How to Grow Rice in Aquaponic Systems

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Fish waste provides the nitrogen needed to complete the plant's nitrogen cycle.
Fish waste provides the nitrogen needed to complete the plant's nitrogen cycle. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Since 5000 B.C., rice has been served on the family dinner table. Rice is known for the significant amount water required to grow the crop and is native to China, India and Thailand. Aquaponics is a developing horticulture practice which combines hydroponics, or growing plants in water, with aquaculture, or the study of underwater systems. When combined, the two sciences form a symbiotic relationship resulting in high crop yields in a sustainable, cost-effective system.

Things You'll Need

  • Aquaponic grow system
  • Fish
  • Rice
  • Newspaper
  • Goat or rabbit droppings

Purchase or construct an aquaponic grow system. Construct a grow system by recycling a 50 gallon drum or decommissioned hot tub. Galvanized tanks or buckets also make suitable containers for small scale growing systems. You can purchase pre-made systems from a hydroponic supplier. Pre-made aquaponic systems range in price from $60 to more than $1,000 dollars, depending on the size and complexity.

Add fish to the system. Tilapia is a popular choice for aquaponic systems, and is ideal to use with rice because both thrive in warmer temperatures. You could also use goldfish, crappie, bass or brim. There are also both fresh water and salt water systems, but tilapia do best in fresh water. Add goat or rabbit droppings to supply additional required nutrients to the fish.

Purchase organic wild or long grain brown rice from the grocery store. Your goal is to find rice that is as close to its natural state as possible. You may find it in a bag or in the bulk section of the store. You can also purchase rice seeds from a garden store.

Plant the rice grains directly in 6 inches of growing media, such as synthetic foam, pumice, peat or perlite. Use a foam raft to float the rice seedlings on top of the water so their roots can absorb the nutrients. Some systems have separate fish and plant tanks. The water is pumped to the plant system where the plants extracts the nutrients and then back to the fish tank.

Harvest the rice when the color of the stalks changes from green to gold. This can take place anywhere from 90 to 180 days after planting. Cut the stalks and wrap them in newspaper. Allow to dry for two weeks.

Roast the rice at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. Remove the hulls and the rice is ready to cook.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rice and tilapia both grow best at temperatures above 80 degrees. Keep your system in a warm place such as a greenhouse, sun porch or under a grow bulb.

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