Best Plants For Aquaponics Fish Tank – A Fantastic Way To Get Different Tastes

The idea of having a fish tank in your home can be captivating and enthralling, but what if your fish tank becomes a means of growing your own vegetables? This is where an aquaponic fish tank comes into play!

With this type of setup, your colorful fish will not only bring life to any room, but they’ll also contribute to bettering their environment by helping plants grow healthier. Here, I’ll talk about different aquaponics systems and the best plants for aquaponics fish tanks that you can grow.

How Does An Aquaponics Fish Tank Work?

To start an aquaponics system, you need a fish tank with a grow bed with media like soil or lava rock used as the plant’s natural growing medium. The basic setup of an aquaponics fish tank is that plants grow on top of the tank’s water, where your fish live.

Fish will poop in their water. As a result, fish waste builds up over time which can be toxic for the other living creatures. But, this system has plants that dangle roots into the water to get fertilized by all of that nasty stuff! In turn, these plants are given nitrogen at no cost – what more could any plant ask?

So, the plants naturally filter out ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates (found in fish waste), thus absorbing toxicity from the water and helping keep your fish healthy.

Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics

In order to explore the benefits of hydroponics and aquaponics, we have to understand each system. This is because hydroponics and aquaponics are two different ways of providing nutrients to plants. 

Hydroponics VS Aquaponics Comparison

In a conventional hydroponic setup, water is used as an inert medium for plants’ roots. Nutrients are provided through fertilizers that need periodic replenishment in this environment where they don’t leach or dissolve into any solution naturally over time as it does with soil-based farming methods.

So, hydroponic systems use fertilizers, while in an aquaponic system, the fish do the job. The waste from these friendly creatures is converted into nutrients by beneficial bacteria for plant nutrition without any additional effort on your behalf!

Through chemical processes, the ammonia is converted to nitrites and finally into nitrates. This process also happens in the soil where beneficial bacteria decompose dead plant matter and other organic materials; it’s Nature’s way of recycling nutrients – called the nitrogen cycle

With fish playing such an integral role in how nutrients are cycled from one organism (fish) living inside its own habitat (aquarium), there’s no question why many people say, “Fish do most of the work.”

Types of Aquaponics System

Raft System

The Raft system is the most effective technique for the aquaponics system. However, it would be best if you had a separate raft tank for a more extensive unit.

In a raft system, there will be a raft board made of polystyrene or foam. Plants remain on the top of the board and are supported within holes by mesh pots.

The nutrient-rich water in the raft tank circulates through long channels, usually at a depth of about 20 cm, where plant roots hang down and absorb oxygen and other necessary nutrients to thrive in this unique ecosystem.

The nutrient-filled water from the fish tank flows by a pump (usually of the fish tank’s filtration system) to the raft tank and then again comes back to the fish tank. This water circulation is a continuous process.

In a more straightforward and more minor aquaponics system, you can use the raft tank as the fish tank – which is the most popular arrangement among beginners!

Media Bed Aquaponics

In a media-based aquaponics system, the plants are placed in grow beds with expanded clay pebbles and other types of materials. The water from the fish tank is pumped or flows by gravity through pipes into these beds to supply nutrients for plants.

Media based aquaponics technique

Image Source: aquaponictrend

Once water exits the grow beds, it is clean and free of solids. At this point, the water flows to a sump tank by gravity, where it’s then pumped back into fish tanks after being cleaned.

The grow-bed serves as both a mechanical and biological filtration unit to clean out impurities before it reaches our fish tanks. It also houses nitrifying bacteria colonies that help keep the nitrogen cycle properly working, so you get nothing but a healthy fish tank!

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

The Nutrient Film Technique for aquaponics, as the name suggests, uses horizontal pipes with shallow streams of nutrient-rich water flowing through them to grow your crops on top. These pipes are specially designed so that you can plant different types of vegetables along the length without crushing their delicate roots.

But the NFT system involves a lot of water. Pumped through the mechanical filter to the sump for additional cleaning, a portion of water rise into the fish tank from the sump tanks below, while others are pumped and distributed equally to the NFT pipes. Then the water flows down again to nourish plants through grow pipes via gravity.

