- Which Tomato Variety is best for Aquaponics?
- Types of Tomatoes
- How Much Time Do Tomatoes Take to Grow?
- What is the ideal Temperature Range for Growing Tomatoes in Aquaponics?
- Other factors to consider when Growing Tomatoes with Aquaponics
- How to Grow Tomatoes in an Aquaponics System
- What are the Benefits of Growing Tomatoes with Aquaponics
- Common Problems When Growing Tomatoes with Aquaponics
Ever thought about growing tomatoes using aquaponics? If so, you have come to the right place. Adding tomatoes into your aquaponics system is a great idea, a staple vegetable that can create amazing sauces and salads, and are delicious even on their own.
Nowadays, people love to grow tomatoes of all types and varieties in their aquaponics systems because they can get a greater yield in less time, and with less maintenance while still being completely organic.
If having a year-round supply of this nutritious fruit (yes, they are a fruit!) sounds good to you, then read on!
Which Tomato Variety is best for Aquaponics?
Due to their popularity, taste, and versatility, tomatoes are often considered one of the best vegetables to grow at home, and one of the most popular in the world.
Depending on your climate tomato plants can be either annual or perennial.
Adding an aquaponics system into the mix can speed up the process with the supercharged growth possible in such systems. Adding in a grow light can make this a year-round possibility wherever you are based.
There are several tomato varieties that are available for the budding aquaponics enthusiast. But first it important to understand the difference between determinate and indeterminate plants.
This tomato plant type, which includes bush varieties, has a ceiling on their growth, which can be between 2 to 4 feet. This variety matures and produces its fruit within 6-8 weeks. These tomatoes are a common choice for planting in containers, pots and small growing setups – as they don’t need extra-long trellises for support.
These are between 5-10 feet tall (some can even get up to 15 feet!) and are of the vining kind. This tomato variety produces fruit throughout the growing season.
Types of Tomatoes
Before you get started, you must be aware of the variety you have and ensure you have the correct support. The use of a trellis to sure up and help train the growth is recommended.
Here we will discuss the specific tomato varieties, that are popular choices for aquaponics.
These tomatoes are a well-known variety for aquaponic gardening. As compared to other varieties, beefsteaks are larger in size and very juicy. One drawback is that beefsteak tomatoes take a much longer time to grow and ripen than other tomato varieties.
Cherry tomatoes are extremely enjoyable to cultivate as they are to eat. The majority of cherry tomato types need four weeks to grow after planting and another three to four weeks to ripen. These tomatoes are excellent for salads, and canning, and are delicious raw. You can achieve a higher tomato yield per square foot growing cherry tomatoes.
Plum tomatoes have a larger unique egg-like oval shape and have a much darker red colour. These are mostly grown to be processed into sauce, salsa, or other foods or ingredients. Moreover, plum tomatoes are considered to be drier, so they are not as great to consume as raw fruit.
Heirloom tomatoes, sometimes known as heritage, are a type of tomato that is ‘open pollinated’ and usually haven’t been hybridized – which means they haven’t intentionally been cross-pollinated by breeders. This type of tomato has some unique qualities, such as its magnificent range of colours too, some would say, unsightly large cracks and bumps. Though they don’t have the longest shelf life they stand out due to their individuality.
How Much Time Do Tomatoes Take to Grow?
When growing tomatoes in an aquaponic system you will generally experience quicker growth and a plant that matures faster than in traditional soil-based gardening.
The time it takes to be able to harvest your tomato crop will depend on the type of tomato you are growing. A general timetable is anywhere between 60 – 80 days.
Smaller tomato varieties such as the cherry tomato will grow quicker due to the smaller fruit size. Whereas some of the larger breeds discussed, such as the heirlooms, can take up to, and over 80 days.
It is important to consider what you are looking to get out of growing any type of tomato. Keeping in mind the timeframe you to harvest your tomatoes.
You may even want to time your plantings and use 1 determinate variety to have consistent, bulkier harvests. Alternatively, you may choose to have a longer harvest period with an indeterminate tomato variety. Better yet, growing a broader range together will give you the best of both worlds.
What is the ideal Temperature Range for Growing Tomatoes in Aquaponics?
In aquaponics systems, temperature is an important factor to monitor to achieve optimum growth of your plants. If the temperature goes above or below the ideal range, plant growth can be affected.
For an aquaponics system, the best temperature range for tomato plant growth is 75°F to 85°F.
You need to maintain this range to ensure your tomatoes have the best chance for development and high yields. When the water and air in and around your aquaponics system goes beyond 95°F growth will be inhibited, and your plants may start to fail.
Other factors to consider when Growing Tomatoes with Aquaponics
The choice of which growing medium to use when growing tomatoes in your aquaponics system will be narrowed down by the method you are using Rockwool, produced out of spun lava rocks may be a good choice for a raft aquaponics setup, while clay pebbles may work better in a media bed system.
However, it is generally easier to grow tomatoes in a media bed system as it is easier to support.
