A local grower depends on fish and rocks to grow his cannabis plants.
While most people are experimenting with potted plants during the second year of Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program, some home growers are trying something a little different.
Aquaponics is a style of growing cannabis (or any other agricultural crop) by creating a symbiotic ecosystem using live aquatic animals and hydroponics.
Jarrod Friedel uses game fish from Lake Eufaula to keep his closed-loop system going.
“I’ve got an IBC tank that I cut in half and took out one section and filled the bottom with fish and the top,” he said.
“I use lava rocks for about the first 12 inches and then use expanded clay pebbles after that because they don’t change pH and they don’t have any chemicals in them. The fish, their shit turns into plant food and the plants clean the fish water and it’s just a balanced system. This water is really clear. These fish have been in here for six, eight months and I don’t have any sort of filter system going on whatsoever. I just feed the fish twice a day. They feed the plants and it’s an enclosed system. I use about a third of the water that you would use to grow a normal marijuana plant. It’s more efficient and apparently it’s supposed to grow faster or better. I add nothing to this water but some fish flakes and some shrimp food that they really like,” Friedel said.
He planted his cannabis a year ago and they’re still going strong.
“These have been in here so long that the roots have actually grown up above the rocks and it’s just this massive root ball, so these have been here way too long. You’re supposed to just run a cycle and then eat the fish and, after your cycle, clean your bed out and start all over. But I kept going for a long time just because I want to see how this actually works,” he said.
He veged the plants for the duration of last year and flipped them over to flower in January. He was harvesting his first aquaponics crop of Red Dragon, Green Crack, Amnesia Haze, Critical Purple, Cali Orange, and Thai Fantasy the last week of February.
The light he uses is the most expensive piece. He bought the tank for $25 and spent $25 each on two pumps along with $10 of PVC and $30 of clay pebbles and a $3 bag of lava rocks. All it takes each month is a few dollars a month of fish food.
“I’ve done water tests over and over in here and the water balances itself out. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t mess with the pH, I don’t mess with anything. Everything is completely balanced because the fish balance it and the plants balance it. Nitrates turned into nitrites and everybody feeds everybody,” Friedel said.