Growing Aquaponic Tomatoes? Read This First
Many farmers have turned to aquaponic tomatoes over traditional growing methods in recent years. There is a growing demand for tomatoes due to their versatile culinary uses, whether fresh, smoked, dried, roasted, stewed, or pureed. The best way to meet this demand is growing tomatoes in aquaponics.
For starters, growing tomatoes in aquaponics is faster than traditional soil-based techniques. Aquaponic tomatoes are tastier and larger. The growing conditions are controlled, so fewer pests, bacteria, and diseases exist. What’s more, aquaponic tomatoes are easier to preserve and sell.
However, growing tomatoes in aquaponics come with some constraints. For instance, it is only suitable using specific growing systems. And, because tomatoes take up more nutrients and space than other plants, they are more difficult to grow in aquaponics. Another potential challenge is root rot, which you’ll have to prevent by properly maintaining and cleaning the growing systems.
Can Tomatoes Be Grown In Aquaponics?
Yes, tomatoes can be grown in aquaponics. They provide high yields and are easy to grow. They like high nutrient levels and warm temperatures and are an excellent fit for aquaponics systems that provide controlled environments.
The Best Way To Grow Aquaponic Tomatoes
Two methods yield the best results when growing tomatoes in aquaponics – the river rock or standard gravel bed approach and the Deep Water Culture (DWC) approach.
The first approach requires planting the tomatoes in a grow bed full of growing media. You’ll need to ensure that there is no limestone in the gravel. Limestone can increase the pH level beyond the optimum level, negatively affecting your aquaponic tomatoes.
With the Deep Water Culture method, you’ll need to find or build a container to facilitate water flow from the fish tank through a pump. By doing this, you’ll essentially be creating a canal. Above it, you should create a growing medium for the tomatoes. This can be in the form of a lid with holes cut out for pots.
Next, you should fill the pot with gravel or any media of your choice and sit it partially in the water. This will allow the tomatoes’ roots to access the water they require without being saturated. Finally, you should ensure the water in the Deep Water Culture system is well aerated at all times.
For the best results when growing tomatoes in aquaponics, follow the steps below:
- Step 1: Decide whether to grow your tomatoes from seedlings or seeds. (Be sure to consider both methods’ potential crop yields and costs).
- Step 2: Test the water pH before transplanting your seedlings and ensure that it is between 5.5 and 6.5. (A fish-safe pH stabilizer is excellent for adjusting the pH).
- Step 3: Gently remove the tomato seedlings from the container and remove the soil by rinsing the soil. Ensure that you don’t damage or break the roots while doing this.
- Step 4: To plant the tomato seedlings in the growing container, spread the roots, then add more growing medium to keep the plant upright.
- Step 5: For the first month after transplanting, monitor the pH level every day and weekly to ensure you maintain the appropriate pH level.
- Step 6: Keep an eye out for small insects and pests like aphids that may target your aquaponic tomatoes. In case of insect penetrations, spray the tomato leaves with a blended organic solution of water and vinegar.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Tomatoes In Aquaponics?
It takes six to eight weeks to grow tomatoes in aquaponics. The growing time depends on the tomato variety and planting conditions. With the right conditions, you should expect some observable growth within two weeks of planting. Flowers start to form during the fourth week, and the first harvest is ready in the eighth week.
What Are The Best Tomato Varieties For Aquaponics?
The best tomato varieties for aquaponics are cherry, beefsteak, heirloom, and plum tomatoes. They thrive in aquaponic systems and are very marketable. There is a high demand for these varieties for salads, sauce, canning, salsa, juice, ingredients, and other foodstuffs.
Of these varieties, cherry tomatoes grow fastest in aquaponics, often beginning to bloom in less than a month. You can expect to start harvesting cherry tomatoes after six weeks of planting. The heirloom, plum, and beefsteak varieties may take an additional one or two weeks to bloom and two to three weeks after that for the harvest.
Factors To Consider When Growing Aquaponic Tomatoes
The factors to consider when growing aquaponic tomatoes include pH level temperature, light, and growing systems. Below, we explore these factors in more detail.
The optimum pH level for aquaponics growing the best tomato varieties is between 5.5 and 6.5. Keep in mind that this pH level is lower than fish or other plants may need. So, you’ll have to determine the best match with different plants in the same system.
The ideal temperature for growing tomatoes in aquaponics is between 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything beyond 95 degrees Fahrenheit will inhibit growth, while a nighttime temperature of more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit will prevent the tomato from turning red.
Ensure the tomato gets total exposure to sunlight. This will allow the tomato to thrive, yielding large and tasty tomatoes.
Most aquaponic gardeners prefer planting tomatoes in media beds, but you may also use raft beds or Dutch buckets. Whichever method you choose, ensure there is enough support by incorporating trellis or stalks. The best growing media include river gravel, crushed basalt, and clay pebbles.
In this guide, we’ve provided you with the right tools to start growing tomatoes in aquaponics. They are useful for beginners and experienced aquaponic farmers alike. You might need to revisit our guide’s growing steps and conditions for aquaponic tomatoes from time to time to ensure you’re doing everything right.