly controlled environment. Next came aeroponics, which follows exactly the same system as hydroponics, only with an even more refined and efficient nutrient delivery system.
Does the world really need any more techniques and methods for growing cannabis? Well, the simple answer is that if there’s a method that can produce even bigger and better results, of course we need it!
The Advent of Aquaponics
Which is precisely where the undeniably interesting concept of aquaponics comes into the equation. If you haven’t already heard of it, the simplest way of describing aquaponics would be as a cross between hydroponics and keeping a fish tank. Sound strange? It very well might, but in reality the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture (aka raising fish) makes for the perfect, self-sustaining environment that works wonders for absolutely everything and everyone involved.
In an aquaponics system, hydroponics and aquaculture are combined to create one unified, integrated system. Without going too deep into the science of it all, the waste naturally produced by the fish creates an organic source of food for the plants, while the plants themselves serve as effective filters to create the ideal living conditions for the fish. There’s a third important participant in the process, which is the nitrifying bacteria – aka the microbes – and composting red worms that live in the grow media. The long and short of it being that they get to work on the fish waste, convert the ammonia nitrites, before then converting it into nitrates and ultimately the solids into vermicompost which serves as highly effective and efficient plant food.
What makes the aquaponics approach to cultivation unique is the way in which it eliminates every primary drawback of each of the systems it combines/replaced, while at the same time capitalising on every single benefit.
For example, while hydroponics can be incredibly effective, it is nonetheless necessary to maintain an extremely careful balance using manmade nutrients which must be watched over at all times. When growing using aquaponics, it’s simply a case of feeding the fish and having them do the work on your behalf. The only things that really need to be checked are ammonia levels and pH on a weekly basis – the rest largely takes care of itself. Also eliminated from the equation is the requirement to periodically discharge the water in a hydroponic setup. With aquaponics, you never have to replace the water, only top it up as required.
In terms of the fish themselves, it takes a constant care, attention and mechanical filtration to provide fish with the kind of water they need to keep them healthy. And when fish waste is filtered from water, it generally gets disposed of in a manner that is not particularly environmentally friendly. When using an aquaponics setup, the plants take the place of the filter, providing the fish with the best possible environment in which to live and representing a significantly more environmentally friendly solution.
Is it possible to grow fantastic cannabis using traditional soil growing methods? Of course it is. Likewise, is it possible to take cannabis cultivation to the next level by stepping up to contemporary hydroponics? Once again, yes…of course it is. In which case, does this necessarily mean that there is any real place for aquaponics? Or better yet, could aquaponics realistically be considered a game changer?
For a great many reasons, yes…yes, it could.
In terms of the results achievable, it would technically be possible to produce exactly the same kinds of yields by way of quality and quantity with either a hydroponics or aquaponics setup. Nevertheless, the big difference comes in the fact that the latter of the two has the potential to be exponentially more efficient, reliable and easy to work with once set up and running.
One of the biggest advantages of an effective aquaponics system is the fact that there is technically no such thing as watering or fertilizing your plants. The water in the tank and the fish take care of everything for you, which makes it fundamentally impossible to overwater, under-water or use too much or too little fertilizer. Across the board, the amount of labour that’s involved in cultivating plants using an aquaponics system is significantly lower than any other comparable cannabis cultivation method. The whole thing is largely self-sustaining, meaning that the grower has little to do other than periodically feed the fish and tend to the plants as they grow.
And the Downside?
Of course, to call aquaponics a perfect or foolproof system would be unwise and inaccurate, as for a couple of reasons it’s very much isn’t. Despite the fact that much of the process takes care of itself, it is still crucially important to keep an eye on the ammonia levels and pH balance on an on-going basis. The reason being that if either of these are allowed to get out of whack, there’s every chance it could wipe out your fish AND your plants in a single blow. That being said, keeping an eye on things and making adjustments where necessary really isn’t a hard job.
Are aquaponics systems suitable for beginners? Realistically, no. The vast majority of people who attempted to keep pet goldfish as children will probably be aware of the fact that keeping them healthy and indeed alive isn’t necessarily as easy as it looks. It takes plenty of time, attention and indeed experience to create a perfectly balanced system that works just as well for your plants as it does for your fish. On the plus side, once a beautifully balanced system has been set up, it becomes so much easier to work with.
Just to contradict the above slightly, carry out a quick web search and you’ll find all manner of guides and tutorials on how to create on a very basic aquaponics system, using nothing more than a cheap plastic fish tank, a couple of plant pots and a few essential accessories. Basic setups can be surprisingly easy to put together, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you are in fact dealing with living creatures – the welfare of which really must be taken into account.
In terms of widespread adoption, cannabis growers are only just beginning to warm to the idea of aquaponics. Nevertheless, many of those who are taking it seriously are reporting the kind of consistent success they have never before experienced.
From quality to quantity to potency and so on, it’s actually pretty amazing how helpful fish poo can be when it comes to growing outstanding cannabis!
Aquaponics, what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.