Strawberries are not only delicious but they are also a good source of manganese and potassium and provides more vitamin C than an orange. They are also a very suitable for growing with aquaponics.
Why grow strawberries in aquaponics?
Strawberries grow very well in soilless environments which. It also needs very little space, so a floating raft system, tubes or even baskets can be used. It needs very little care to flourish and make an excellent choice for first-time growers.
Growing strawberries from seed is not a feasible option as it can take two to three years for the plants to develop fruits. Instead, plant them with runners. Strawberry plants throw out several long, leafless stalks called runners to clone itself. These runners are then cut off to produce new plants.
There are also strawberry plants or seedlings that you can purchase from any garden store and transplant them into your system.
Guide for growing aquaponic strawberries
Like any other plants, there are factors you need to get right as you set up an aquaponic system:
Strawberries thrive in cooler temperatures. However, growing this plant in hot climates is possible with a bit of preparation and planting at the correct time of the year. The trick is to have the strawberries ready for picking in mid-winter, not late spring or early summer.
The best temperature for strawberries is between 60-80°F or 15-26°C. Most fish will be comfortable in these temperatures. Air temperature must also be considered . The optimum daytime air temperature is somewhere in the middle, at around 20°C. Lower night temperatures between 10-12°C may result in increased fruit yields.
pH of the water
Managing the pH level is critical for the health of the entire system and the it must be right for both fish and strawberries. Strawberries thrive best when the water has a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5.
The pH of strawberries is a little lower than most aquaponic plants but it is still within the tolerance range of most fish. If you are a beginner, the best choice is tilapia. They are hardy and can tolerate changes in water quality. Other fish types that can be a good match to your strawberry plant are koi, carp and sunfish.
Common problems in growing strawberries
There are common pests that can attack your strawberries like bud weevils, slugs and sap bugs. If you grow outside, the worst pests you might encounter are birds. You can use lightweight bird nets to protect your plants.
Too much heat may result in very small fruit. But once the weather improves, the fruits typically return to their normal size.
Water quality is important, too. While the plants need nitrates, high ammonia levels can kill them, so monitor the water quality properly.
Best way of growing strawberries in aquaponics
There are different methods of achieving plant growth in aquaponics. Strawberries can grow very well in conventional boxes but an alternative gaining popularity is to grow them in vertical towers. These towers have nutrient rich fish water pumped up to the top of the tower and then trickle down through the gravel in the towers feeding each plant.
Growing your strawberries with aquaponics may require lots of careful thought, effort and attention but when the harvest time comes, it is worth the cost.