How to Grow Rice in Aquaponics?

The rice cultivation using aquaponics poses some challenges, but it is still doable. Certain Asian countries have grown some of their rice supply through soilless methodologies, such as aquaponics. Like other plants cultivated in aquaponics, growing rice without using soil requires you to gain specific information that you will need to develop the plant properly.

Can you grow rice in aquaponics?

Growing rice via the aquaponics method is possible. In fact, China and Indonesia have already adopted the soilless cultivation of rice. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics to produce the two known nutritious foods: fish and vegetables. A broad spectrum of plants can be grown using the aquaponics technique, and rice is one of them. Indonesian farmers successfully introduced fish into their water-laden rice fields, and this system they call rice-fish culture. According to them, since they have adopted such a setup, they experienced a 10% increase in production. However, rice production through aquaponics does pose some challenges.

Why grow rice using aquaponics?

Rice is a common staple in everyday dishes in almost every culture, especially in Asia. In 2012, rice was consumed every day by more than half of the world's population. This crop is one of Asia's most popular cuisines due to its flexibility and health benefits. Furthermore, rice can be stored for up to 30 years, making it an ideal crop for growing and storing for personal use.

Now, rice has traditionally been grown using acres of farmlands; what good reasons can we provide to cultivate this crop using aquaponics?

Here are some that you can consider:

  1. Challenges of producing rice using soil are avoided. An excellent example of this is the management of weed which rob the plants of the nutrients they need.
  2. The typical rice pests may serve as a food supply to your omnivorous fish.
  3. You can grow rice without using acres of land because aquaponics is a soilless approach to producing healthy foods.
  4. The water utilized in aquaponics is recirculated across the grow bed and fish tanks. So, you are growing rice without consuming much water.
  5. Plants have direct contact with the nutrients they require for growth because of the soilless nature of aquaponics.
  6. There is an approximately 10% increase in yield when growing rice in aquaponics.

What are the different varieties of rice?

Rice is classified by grain length (long, medium, or short), texture, color, and form. Consider the type of aquaponic rice that best matches your culinary demands when you decide to cultivate it. Here is a short list of the generally known rice varieties:

The arborio rice is abundant in amylopectin, a starch found in rice. The starch is released when rice is cooked, resulting in harder, chewier, and creamier rice than other rice types. Arborio rice keeps more of its natural starch content since it is milled less than ordinary long-grain rice.

The basmati grain is remarkable in that when cooked; it swells to more than twice its dry length. The grains only expand lengthwise, unlike other forms of rice, allowing them to keep their characteristic length and slenderness when cooked.

Jasmine rice is a long-grain cultivar of Oryza sativa or Asian rice primarily grown in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Jasmine rice has a distinct aroma, flavor, and texture that sets it apart from other rice varieties.

Brown rice is a nutrient-dense meal. It is a whole grain low in calories (216 per cup), high in fiber, gluten-free, and versatile enough to be used in several meals. According to the United States Rice Federation, Brown rice has no trans fats or cholesterol. It has only a trace of fat and sodium.

The bran and germ are routinely removed from white rice, leaving only the endosperm. Most people consider it low carb due to the loss of nutrients. This variety of rice is commonly used in ethnic American rice dishes. It also goes well with Mexican cuisine. In comparison to other rice kinds, it has a moderate flavor.

Which among the aquaponics techniques can be used to grow rice?

The recommended aquaponics techniques for rice production are deep water culture and media bed aquaponics. Although, there are some who had success in using the nutrient film technique.

Rice can be grown in an aquaponic system using either a media bed or a deep water culture. Clay pebbles, lava rocks, or gravel make up the media bed. Plants are hung on polystyrene sheets, and their roots hang down into the water in the deep water culture method. It is suitable for commercial and large aquaponics, and it is better for places with a warmer environment.

On the other hand, there is not much contact with water if the rice grower selects the nutrient film technique.

What are the factors to consider in growing rice in aquaponics?

Water temperature

Rice can endure temperatures of up to 30-35 degrees Celsius in general, with 34 degrees Celsius being the cardinal temperature. It is commonly believed that the reproductive stage is a susceptible period and that irrigation water temperature should be kept below 30 degrees Celsius at this time.

Water pH range

Rice has a pH range of 6 to 7, though this might vary depending on the kind. White rice, for example, has a pH range of 6 to 6.7, brown rice ranges from 6.2 to 6.7, and wild rice ranges from 6 to 6.4.


Rice plants reach optimal growth when exposed to sunlight for six to eight hours.

Pests management

Since the rice grows without using acres of land, farmers employing aquaponics can avoid certain common rice pests. However, there are still some that can damage the plants' well-being. Below are some practical pest management steps to apply to your growth.

  1. After each harvest, clean your equipment and grow bed thoroughly.
  2. Use disease-resistant rice types.
  3. Do not use too much fertilizer.
  4. Encourage the presence of natural pest predators.

Fish types

Fish such as tilapia and catfish are excellent choices for rice in aquaponics systems. Because the plant prefers warmer temperatures, it's only natural to select fish that grow in similar settings.

How to harvest rice in aquaponics?

It is recommended that you begin your planting in the fall or spring. The rice should be soaked in water for about twelve hours before planting. Wrap the stalks in newspapers and dry them for two weeks after cutting them. Rice can be harvested when the color of the stalks changes from green to golden. Depending on your area, this will generally happen three to four months after planting.

The rice-fish system provided by aquaponics will ensure that the grower has a steady fresh fish and grains supply. However, the system necessitates a great deal of attention and upkeep. To achieve optimal outcomes, you must keep all necessary parameters under control, including temperature, pH, and the environment. Most importantly, keep your demands and requirements in mind once you've decided to grow rice in an aquaponic system.

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