What are the Best Types of Plants to Grow in an Aquaponics System?

Aquaponic gardening is a sustainable way of growing plants that has many benefits.

Because aquaponics systems are closed systems, they can be customized to suit the needs of virtually any kind of plant. You can design an aquaponics system to grow anything. However, some kinds of plants will adapt easier and do better in aquaponics systems than other plants.


Your system will depend on the needs of the plants you decide to grow.

Choosing your plants will help you decide your light source, the room needed, and even what kind of aquatic life to keep in the aquarium part of your aquaponics system.

But, this post is strictly about choosing plants for aquaponics systems, so let’s begin the decision process.

3 Major Factors to Consider when Selecting Plants

The three major factors you should consider when selecting plants are the size of the plant, the height of the plant, and how much sunlight it needs.

  • The height of plants will affect how much space you need. In an apartment with little space, you might not want a tree or a shrub to take up a lot of space. Instead, smaller plants would be better suited to your home.
  • Plants that need less sunlight will be better for people who live in apartments that don’t get a lot of natural light because they will need less sun exposure. They also may last longer because they won’t need as much care and attention from their owners.
  • If you have pets in your home, then maybe skip out on plants that aren’t pet friendly.

The Complete Guide to the Best Plants for Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a type of hydroponics that’s related to raising fish and growing plants together. Aquaponics has been practiced for centuries, but it has recently become popular in the Western world due to its sustainable and efficient approach.

Soil-based farming can result in mineral depletion of the soil. This is why soil must be fortified with fertilizer, and some fertilizers are chemically treated which is bad for the environment.

Aquaponics doesn’t cause soil depletion because, well, there is no soil used. The plants sit on top of a medium like clay pebbles or float on a “raft” directly on the water. The waste from the first in the aquarium part provides the nutrients that the plant roots absorb.

This absorption removes toxins from the water, making it suitable for the fish.

And the cycle continues.

Obviously, it’s a little more complex than that, but that’s the basic idea of aquaponics systems.

So, if you’re considering setting up an aquaponics system at home, and are uncertain about what kinds of plants to choose, then this article is a must-read!

Here are some things to think about before choosing which plants to use in your aquaponics system.

3 Factors to Consider Plants for Aquaponics

There are many plants that can be grown in an aquaponics system. They can be categorized into three categories:

1) Background plants – These plants will grow on the side of the aquaponics system and provide it with some shade and cover.

2) Foreground plants – These plants grow on top of the water and provide nutrients to the crops below them via their roots.

3) Crops – The main focus of an aquaponics system, these are the vegetables or herbs that you’ll be growing to either eat or sell.

The following is a list of some common plant species which do well in an aquaponics environment depending on your needs:

Background Plants for Aquaponics

Background plants are an integral part of the aquaponics system.

Background plants come in different varieties. Some are grown in water, while others are grown on top of the gravel, which is usually layered in the system.

Background plants provide shade for fish and help with nitrification.

They can also be seen as a food source for the fish that eat them when they are not being harvested for human consumption.

The type of plant that’s used is dependent on what’s compatible with your choice of fish and what kind of plants you’ll be growing outside of the.

Usually, any pondweed or aquatic plant that is safe for your breed of fish would be ok to use.

Some examples are duckweed, waterlily, and watermeal.

There are many more choices you can make if you choose to use background plants. Just make sure the plant you choose is a good match for your choice of aquatic life and the plants you will be growing in the main grow space of your aquaponics system.

Foreground Plants for Aquaponics

Foreground plants are living things that grow taller than the other plants in an aquaponics system. This means they can catch light from the sun or grow closer to the surface of your fish tank.

They are sometimes called “the middle layer” because they are situated between the fish tank and the bottom layer of plants.

Aquaponics systems typically have a “mixed media” design, which means there are layers of different types of material in your system that encourages growth – usually gravel, sand, and potting mix.

Foreground plants have to be able to thrive in these three types of media.

You can use popular foreground plants like:


Of course, there are many other types of aquarium plants to choose from.

Just be certain that your choice of plants for inside the aquarium is a good fit for the breed of fish you plan to keep.

Edible Herb Plants for Aquaponics

There are many different types of edible herb plants for aquaponics to choose from. It is important to select the right type of herb plant for your aquaponics system.

This will depend on the space available, what you want to grow, and how much time you want to spend on this activity.

The most common edible herb plants for aquaponics are basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano.

Some other choices you might try are:

  • SAGE
  • MINT

Vegetables for Aquaponics Systems

Aquaponics is an integrated system of raising fish and plants together. It combines the natural process of aquaculture, in which water-dwelling animals are raised in tanks, with hydroponics, in which plants are grown without soil.

The Aquaponics Association has put together an extensive list of aquaponics vegetables that can be grown in this type of system. They include lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, spinach, basil, tomatoes, and peppers.

Best Fruit Plants for Aquaponics

Fruit plants are an important component of any sustainable aquaponic system. They provide beneficial shade, help to filter the water and provide food for the fish.

Some of the best fruit plants for aquaponics are listed below.


Of course, as long as you have enough space and can assure the plants’ nutritional needs, nearly any fruit will do nicely in an aquaponics system.

Flowering Plants for Aquaponics

Flowering plants are common in smaller aquaponics systems.

As part of what can be described as a “living decor”, the combination of an aquarium with flowering plants growing on top can be quite stunning.

Some common flowering aquaponics plants are lavender, violets, orchids, and sunflowers.

But don’t be afraid to try your favorite flower.

Final Thoughts on Choosing Plants for Aquaponics Systems

Now that you have a better understanding of the variety of plants that can be grown using an aquaponics system, you can see why this phenomenon is catching on in the West.

Whether you are trying to supplement the food supply for your aquarium fish, want to grow your own herbs to use in cooking, want to grow healthy and fresh organic fruits and vegetables, or simply want to decorate your home with a piece of living, breathing, growing decor, an aquaponics system can certainly fulfil your wishes.

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