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I am planning on starting a small, vertically-stacked aquaponic planter, with two beds and a small aquarium. Because my climate experiences periods of drought and near-freezing lows during winter, I am doing this indoors, which means I'm very space limited. As a result, I am planning a small system, with a ~12-gallon aquarium and two beds, one with ~3' of vertical clearance to the growing lights and the other with ~15".

I'm currently limited to maximum planter dimensions of 16x8", which I understand is quite small. If essential, I could expand to 16x12", but no further.

My question is: Do plant spacing guidelines change for aquaponic systems?

If I find guidelines suggesting 5" spacing (for basil, as an example), does that recommendation change for an aquaponic system, or does the fact that it's an aquaponic system not matter?

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I am presuming that you're using grow beds with media.

The spacing requirements for plants are so that their roots have enough space to grow into and find adequate nutrients. In a hydro/aquaponic system you're delivering the nutrients directly to the plant roots so you can grow them more closely together. You will have to estimate what the adult size of the plant is going to be so that they can fill that area without being compressed by their neighbours.

Having said that I suspect most home growers just plant something wherever they find a space in their grow beds.

  • So, in general, would this mean greater or lesser spacing? – Hari Ganti Feb 23 '17 at 5:53
  • lesser spacing for plants, ie. higher density of planting. – Graham Chiu Feb 23 '17 at 6:11
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It will depend on what you are growing. As Graham said, root area may well be reduced but you still have to allow room for the top of the plant. Given your indoors, maintaining adequate airflow between plants is important to prevent disease. Overcrowding will also reduce light levels available to lower parts of the plant leading to weak, spindly growth. Overall, I would suggest that spacings would need to be roughly the same for most crops.

  • Ventilation would be paramount for a hydro or aquaponic system!! I agree the spacing would be the same as for a soil medium garden. Perhaps not planting in straight lines but by offset rows or triangle planting one should be able to plant tighter? Hopefully there are major fans blowing!! I gotta learn about this type of gardening, hard to give up what one knows to try something so foreign... – stormy Feb 23 '17 at 19:28

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