- Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes
- Squash varieties, including cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin, etc.
It is possible to grow other larger plant varieties in this type of system, but they will require some extra care and support. Any plant with a longer root base will require a deeper tray and may need netting or other supports to keep the plant upright without grow media. Some plants that are possible to grow with extra care using Nutrient Film include:
The Nutrient Film Technique or NFT is a common hydroponic growing technique that has been adapted to aquaponics. The technique is favored for its simple setup and ease of use with many popular garden plants, but as with any system, there are some issues growers may encounter. The system operates by providing a slow, steady stream of nutrient-rich water to the plant roots. The water is circulated using a combination of pumping and gravity draining. Unlike an Ebb and Flow system, Nutrient Film aquaponics does not require a flood period – just a consistent flow of water from the fish tank. By understanding the advantages of Nutrient Film Technique, learning about the common problems and how to overcome them, and choosing the best plants for your system, you can quickly harness the power of NFT for aquaponics.
- Romaine lettuce
- Bibb lettuce
- Iceberg lettuce
- Swiss chard
- Mustard greens
- Bok Choi
- Eggplant – particularly smaller varieties
- Highly Oxygenated Roots – The design contributes to this advantage. Part of the roots of each plant remains above the water line at all times. This allows them to expel waste gasses and absorb oxygen. It essentially keeps the plants from drowning while ensuring the plant always has access to the nutrient-rich water it needs.
- Ease of Setup – Setting up this style of system is relatively simple. They do not require very much equipment. The trays or channels are easy to install, do not require a lot of piping or space, and because they use gravity to drain back into the tank won’t require any draining mechanisms. They are also easy to expand.
- Constant Flow Benefits – Another advantage of Nutrient Film Technique is the constant flow of water. This helps the system in a number of ways. First, flowing water prevents stagnation, which can lead to the growth of algae and fungus. This consistent movement of the water through the system also prevents build-up. Additionally, it ensures that nutrient-rich water is always readily available for the plants increasing their growth and overall health.
- Grow Media Not Required – Most Nutrient Film setups do not require a grow media. Generally, the plants are set into the channels or trays through cutouts that allow the root to remain completely hidden from light with easy access to the water flow. This type of setup does not require a grow media, which can save in costs and maintenance time.
- Easy Root Checks – Because the plants are grown in shallow channels or trays without grow media, it is easy to check on how your roots are growing. Looking inside should allow you to confirm root growth and look for obvious problems that may impact the health and growth of the plants.
NFT comes with a number of benefits, which has driven it into popularity first as a hydroponic technique and more recently in aquaponics. This style of aquaponic setup provides many of the benefits of a flood and drain system, without requiring complicated timers or a bell siphon be included. Some of the key advantages of Nutrient Film in aquaponics include:
NFT setups can present some problems, particularly in operation, which may make them a little more difficult to manage at first. Trial and error have shown that, although difficulties may always arise, they can be overcome through proper planning, regular monitoring, and routine maintenance. Knowing what to watch out for is half the battle when it comes to ensuring your Nutrient Film Technique setup operates smoothly and produces the yield you want it to. Common problems include damaged plants or stunted growth because of issues with root temperature, exposure to light, plant support, or access to the nutrient flow. These can be overcome, as long as you know what to expect.
It is best to avoid plants that are very tall, spread considerably, or produce heavy fruit. Plants to avoid with the Nutrient Film Technique include:
The Nutrient Film Technique or NFT is a common hydroponic method that has been adapted to aquaponics Discover the advantages of the nutrient film technique