Published: June 6, 2016

    Create Your Own Hydroponic Garden

    Hydroponics describes an agricultural technique for growing plants without soil. Plants grown hydroponically receive all the nutrients they need from mineral-rich water and don’t expand energy filtering nutrients out of soil. As a result, the crop grows faster under controlled conditions, free from the many diseases and pests found in even the best soil.

    A hydroponics system doesn’t have to take up much space. In fact, you can grow herbs and greens hydroponically with very few items even in a small apartment. To do so, you’ll need the following:

    • A large mason jar with lid
    • Clean, filtered water
    • A net pot that fits the mouth of the jar
    • Clay balls and Rockwood
    • Seeds or cuttings
    • Small fish.

    Clean the mason jar thoroughly, and fill it with clean, filtered water. You want water that’s as clean as possible, without chlorine, which will damage both your plant and the fish.

    Add the clay balls and Rockwood to the net pot, and plant the seeds or cuttings in the pot. Beans, basil, thyme, baby greens, wheatgrass, parsley, mint, and spinach all grow well under these conditions.

    Place the net pot into the jar mouth, making sure the bottom of the pot is below the surface of the water. Screw on the mason jar lid, without it’s removable top, to secure the net pot. Now leave your assembled mini-hydronic farm for two weeks to prepare the water for the fish.

    Depending on the size of the mason jar, add one or two small, hardy fish. You can use small goldfish, but remember they will grow. The small “feeder fish” sold in pet stores are a good choice.

    Some people use bettas, also known as fighting fish, as they are attractive and hardy fish. If you choose to use a betta, only put one in the jar, and make sure the fish can access an area of open water to breathe—yes, betta’s need to periodically take oxygen from the surface. Also, if you’re going to use a fish as large as a betta, please use the largest jar you can find, or better yet, a 2 ½ gallon fish tank modified to hold net pots.

    In theory, you now have a self-contained system. The plants draw nutrients from the fish’s nitrogen rich waste, and the fish nibbles on the plant roots. This is the basic principle behind aquaponics, or the farming of fish in a hydroponic system.

    In practice, however, you’ll need to give your fish a bit more attention if you want it to thrive. Change the water once a week, using only filtered water. Add a few fish flakes or betta pellets every day or so as well, as the fish won’t get the nutrients it needs from the plant root alone.