Aquaponics – An Introduction To Fish-Fueled Cannabis Farming
Aquaponics is the break-through blend of aquaculture and hydroponics, that’s changing organic cannabis farming. This revolutionary system makes it possible to grow great tasting organic marijuana with bumper hydro yields. It’s time to grow more weed without wasting resources.
WHAT IS AQUAPONICS?
In ordinary decent stoner terms, aquaponics can be defined as the combination of hydroponics and fish farming. Instead of a grow operation, you are essentially creating a kind of cannabis “Bio-Dome”. The whole system is self-sustaining. Fish waste feeds the cannabis plants, with the root zone acting as a biological filter to clean the water. Thus forming a natural animal-plant symbiotic relationship. An aquaponics system can be created indoors or outdoors.
THE ROOTS OF MODERN AQUAPONICS
The credit for developing an effective flood and drain system using gravel vegetable garden beds and effluent from Tilapia fish must go to Missouri farmers Tom and Paula Speraneo. The Speraneo’s refined and improved earlier aquaponic greenhouse systems during the early 1990’s and changed organic farming forever. Their super efficient system favouring high plant rather than high fish yield became the model for commercial agricultural aquaponics.
HOW TO GET GROWING WITH AQUAPONICS
If you already have a hydroponics setup and some experience under your belt, then you’re already halfway there. A standard small-scale hydro home grower can make the transition with low start-up cost. Custom kits, that convert a typical 50l aquarium into self-sustaining systems can be found online.
Alternatively, if you have an existing fish tank in the house, you can modify it with the help of one of the many YouTube DIY aquaponics tutorials. A fish tank can be readily integrated into familiar hydroponic systems like flood and drain and NFT. Plus the same hydro clay pebbles are the perfect medium for aquaponics too.
Robust Tilapia fish, that can are natural born murky water survivors might be tricky to source. Instead, ornamental fish like Goldfish can be sourced from the local pet store and will also perform well in aquaponic systems.
CANNABIS SPECIFIC MODIFICATIONS
THE DUAL ROOT ZONE SYSTEM
Creating a self-sustaining ecosystem takes time. Nitrifying bacteria must be part of the system or plants will experience all kinds of nutrient problems. Building up colonies of beneficial root zone microbes won’t happen instantly. This is why most cannabis aquaponics growers will effectively create two root zones.
Usually, a pot is sat atop the aqua clay pebble bed root zone. Top and bottom root zones are typically divided by a fabric barrier like a piece of burlap cut to size. The grower can then supplement the top root zone without killing the fish. Gradually supplementation becomes less of a concern as the system eventually becomes self-sustaining. Some growers will even use nutrient-rich soil in the container for the top root zone.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME
Over time, as you become more familiar with the day to day work and gain hands-on experience you will eventually dial in the system. Less and less supplemental fertilisers are required and the system becomes virtually fully automated.
Some early experimentation and probably some trial and error will be required to figure out the nuances. The goal is to create a closed loop system that does most of the work for you and requires minimal maintenance. Full spectrum LED is the lighting of choice for most systems to ensure energy efficiency and happens to be perfectly suited to cannabis.
THE BENEFITS OF AQUAPONICS
The obvious benefits for the conventional hydro grower to convert to aquaponics are you already have most of the cultivation experience you need and making the switch doesn’t cost much. Organic growers will naturally be attracted to aquaponics. With good reason, because this it is a 100% natural cultivation style, that functions independently of chemical fertilisers.
No other known method of cannabis cultivation can produce as much bud with as few resources. Essentially aquaponics checks all the boxes. Mastery of aquaponics is the zero point of cannabis cultivation.
WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS AND COMPLICATIONS?
Aquaponics is not for everyone. For the beginner grower or those with little experience of hydroponic cultivation, it’s not advisable to dive straight in. Soil growers will certainly appreciate the potential, but won’t necessarily possess the hands-on experience either. Let alone know anything about fish farming. Even practised hydro growers will need to brush up on organics and quit relying on chemical fertilisers. Personal research and study will be essential to build up a knowledge base.
Raft aquaponic systems are a terrible idea for marijuana. Don’t even go there. You can’t crop top-shelf buds in swamp-like conditions. Stick with hydroponic systems, that have already proved themselves amongst cannabis cultivators. High-quality oversized piping and additional water filtration to remove solids will be necessary to avoid blockages. Figuring out the optimal ratio of fish to plants for your system or the feeding rate ratio is not easy and will be the greatest challenge.
Long-term aquaponics cultivation will necessitate a second system, if you intend to take cuttings and/or rotate crops. One system will need to be tuned to the vegetative growth stage lighting schedule and nutrient requirements, while the second must be adapted specifically for the bloom cycle.
Imagine a hydroponics system, that’s completely organic self-sustainable and nothing goes to waste. Get ready to have your mind blown by aquaponic cannabis.
Growing marijuana aquaponics
Susanne and Tim at a beach sunset in Anaehoomalu Bay in 2005
Or, how the 2008 Financial Crisis pushed us into crippling debt and illegal activities so we could save our family farm.
We were content, living in sunny Hawaii, designing and drawing house plans. But in 2007, our business began to lose momentum. We looked for a new opportunity (we certainly weren’t thinking about growing marijuana; it hadn’t even been a cloud on the horizon).
We knew not everyone needs a new set of house plans, but everyone needs to eat. We knew we wanted to do something with food…. but what?
