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A tomato is easily one of the most popular plants to grow at home. It is a versatile crop favored by many households due to its appearance and sweet but tangy flavor. Because it is a common ingredient with a variety of culinary applications, growing tomatoes in aquaponics gardens would mean you’ll have access to abundant fresh tomatoes for your meals.
In this article, you will learn how to cultivate the common tomato plant in an aquaponics system.
Why Should You Plant Aquaponic Tomatoes?
Botanically speaking, tomato, which is related to potatoes and eggplants, is a fruit because the plant has seeds and forms from a flower. However, because of its culinary applications, it can also be classified as a vegetable.
Since it is relatively easy to grow, quick to mature and produce high yields despite limited space, tomatoes are in demand, whether in or out of season. For these reasons, many home gardeners have chosen the aquaponics system as an ideal method for growing tomatoes. Fishwater is also considered suitable as it has all the nutrients for a tomato plant’s optimum growth.
Nutritional Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are loaded with impressive health benefits. Since they’re versatile and can be prepared in several ways, you won’t run out of ideas on how to eat tomatoes or incorporate them into your dishes.
The vegetable is rich in fiber and is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, B2, chromium, and folate. The vitamins found in tomatoes function as antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage that causes diseases. These vitamins are also great for the hair, skin, and eyes.
Tomatoes are also known to be a major source of lycopene, which is a substance found to promote heart health and slow down the progression of certain types of cancer.
The Different Tomato Varieties
One of the advantages of growing tomatoes in aquaponics gardens is that there are different varieties of the plant to choose from. It’s good to note the two groups of varieties of the tomato plant: the determinate and indeterminate.
The determinate varieties are usually smaller in size, and flowers and fruits form at the end of the branches. Because of this, they are popular choices for container gardening. Fruits in these varieties tend to ripen much earlier and do so at once.
On the other hand, indeterminate varieties are those plants where the fruit forms at the point where two branches meet. They also tend to grow into large vines, which is why they usually require trellises. The indeterminate varieties keep producing fruits over a long period of time until frost kills them.
Which Variety Is Good for Aquaponics?
There is no one perfect variety of tomatoes for the aquaponics setup. When you decide to grow aquaponic tomatoes, you’ll probably need to take into consideration the following criteria:
- Personal preference for size, shape, color, and use
- Climate conditions and
- Disease resistance
To know which variety you want to grow, check out this site for information (such as harvest time, preferred climate, and the disease it’s resistant to) on each variety.
How to Grow Tomatoes in Aquaponics Gardens
While tomatoes are perfect for beginner gardeners, you still need to familiarize yourself with its needs and characteristics to ensure optimum growth. Below are the parameters to consider when growing tomatoes aquaponically:
Maintain a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5. As always make sure to use a quality pH meter.
Tomatoes thrive well in warm temperatures of 75 deg F to 85 deg F. Maintain this temperature range to help your tomatoes flourish. You should note that growth will halt when air and water temperature exceed 95 deg F.
Aquaponics System and Growing Medium
You can grow tomatoes in raft beds and media beds, but most aquaponics gardeners prefer the gravel-filled media bed. If you do use gravel, see to it that you are using limestone-free gravel as they can increase the pH level.
Tomatoes are ideally spaced 10-12 inches apart. Indeterminate tomatoes can grow up to 12 feet, while determinate types can grow up to 5 feet, so allow space for them to receive the nutrients they need.
Tomatoes thrive in full sun, so make sure you choose a sunny location for your plant.
Fish Type to Consider
Trout can be a good match for tomatoes. However, to accommodate the fish, you need to set the water temperatures lower, which would mean slow growth for your plant. To remedy this, you might need to use crappie, Tilapia, or koi, which are fish types that thrive in warmer waters.
Harvest time will depend on the tomato variety you chose to grow, but on average, fruits should be ready in 60-80 days.