As the water trickles out of the grow pipes, it is sucked back up again and cycled through the biofilter to the fish tank or grow pipes. Finally, the water overflows the fish tank through an exit pipe and back to the mechanical filter – thus, the cycle is completed.

Things To Consider While Picking The Best Plants For Aquaponics Fish Tank

Space Available

Consider how much space is available in your aquaponic fish tank before picking any plants. Then, make sure you have enough space in the system to accommodate them.

Some need more room than others, so consider how much space they require and how much time they will spend growing if you decide on them.

The Number of Fish in the Fish Tank

Aquaponics is a natural system of fish and plants where the number of fish in your tank matters. It should be a perfect balance between fish and plants.

If you plan to keep a good number of fish, there will need to be more plants to absorb all the wastes as their nutrients to maintain the condition pristine.

What You Want to Grow

Aquaponics fish tanks are a wise choice for those who want easy access to their vegetables, as they require much less work than traditional farming.

Enjoy the byproduct of your fishkeeping hobby!
Aquaponics works in conjunction with fish tanks and plants; you can choose what type of plant will grow depending on your goal for it (either eating them fresh or selling the product).

Most fishkeepers have aquaponics tanks to grow vegetables for their daily meal – so think of something you really like to eat! And your planning for the aquarium has to be accordingly.

Requirements of The Plants

The process of selecting plants for your aquaponics fish tank is a tricky one. When you are choosing the most appropriate plant for your aquaponics tank, it’s crucial to take into account that they will need water with a pH range in which both their roots and leaves can flourish as well as an ideal temperature range.

So, your fish tank’s water conditions have to be suitable both for fish and plants alike. If these aspects do not match up correctly, then there could be complications such as nutrient deficiencies in the plants.


If you go with an outdoor aquaponics system, make sure it’s in a climate where they will do well and pick varieties best suited for this environment.

The external climate effect is avoidable by keeping your aquaponic fish tank inside. Also, be careful what type of plant goes into these indoor gardens because many types need adequate sunlight to thrive.


Fish tanks are a dime-a-dozen. Literally, the cost varies depending on what type of system you’re looking to build and how big it is going to be. The cheapest option is building something simple like raft systems with just one fish tank in them.

Media beds come second place as they require additional pumps and piping arrangements. However, the NFT and Raft system with a separate raft tank is the most expensive selection.

Best Plants For Raft System Aquaponics


  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 6.2
  • Temperature: between 60° to 70° F

Lettuce is the most popular aquaponics plant because it requires little maintenance and has low nutrient requirements. You can grow them in aquaponics tanks of any size and type.

It also needs a short growing cycle to be ready for harvest, giving you fresh lettuce in as soon as 2 weeks! Besides, they are very popular with high market demands. 

Lettuce loves sunlight, so make sure they get 5 hours of sun each day. In case you have an indoor aquarium, ensure providing adequate light for a satisfactory result.

Lettuce and Basil for Raft System Aquaponics


  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
  • Temperature: between 65° to 85° F

Basil is one of the most versatile, hardy plants to grow in aquaponics systems. They can survive high moisture and heat while producing a flavorful herb that goes well with almost any dish you cook up.

Basil has its own unique benefit; it grows fast – within 25 days, harvesting happens on average. So you don’t have to wait long for your harvest.

Make sure they get 6 or 8 hours of sunlight every day; otherwise, these little green soldiers won’t grow faster as expected! However, only remove one-third of the plants during harvesting to keep them growing.


  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: between 6.1 to 6.8.
  • Temperature: between 65°F to 80°F

The mild, onion-flavored chives are a delight to grow. Aquaponics systems make it easy to grow these plants- they only need an environment with moderate pH levels, and aquaponic setups provide this ideally!

The best way for you to grow chives is by transplanting them before their full maturity in six to eight weeks.

