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What is the best way to grow soilless, Hydroponics or Aquaculture?

For a basic overview of both hydroponics and aquaponics, I was told I go into too much detail and can bore some people with all of the

Hydroponics or Aquaculture, which one to choose?
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The term hydroponic is an overarching term that refers to a wide variety of soilless gardening systems; hydroponic systems use other mediums to support the roots of plants and supply them with nutrients. Aquaponic systems are a type of hydroponic system that rely on water-based systems to get nutrients to the plants.

Hydroponic Systems

There are a wide variety of soilless gardening systems, from aquaponics to aggregate systems that use rocks, sand, wood chips or some other supporting system to grow plants. Hydroponic systems rely on nutrient mixes to transport nutrients to the roots of the plants, and systems of flushing the aggregate with a nutrient mixture are used. The various types of hydroponic systems are modified and changed to support different types of plant growth and accommodate different growing locations.


Aquaponics are a branch of hydroponic growing that rely heavily on placing the roots of plants directly in water to supply them with nutrients. Nutrient mixtures are added to the water that is circulated over the roots, which ensures the plants have faster access to the nutrients they need to grow. Some aquaponic systems include aeroponics, in which plant roots are suspended in a nutrient-enriched mist, and gravity-based systems, in which nutrient-rich water flows through angled troughs.

Effluent Systems

Some aquaponic systems approach hydroponic growing through a cooperative system, by pairing plants grown in water that also supports a fish population. For example, the University of Arizona website describes a system in which hydroponic plants receive nutrients from fish effluent, in a practice referred to as aquaculture. Aquaculture mimics the natural system of plants and animals and creates a symbiotic system that keeps fish and plants productive. The effluent provides the plants with nutrients, which also removes nitrates from the water, which keeps the fish healthy.

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To Give you  an idea of what type of training is available.  I will include some information about Cabrillo Community College Horticulture studies.  This is just one possibility for some college credit if you are just starting out in hydroponics.


There is also a Aquaponics course and they do have online classes also.  They are located at in Aptos California and you can go online or check them out.  They have some pretty creative ways to grow different plants, and I ever heard that one of their innovative hydroponic greenhouses produces aroung 300 pounds of tomatoes per week!!


For over thirty years the Horticulture Program has served both career students and home gardeners.

The do  offer a diverse range of programs,  including

  • Arboriculture
  • Basic Horticulture
  • Business Aspects of Horticulture
  • Crop Management & Nursery Production
  • Edible Landscaping
  • Greenhouse Operation and Design
  • Irrigation
  • Sustainable Landscaping
  • Landscape Design
  • Landscape Restoration
  • Native Plants
  • Organic Agriculture
  • Hydroponic
  • Pest Management
  • Plant Material
  • Permaculture

I have looked at their website, it is somewhat informative of all of the things they do, but if you are in the area, I highly recommend going and visiting at the least.  You can get some great ideas for what you want to do to increase your output and possibly add new techniques that will make your life easier!


My opinion, is that Aquaponics is the best way to grow soilless crops.  The reason I say that, is because of the lower costs of purchasing special nutrients.  The Aquaponics system will be more expensive to start, but after automating the majority of the work, it will cost less in the long run in manhours.  Aquaponics also has the advantage of having a second added crop:  Fish!

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  • I’d stick with hydroponics because this way you can have full control of how much nutrient is available, with Aquaponics you cant add other growth enhancers like you would in hydroponics to get better yields.

  • Hi Jay,

    Thank you for your input and your preference. That is a good point about growth enhancers. Do you use only organic growth enhancers? What nutrients and growth enhancers do you use? We would appreciate your input so that others, including myself, can learn more and experiment with solutions that increase output and quality.

    Thanks again!

    • JAY P

      For Chris,

      I use a nft system (nutrient film technique) this is how the system works, there is 3 6ft long by 1ft wide trays, each tray contains 6 evenly spread plants, each plant is contained in a 3 inch rockwool cube, The top of the trays rest on a stand the bottom of the trays rest on a stand which is 3 inch lower than the top stand, under the bottom stand there is a 100 litre tank and a pump in the tank that pumps water to the top of the trays which enters from the top then returns to the bottom the nutrient is constently there for whenever the plants decide to take it. So that is the system I use and how it’s set up.

      The best growth enhancer for me is nitrozime it’s a black liquid you add it to the water at 1 ml per 2 liters of water every 7 to 14 days, you will soon see results within the first 7 days it makes the leafs more greener and wider also the stems and stalks get a lot fatter, nitrozime is made from sea weed and some other components, I think it is organic this will 100% make your plants bigger and better.

      Also boost there are many brands of this product, you add this the last few weeks before the end of your cycle this makes bigger flowers.

      • Chris

        Thank you Jay! I appreciate your feedback. I really like the fact that the nitrozime is made from sea weed. I will look it up and see what the other components are to make sure that it is 100% Organic. One of the things that I really like about hydroponics or Aquaponics is the water conservation aspects. We are in the middle of a drought here in Colorado, and in many areas of the United States.

        Have you compared your water usage for growing hydroponically compared to the “Dig in the Dirt” gardens?

        I am researching that now, If you would like to share any of your tips or successes, I would love to have you share!



      • Chris

        Hi Jay,

        Nitrozime is 100% Organic fertilizer made from Marine Algae. Thank you for sharing! We are starting a membership site where we can share information. We will also be setting up a paid portion of the membership site for training and mastermind. It will be available soon. Are there any areas that you would like to see covered in our Crop selection section?

        Thank you
        Chris Downs