Then we discovered aquaponics, and got super excited! We borrowed $250,000 and built a huge aquaponics farm. We wanted to live more sustainably, and be able to work at home, to be with our kids. That loan, along with our hefty mortgage, put us just over a million dollars in debt.
But we weren’t worried. We’re hard workers, and we’d always been able to pay our bills. But we didn’t realize that our architectural business slow down in 2007 was just the first sign of the looming Global Financial Crisis.
Suddenly, in late 2008, our house plans business went from slow to ZERO, overnight. And the farm wasn’t making any money yet! After our first year’s operation, we looked at our books and realized we’d spent all our loan money on a theoretical aquaponics technology that came from a university. It worked just fine, but lost money. This was OK for the university, because they have their salaries and costs paid. The fact that their technology was untested and unproven in the real world did not matter to them. As one of the first to test it, we were unpleasantly surprised to find that it lost a lot of money for the grower.
We couldn’t pay our bills or our mortgage. But thank God for our aquaponics systems – at least we were eating well, with lots of fresh organic vegetables and fish. Otherwise, we would not have been able to feed our kids in those dark days.
We were terrified that we were going to lose our home and farm, so we made the stupid choice to break the law and grow a really high-priced crop: marijuana. We were busted by the DEA after seven months of failed experiments, because growing marijuana in our raft systems DID NOT WORK! If you’re thinking of learning how to grow marijuana in aquaponic raft systems from us, forget it; it doesn’t work.
And if you’re thinking “It’s legal in my State”; you need to be really careful about that one. Hawaii has been very progressive about marijuana. At the time we were caught by the DEA, the amount of marijuana we had at the Hawaii State level would have produced a misdemeanor charge and a $75 fine for us. A fellow arrested by the State police (about 6 months before we were arrested by the DEA) had 37 pounds of marijuana and several hundred plants; he got a six-month suspended sentence because he was a single Dad with a child. It’s still illegal on the Federal level (even in Colorado and Washington!), and they can arrest you any time they want.
Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit? ….. Anywhere he wants. That’s the Federal Government.
Humiliated, we stood before a Federal judge…. and were horrified to discover we were looking at serious prison time. We’d gone straight from the frying pan into the fire!
Fortunately, all our Aquaponic Friends sent letters to the Court on our behalf. We were overwhelmed by the support they expressed in the hundreds of letters we received. These were NOT letters supporting our growing marijuana, by the way. They were letters supporting the work we’ve done in sharing our cost-effective and profitable greenhouse and aquaponics technology with all these people. Read them if you wish; we cried frequently when we did.
Ten years later, we’ve recovered from that stupid mistake. Susanne and I have each done our Federal prison time (just three months!), and will be felons for the rest of our lives. We learned some incredibly valuable lessons, though:
- How to build aquaponics systems for less than one-fifth as much as the University system.
- How to get Aquaponics USDA Certified Organic (we were the first in the world!)
- How to get AquaponicsFood-Safety Certified(also the first in the world!)
- Best of all, we discovered how to grow 10-150 times as many plants in our aquaponics systems as the University systems we learned from.
We turned adversity into triumph. Today, we’re widely acknowledged as leaders in the field of aquaponics. And we’ll never lose sight of our true mission again, which is to develop and share cost-effective aquaponic and greenhouse technology with the whole world.
The most important thing we learned is that it’s critical to start your commercial aquaponics venture SMALL, and not take on crippling debt.
HOW TO SUCCEED by starting small is what you learn in our world-class, 100% guaranteed DIY packages.
You also get the hundreds of other lessons we’ve learned in the past twelve years, including all the SECRETS that allow commercial aquaponics to be wildly PROFITABLE.
We give you everything we know, with nothing held back. No upsells. No gimmicks. Just powerful, tested and true information, being used by thousands of our students, all over the world. And, we also tell you all the mistakes we made, so you can avoid them, and get it right the first time.
Take Me To The Friendly Table Top Aquaponics Systems
Take Me To The Friendly Backyard Aquaponics Systems
Take Me To The Friendly Commercial Aquaponics Systems
Take Me To The Friendly Commercial Aquaponics Systems With Greenhouses
A Friendly Testimonial:
Hi Tim, My son, Carl and I attended the training in Texas this year. Just to give you an update. The Sunday after the training, I was coming home from the church I pastor and passed by a co-op that has several greenhouses out front that seemed not to be in use anymore. I drove through to check them out and they were not in use.
A couple of months later. we are now the owners of the 7 greenhouses and all that comes with them! We were able to purchase them all for only $2800. My son and I begin deconstructing them on Thursday.
I’m attaching a couple of photos for you to look at them. They have propane heaters, roll up sides, boxes and lights for electricity, fiberglass front and rear walls, and a lot of odds and ends that I believe will come in handy.
I am so glad we listened when you spoke on ways to find greenhouses without spending a fortune. It has been tempting to just “jump in” but I’m glad we waited.
Thank you and many blessings, Rob Rolison
(Below) About $50,000 worth of greenhouses and equipment that Rob Rolison and his son Carl picked up for $2,800 after we explained how to do so in our March 2016 Texas 5-day training. They’re going to disassemble them and reassemble at their farm. If they’d bought them new, they be at zero now; another way to look at this is that they have $47,200 to spend on the aquaponics systems to go inside their greenhouses.
Come to one of our live trainings, or purchase our Commercial DIY package to learn even more knowledge that is as valuable as this.
How we grew some marijuana, got arrested by the DEA, and went to Federal prison for it. Don't do it! Really! Not until the law changes.