Chives and Cabbage for Raft System Aquaponics


  • Nutrient Requirement: High
  • pH Requirement: between 6.2 to 6.6
  • Temperature: between 45° to 75° F

Cabbage is a versatile plant that can thrive in the pH range of 6.2-6.6 and prefers 60 to 70 F temperatures, making it one of the easiest plants for growing in aquaponics!

Cabbage needs very little maintenance and loves the sun so place your aquaponic tank where you’ll be able to give those six hours worth every day!


  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: between 6 to 7.5
  • Temperature: between 55 ° to 70° F

For a nutrient-filled, easily grown plant that can survive in even the most brutal climates with little effort put into it. Kale is an excellent choice for any aquaponic garden. In addition, kale prefers cooler temperatures and will readily grow if given partial shade during hot times of the year.

The best part about growing this amazing vegetable? You won’t have to spend hours upon hours tending to your plants; they’re resilient enough on their own! It typically takes 5-6 weeks to harvest kale.

Kale and Swiss Card for Raft System Aquaponics

Swiss Chard

  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.5
  • Temperature: between 60° to 75°F

There is no end to the ways you can enjoy and prepare this colorful leafy vegetable with a sweet and mild flavor.

Swiss Chard is the perfect plant to grow during winter. It’s frost-resistant and a great starter for an aquaponic system because it has low nutrient requirements.

Swiss Chard can be harvested fully or partially after 4 to 5 weeks from seed!

Bok Choy

  • Nutrient Requirement: Low 
  • pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.5
  • Temperature: between 30°F

Bok choy is a specialized plant that has been used for centuries in Chinese cuisine. It’s often served as an accompaniment to the main dish, or it can be eaten on its own with soy sauce and ginger. You’ll want to grow Bok Choy if you love Asian flavors!

Bok Choy’s weight may make it challenging to grow in some cases, but the taste is worth it! The plant can be grown within 8-11 weeks from seed. Make sure to keep rafts firm and not overloaded with too many plants.

Bok Choy and Watercress for Raft System Aquaponics


  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: between 6.5 to 7.5
  • Temperature: between 50° to 60° F

With a love for water and growing quickly, Watercress is one of the best plants to grow in an aquaponics fish tank. In addition, this nutrient-packed herb provides many vitamins, including A, K, and C, with high antioxidants too!

It takes 3-4 weeks from planting your seeds into the aquarium until harvesting this nutrient-packed herb!

Best Plants For Media Bed Aquaponics

Best Plants for Media Based Aquaponics


  • Nutrient Requirement: High
  • pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
  • Temperature: between 65°F to 85°F

Tomatoes are a great plant to have in your aquaponics fish tank, especially if the aquarium is loaded.

The reason tomatoes thrive well in an aquaponics system is that they grow best at pH levels found within the water of our tanks. However, as high nutrient plants, it’s recommended you keep them away from smaller systems.

Varieties of tomatoes abound, and all perform similarly almost – just get whatever type suits your fancy!


  • Nutrient Requirement: High
  • pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
  • Temperature: 70°F

One of the most popular vegetables in America, cucumbers are a refreshing addition to salads and sandwiches. With so many different sizes, shapes, colors, and types of this juicy snack to choose from, it’s hard not to love them for their versatility alone!

Cucumbers are also excellent choices for aquaponics, and they thrive in hot weather with lots of sunshine. If you’re growing indoors, be sure your cucumbers have access to artificial lights as well, which will give them all the light they need when there isn’t enough natural sunlight available.

This plant takes only about 55 days before harvesting once germinated, but if planted early, seeds should take around 65 days, depending on where you live (climate conditions matter.)


  • Nutrient Requirement: Medium to High
  • pH Requirement: between 5.5 to 6.5
  • Temperature: between 60° to 75° F

Chilli peppers are one of the best plants for aquaponics, and they come in various colors, including green, red, yellow, and orange.

Chilli peppers are popular for a reason! They’re easy to manage and grow best in climates that provide warm sunlight.

If you live in an area with a few days of summer, try propagating these beauties indoors – it will be a great addition to your aquaponic fish tank!

