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aquaponic germination cannabis seeds

Aquaponic Cannabis Cultivation

Each day there are more techniques for marijuana cultivation available within the international cannabis scene.

Aquaponics is the intergration of fish farming and hydroponics. Rakocy (1999), Messer (?) and Rakocy et al. (2003) state that ‘aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and plants in a circular, closed system.’

This system is perfectly adaptable to marijuana cultivation producing harvests of maximum quality, like those of hydroponic systems, but with the flavour and aroma of organic cultivation. Now is the time to choose your preferred cannabis variety and try your hand at this new proposal from the team at Alchimiaweb.

In this method the fish supply the water with rich nutrients and bacteria transforms their faeces into a rich food source for our plants. The bacteria decompose the aforementioned excrements through a process which converts them into accessible nutrients for the plants.

This, together with a hydroponic plant set-up, creates a self-sustaining, re-circulatory system that feeds both your plants and reduces toxic build-up in the fish-tank.

With the roots suspended in the hydroponic system, the system itself acts as a bio-filter, improving the water quality in the fish-tank.

Basic Concepts of Aquaponic Marijuana Cultivation

Plant selection: Always use a variety of marijuana that adapts well to the hydroponic system. Sativa-indica varieties, such as marihuana Amnesika 2.0 from Philosopher Seeds, give their best results when grown with this system.

The case in the photos shows edible vegetables, with nutritional characteristics similar to those of marijuana, this is because the system was on display in a shop. As marijuana is illegal, it was not possible to cultivate said species.

Fish selection: Aquaponic systems use many different fish species, both cold water and tropical fish. The most used are: Carassius auratus auratus (goldfish) and Cyprinus carpio (koi) in cold water and Astronotus Ocellatus (oscar) o, Siruliforme (catfish) in warm water, for these fish a water heater is needed.

These are species that are tolerant to fluctuations in water temperature, pH, oxygen levels and dissolved solids. The case shown uses Astronotus Ocellatus (oscar) which grows quickly and has an insatiable apatite.

Water quality: Aquaponic systems require an exhaustive water quality control. This includes the parameters of dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, ammonia, nitrates, pH, chlorine, and others. The particular characteristics will depend on the fish and plant species used.

Bio-filtration, suspended solids: the faeces in these systems contain nutrients, dissolved solids and other by-products. The bio-filters are designed to capture these suspended solids in the water, facilitating nitrification, and converting these solids to food available to the plants. This plays an essential role in this type of cultivation.

Biofiltre for bacteria growth

Nitrification Process: This is one of the most important elements that enable the system to function correctly, reducing the toxicity of the water for the fish by transforming ammonia into a rich fertilizer for our plants.

Thanks to the nitrosomonas that convert ammonia into nitrites and nitrifying bacteria the convert nitrites into nitrates, the plants can feed and the ammonia levels in the fish-tank are reduced keeping them at safe levels for the fish.

These bacteria also offer root protection to the plants.

Proportion: This refers to the proportion of the volume of water in the fish-tank to the total volume of the hydroponic medium. This tends to be half, i.e. the fish-tank should be twice as big as the cultivation system.

Equipment Installation of Marijuana Aquaponics

Aquaponic system with peppers

There are some, easily available, materials needed for the system to operate successfully.

A hydroponic cultivation system: There are various systems and techniques. You should use the system that fits best in the space you have. Remember that the proportion of the fish-tank to hydroponic system should be double.

Fish-tank: You can use any deposit that will withstand the water pressure. For indoor grows using an artificial light source, it’s better to use a fish-tank so you can see the fish.

Water pump: The capacity of the water pump should be greater or equal to the size of the fish-tank, if the pump has a greater capacity it will help the system to function well.

Make sure it is installed at the bottom of the fish-tank so it can easily absorb any dissolved solids and effectively reduce the ammonia level in the water.

Bio-filter: This is the most important part of the system. The bacteria responsible for converting ammonia to nitrates that can be used by the plants are found within the filter.

Therefore establishing a healthy colony of bacteria that can effectively clean the water and feed the plants is the key to attaining high quality harvests. It normally takes 3 to 6 months for the bacteria colony to reach optimum levels.

Benefits and Advantages of Marijuana Aquaponics

Aquaponia allows you to farm organically, as though you were planting in the ground, but offers the growth and production levels of a hydroponic system.

Moreover, the system offers the advantage of being alive and you can control the nutritional cycle of the plants, without having to buy fertilizers that otherwise would be necessary.

The system creates a symbiosis between the plants and the fish and this balance, when the previously mentioned instructions are followed, will produce spectacular results.

You should try this innovative and passionate technique brought to you by the team at Alchimiaweb, and share your aquaponic experiences with them.

Soil vs. Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics: What’s the Best Cannabis Growing Medium?

To put it simply, there is not necessarily any "best" growing medium. Some people prefer one over others, whilst others like to switch between soil, hydroponic and aquaponic grows depending upon personal preferences and circumstances. One person might do a soil grow for an outdoor plant, and hydroponics for indoor plants. Those in areas with less water may prefer aquaponics. Regardless of which growing medium you choose for your cannabis plant, there are pros and cons to each.