Speaking of support, most tomato varieties will need some type of it. A combination of cages, trellises, string, clips, and stakes will help keep your tomato plant upright.
Not only will this stop the plant from falling over on itself, but a properly supported tomato plant will also be easier to prune and check for disease and blemishes.
Tomatoes need full sun exposure for maximum growth, yield, and taste. Without adequate light, tomato plant growth will be inhibited. Check the light daily and make sure plants are getting enough exposure.
If you want to grow tomatoes indoors or undercover, adding in a grow light may be worth considering.
pH is also another important factor that aquaponic gardeners cannot ignore. The best pH range for growing tomatoes is 5.5 to 6.5 Regular testing of pH levels is advised so you can act and adjust your system accordingly.
As we discussed above, the ideal temperature for the tomatoes in an aquaponic system is 75°F to 85°F. If the required range exceeds 95°F, tomato growth will stop, and the plants will start to die.
How to Grow Tomatoes in an Aquaponics System
When planting tomatoes in an aquaponics system, it is often considered best to use either a media bed setup or the raft system (deep water culture). Planting in a media bed system is very similar to planting in a regular garden. Just plant the tomato straight into your chosen media.
When planting in a DWC setup the tomatoes are planted into little nets or baskets which are then inserted into the floating rafts. Whichever system you choose the planting process is quite similar.
- Before starting check that your aquaponics system is working correctly. Test the temperature and pH levels to make sure they are within the range of 5.5 to 6.5
- Use a fish-safe pH stabilizer if any pH correction is needed.
- Water should have an EC of 2.0 to 3.5, which is a little higher than what other plants need.
- Take the tomato seedlings out from starter trays, and rinse with water to wash out the soil from the roots. Take care not to damage or break the roots. Spread the roots of the seedlings and plant, adding more growing medium if required to help keep them upright.
- Space plants 10-12 inches apart to allow for growth and room to add supports.
- You should monitor the pH level daily in the first month until the plants are stable and then weekly from then to maintain the stability of the required pH.
- Keep an eye out for insects and other pests that can harm your plants, such as aphids. If there are insect penetrations, spray the foliage with a vinegar and water organic solution. Never use harsh chemicals in your aquaponics system
- Tilapia, as well as goldfish, koi, angelfish, and crappie, are some of the best fish to use when growing tomatoes in aquaponics.
What are the Benefits of Growing Tomatoes with Aquaponics
There are many benefits to growing tomatoes with Aquaponics.
Vegetables grown with aquaponics, including tomatoes, are organic and free from manmade chemicals and pesticides.
Tomatoes are full of vital nutrients and vitamins. Such as more Vitamin C and Lycopene. The lycopene in tomatoes is what gives them a rich red colour.
Time saving. Due to the quicker uptake of nutrients to the root structure of plants in aquaponics, your tomatoes will grow quicker than they would in a normal garden setting.
Optimizes space. Due to those higher yields, you will get more tomatoes for each square foot of space you invest in the plants.
Common Problems When Growing Tomatoes with Aquaponics
While tomatoes can be a great addition to your aquaponics garden, they, like most plants, will have some issues that we will need troubleshooting. Some of the most common problems when growing tomatoes with aquaponics are.
Caused by pythium spores, a type of water Mold that will appear and proliferate on your tomato plants when the water temperature rises too much. This common tomato plant blight can be managed and eliminated with a combination of:
- Lowering the temperature of your aquaponic fish tank by covering it, thus shielding it from the warm rays of the sun
- Pruning and discarding any discoloured roots
- Cleaning the system, including any pipe work.
- Changing out the water
One of the most prevalent issues with growing tomatoes in water is wilt disease. A common disease that disrupts the flow of water through the xylem (a type of transport tissue) causing your tomato plant’s leaves to wilt.
The best thing to do is to remove the affected plants. Make sure you discard them into the trash – do not use them in your composting system. Changing the water in your aquaponics system may help too, and remember to use correct sanitation when pruning to avoid spreading the disease further.
Insufficient nutrients, oxygen, and water
If your tomato plants look like they are struggling, or don’t look as healthy as they could, it may be due to lack of nutrients, oxygen and/or water.
Generally caused due to the inability of your aquaponics system to cycle the nutrient-dense water through itself, as well as some additional factors. These are some of the most common.
- The pump is not powerful enough to circulate the water.
- Leaking airlines (not enough air or pressure getting to the intended places)
- Clogged filters
- Insufficient DO (dissolved oxygen) you may need to unclog or add in more air stones.
- Lack of fish in the system (less waste means less food for the plants)
Growing tomatoes in your aquaponics system can be a rewarding experience, though, like anything worthwhile it does not come without its challenges.
Apart from having fresh organic produce right in your own home, you could grow tomatoes as a ‘side hustle’ to add a few more dollars to the household budget.
Additionally, you could use this as a way to teach the whole family about gardening, self-sufficiency and how ecosystems work.
Follow this guide with its tips and hints should help you grow the best tomatoes possible.