Best Plants For Nutrient Film Technique

Best Plants For Nutrient Film Technique


  • Nutrient Requirement: Medium to High
  • pH Requirement: between 5.5 and 6.5
  • Temperature: between 60 to 80°F

Strawberries are a fruiting crop that overgrows and produces delicious results in aquaponic tanks.

However, they need more potassium than leafy green, so it’s best to add them after your aquaponic tank has matured or become established.

Strawberry grows in plenty when exposed to an aquaponics media bed and thrives with more access to sunlight.

Strawberry seedlings should be transplanted into grow beds instead of directly planting seeds because this will prevent overcrowding.


  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
  • Temperature: between 45° to 75° F

If you want to grow spinach in your aquaponics garden, then spin it up and save the juice! Spinach is a classic superfood that does not have long roots and doesn’t need a deep growing bed to grow.

I’ve learned about growing this type of plant when too much sun hits them; bolting occurs, which causes a bitter taste due mainly because their reaction with sunlight makes chlorophyll more pronounced than usual.

It can be grown outside or inside with no problem if shaded during warmer weather.


  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: between 6.0 to 7.0
  • Temperature: between 45° to 65° F

Arugula is a great green, leafy vegetable to add to your aquaponics system as it’s effortless to grow, and the germination time isn’t too long. In addition, arugula has many nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C that provide you with antioxidants for an extra boost of health!

This herb prefers cooler weather – make sure there are some shady spots where they can stay cool during warm months. If given too much sun, its flavor becomes bitter with time.


  • Nutrient Requirement: Low
  • pH Requirement: 6.0 to 7.0
  • Temperature: 60° to 80° F

A unique plant, parsley is best used in aquaponics to help other plants grow more robust. For this herb to thrive, it needs at least 8 hours of sun a day and partial shade when the climate heats up too high.

However, planting it with tomatoes or corn will ensure your entire crop does well!

Which Plants Cannot Grow In Aquaponics Fish Tanks?

You can’t expect everything to grow on your aquaponics system – the following are plants that will find it challenging to grow in an aquaponics fish tank:


Potatoes grow best in rich soil that is not too wet, but an aquaponics fish tank doesn’t provide the right conditions for their roots to develop.

In addition, potatoes need oxygen and sunlight from the above ground like other plants; they will die if their roots are submerged underwater indefinitely.


Green plants, such as blueberries are not usually the best crops to grow in an aquaponics fish tank.

Although this is due to their acidic soil preference of below 7.0 and fish tank water with a neutral pH of around 7.0 being incompatible, they may be able to survive if we plant them where there’s more control over the acidity level!


As with plants like blueberries, chrysanthemums cannot grow in an aquaponics tank for similar reasons. They require basic soil above 7.0, and exposing them to water of lower pH will only kill the plant.

Tips for Planting in Aquaponics

  • If you’re looking to make a major impact on your new grow bed, try planting seedlings rather than seeds. Seedlings will be able to extract nutrients right away and help speed up the process of growing healthy plants in no time!
  • Liquid seaweed plant tonic will act as a stress buffer to help seedlings combat the effects of transfer. To prepare, submerge the seeds in a bucket of water mixed with liquid seaweed (4 cups). Wash away any soil from the roots before planting them into net pots and grow beds for better growth rates.
  • Planting a variety of plants in your aquaponics system will ensure that you never have to worry about harvest time. By planting fast-growing and slow-growing plants, you can help make sure the bed is always planted with something ready for harvesting. Even more, to plan ahead, stagger when different vegetables are being grown to give yourself an array of fresh produce all year round!

Final Thoughts

I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day and reading my blog post about how aquaponics fish tanks can be a fantastic addition to your home or office space. 

There is no better way than a system that combines the best of both worlds in terms of plants and fishes swimming around happily together when it comes to aquatic life. But you have to pick the plants wisely! So I hope the list of the best plants for aquaponics fish tanks for different aquaponic setups will be handy for you.

If you would like more information on what type of plants do well with this setup, I recommend looking at articles by The Aquaponic Source. They have resources available online as well. 

Sujit Modak

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