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This blog takes a closer look at soil vs hydroponics vs aquaponics and asks what is the best cannabis growing medium … for you?

Cannabis seed germinating in soil. Author: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Source: Flickr.

Soil Cannabis Grows

Soil grows are great for beginners, and this is the method we here at Leafwell would recommend, as it’s the most forgiving of mistakes. In general, cannabis prefers a light and loose soil with a pH of 5.8 – 6.3. The soil ought to contain enough nutrients for the first 3 – 6 weeks of the grow, but you will likely need to top it up with nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – or NPK – in particular) in order to get the best from your plant.

You will also need to feed your soil with organic substances such as humus, compost, worm castings or bat guano in order to fix the nutrients for the plant properly. Ensure that your soil has good water drainage and retention as well. Loamy soil (a mixture of sand, silt and clay) is considered best for cannabis, as it provides excellent water retention and drainage, contains nutrients and high oxygen levels. For people working with other types of soil, coco coir (coconut husks), perlite, vermiculite and clay pebbles may be used to improve soil structure, mineral content, and water retention & drainage. You can also buy soil types designed especially for cannabis.

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Here are some advantages when it comes to growing cannabis in soil:

  • Great for beginners.
  • More forgiving of mistakes compared to hydroponic and aquaponic systems.
  • Much less feed is needed, and you needn’t keep an eye on your plant as often. Soil can do a lot of the heavy lifting, and you are just topping up as needed.
  • Many prefer the natural feel of growing with soil, and the end product can be excellent.
  • Easy to add nutrients – you can use NPK, or even manure! (Bat guano is a popular choice, although worm castings work well, too.)
  • It’s now much easier to get a hold of soils made especially for cannabis plants.
  • Great for outdoor grows.
  • A great end product, and many like the "hands-on" and organic nature of soil-grown cannabis.

As for disadvantages:

  • Soil is a lot more variable.
  • Soil is not as controllable, especially when it comes to outdoor grows. Variations in temperature, humidity and uncontrollable wind can all affect the quality of your soil.
  • You may not get as high a yield compared to hydroponic grows, at least when it compares to a comparable indoor soil grow.
  • However, an outdoor soil grow can produce a big yield of cannabis, and indoor soil growers can still expect large yields comparable to hydroponics if done well.

Hydroponic Cannabis Grows.

Hydroponic grows don’t use soil. Instead, it’s a method of growing cannabis by using mineral nutrient solvents in water. The nutrient-rich water is pumped into the plant, or the plant is suspended above a nutrient-rich reservoir, via an inert medium known as a substrate. Baked clay pellets, growstones and coconut coir are all popular inert mediums for hydroponic grows.

Here are some of the advantages of a hydroponic cannabis grow:

  • You can keep control of the nutrient content.
  • You can get very high yields with indoor hydroponic grows.
  • Less water is needed.
  • Indoor gardening in a climate controlled environment means less can go wrong.
  • Few if any pest control products are needed for indoor hydroponic grows.

As for disadvantages:

  • Unlike with soil grows, you need to keep a closer eye on hydroponic grows in order to prevent nutrient deficiencies or overabundance. Constant monitoring is required.
  • Hydroponic systems are more vulnerable to power outages.
  • You must be careful of microorganisms creeping into your nutrient reservoir. If one plant is infected with a disease, your whole crop is likely to be infected in a hydroponic set up.
  • No soil means that, if something goes wrong, no nutrients are flowing into the plant, and the plant can die quickly.
  • Hydroponic systems can be expensive to set up.

Aquaponic Cannabis Grows

Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture which is the growing of fish and other aquatic creatures in a tank. Aquaponics is a symbiotic environment where the aquatic animals’ discharge or waste feeds the plants growing on top, and the plants remove toxic levels of waste from accumulating in the water. Aquaponics systems have been in use for many years, but it is arguable that they weren’t perfected until relatively recently.

Here are some advantages of aquaponics-based growing mediums:

  • Low water usage overall.
  • The fish provide the plant with nutrients, so plant feed is not needed.
  • Little to no chemical usage.
  • Less susceptibility to pests and diseases.
  • Cannabis plants grow quite well in aquaponic systems.

As for disadvantages:

  • Home-based aquaponics systems are usually smaller in size and area, meaning fewer plants can be grown.
  • Electricity outputs can be quite high for smaller grows.
  • The fish and the aquarium need to be looked after and kept clean and at a consistent temperature.
  • More complex than other growing mediums, meaning there are a greater number of points of failure.
  • Can be quite costly compared to other growing mediums.

Need Some Advice on How to Grow?

Then check out these resources, which look at how to grow cannabis, with a little bit on the biology of the cannabis plant:

Any Final Bits of Advice on Growing Cannabis?

We here at Leafwell recommend keeping it as simple as possible, especially if you’re a beginner who’s just starting off. Avoid large grows, too. For most people taking their first steps, an indoor soil grow and a feminized or autoflowering variety of cannabis is the best choice. One of the things that turns most people off growing their own cannabis is their first few grows going horribly wrong. Keeping it simple can avoid time and money down the drain, and can help you learn more about the environment you’re growing in, ultimately helping you perfect your technique.

Article written by

Dipak Hemraj Head of Research and Education

Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.

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