Marijuana in Aquaponics

Last week a Hawaiian aquaponics company that specializes in DIY, raft-based systems sent out a newsletter that had a link to an article that ended with ‘THESE SYSTEMS DO NOT WORK FOR GROWING MARIJUANA’. The evidence they used was a report from one of their hydroponic- growing students that tried unsuccessfully to grow marijuana using aquaponics.

Aquaponics Heirloom tomato

Aquaponics Heirloom tomato

This started me thinking about a few things. First, because medical marijuana is legal with a permit in Colorado, it is an unavoidable topic of conversation here. I admit I have a tremendous curiosity about how well marijuana would grow in an aquaponics system, especially since every other plant I’ve encountered grows so vigorously. No, I don’t use marijuana nor have I ever grown it, but I have no judgment about those who do. I think that many are doing tremendous humanitarian work with medical patients and marijuana. Plus, who am I to say that my Friday Happy Hour martini is any worse than someone else’s joint? But my real curiosity is with the plant itself.

Aquaponics peppers in 3 colors

Aquaponics peppers in 3 colors

I think that the statement above about the plant not growing in ‘these systems’ may be true. But this is because the referenced system is raft based. I have become convinced from my experience, conversations, and research that raft based systems, while absolutely the best for commercial operations growing lettuces, greens and herbs, don’t offer the robust nutrient mix that a mature media based system offers.

Think about it. The engine of an aquaponics system is what I have started calling ‘the conversion team’ of beneficial nitrifying bacteria and composting red worms. The bacteria convert the main, liquid source of waste from the fish into food for the plants and reside on all moist surfaces of an aquaponics system. Which system has more surface area – a raft-based system where bacteria reside on the underside of the raft itself, as well as the sidewalls and the plumbing, or in a media-based system with sidewalls, plumbing, and 12″ of gravel, expanded shale or Hydroton? My vote is for the media based system. And by a long way.

Then you have the solid waste, which provide additional micro and macro nutrients for the plants. In raft-based systems, the solids are filtered out and removed as unwanted waste. In media-based systems, the solids remain in the grow bed and are digested by composting red worms that return it to the system ecology as incredibly nutritious vermicompost.

Travis Hughey aquaponics systems melon

Travis Hughey’s aquaponic systems hanging melon

Adding further fuel to my conviction that there just isn’t anything that can’t be grown in a mature media-based aquaponics system, I recently had the delightful pleasure of interviewing Travis Hughey. He is the inventor of the Barrel-ponics system and the father of that movement in the U.S. I interviewed him for an article I’m writing for BackYard Aquaponics Magazine. While we never discussed marijuana specifically, Travis agrees that he has yet to find the plant that won’t grow well in media-based aquaponics. As evidence here are some photos of his current aquaponic gardens, along with some of my own.

So can marijuana be grown in aquaponics? I sure don’t see why not. While it is a very special and obviously controversial plant, it is still just a plant. I’m willing to bet that there are people out there who are trying to grow marijuana using aquaponics and probably succeeding mightily.

Let me know what you think.

12 thoughts on “Marijuana in Aquaponics

  1. I think it could work as long as there were sufficient amounts of NPK and micro nutes. What is very important is there a way to feed the MMJ plants clean, treated, ph’d water through the system on a regular basis. and is the water able to have a ph that can sustain the plant. Very cool and interesting subject, your article was well written, got me very intrigued. I’m also interested in the mag you write for. hope to hear back.

  2. I have always been told that cannabis is grown just like tomato plants. They need the same nute ratio. So, I figure if tomato plants can be grown aquaponically, then there is no reason to doubt that cannabis can be grown aquaponically. Using an ebb & flow type tidal system would probably work better that float beds, in my opinion. Helping to avoid root rot. I’ll be testing this theory of mine shortly. I’m in the process of setting up an aquaponic system. I’ll be trying out a few different plants. Tomato, melon, cannabis, strawberries, and lettuce. This will be interesting to see the results.

    • While I haven’t done it myself, I’ve heard that MJ grows beautifully in media based aquaponics. I’ll look forward to hearing about your results!

  3. I’m going to try an experiment of airoponics mixed with aquaponics. Not sure what fish to try, I was thinking goldfish but there ph is kinda high.

    • Hi Phil. I”m not a huge fan of mixing aeroponics with aquaponics because the misters tend to get clogged up, and you have no surface area on which to grow the nitrifying bacteria. Sorry to rain on the party!

  4. Hello!
    Yes, cannabis does grow in an aquaponics system. i am a licensed grower & processor in Washington State. You are correct that it must be a media based grow bed, and worms do value to the system. Currently, I grow 12 different strains with absolute success. My average yield per plant is 450gr. My grow is an indoors system using T5’s as my light source. I only grow autoflowering feminized seeds, as they are hardy, and give me a good return for my time. The key to growing with aquaponics is to treat your garden as a huge aquarium. If your aquarium chemistry is correct, your plants will thrive and grow without fail!

    Hope this help answer the question at hand.

    good luck, and grow on!

  5. Hi Robert

    I would love to speak to you about your experience growing marijuana using aquaponics. If we could exchange emails and chat i would be very appreciative.

  6. Ive done 1.5 aquaponics cannabis grows and it works very well.

    and that’s in a very basic NFT system

    I have an 80 litre tank with 8 small cold water fish (black mores, Tokyo pleks and some small colourful fish I cant recall the breed)

    a small 120 litre/hour pump supplies the plants with a limited amount of water due to head height restrictions.

    this may have helped in reducing nutrient exposure to the plant and prevented ‘burning’ of the leaves. It also may have encouraged growth in search of the source of nutrient.

    the seeds used were bred from 2 autofem seeds I ordered where one turned out to be a male so I collected pollen and pollinated one branch. I got through 50 seeds in soil grow (many male sacrifices made and 3 bud rots later) before I had read enough on aquaponics to give it a go. its honestly the simplest form of gardening you can do (after set up of course)

    I wouldn’t try the raft system but NFT works for me and am a few weeks from trying grow beds with expanding clay…..

    good luck all

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