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Best Plants to Grow in NFT Aquaponics System

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Aquaponics systems can incorporate different types of configurations in which to grow plants. They all use nutrient-rich water which supply’s the food for the plants to grow.

Lettuces, Bok-Choy, broccoli, Cauliflower, and certain herbs are best suited for an NFT aquaponics system. This is because these plants are lightweight, leafy green plants with short root systems which thrive in nitrogen-rich nutrients.

NFT or Nutrient Film Technique is a rail-type system adapted for aquaponic and hydroponic systems.

This is where plants are grown in rails that facilitate a film or small amount of nutrient-rich water to flow through them with the plant’s roots touching the water.

Aquaponic NFT systems are mostly used in larger commercial systems but can also be adopted by homeowners and enthusiasts alike.

NFT system has the basic requirements for plants to grow but not all plants do well in NFT systems.

In this article, we discuss which plants do well and why.

My Aquaponic setup

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GROWNEER 25 Packs 4 Inch Garden Slotted netcups
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API Freshwater Master Test KIT 800-Test
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The Aquaponic Equipment Essentials that I use in my system.

Plants that can be Grown in a NFT Aquaponics System and Why

NFT systems are a more modern approach to growing plants both hydroponically and aquaponically.

NFT systems have one great advantage which is making use of minimal space. Plants are pleased with equal spacing in net cups along a rail system consisting of guttering material or PVC pipes.

The net cups are placed in holes drilled on the rails. The hole is just wide enough to allow the cups to just sit snug in the hole without shifting and falling into the rail.

net cups in rails

Net-cups make harvesting easy since the entire plant can be simply lifted off the rail. This feature also makes it easy to monitor the root systems to ensure the quality of supplied water is optimal.

Nutrient-rich water is allowed in at the beginning of the rail and flows to the end of the rail passing through all the roots of the plants as it goes along the route.

See our complete guide on aquaponics and what you need to know to run a successful system.

Plants that can be grown in the NFC real system have usually three characteristics

  • Lightweight
  • Short harvest time
  • Short Root systems.

Lightweight plants include such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower. These plants do not grow very large and can support themselves. For this reason, they are best suited for NFT systems and can be grown close together.

Plants with minimal harvest time such as lettuce, bok Choi, and other leafy greens are best suited for the NFT system because they can support themselves.

Short root systems give these plants the ability to be cultivated close to each other. Their root systems do not overcrowd and drown out neighboring plants and the rails in which they are being housed.

Other Types of Plants which can Grow in an NFT system.


Another plant that is well adapted for this system is cucumbers which I have covered in this article here. Although it is a vine plant it doesn’t overcrowd the system and the vines can be directed to the nearby support system.


Tomatoes although not a green leafy plant can also be grown in energy systems the only difference is support.

The tomatoes need to be supported by using a string system and support clips hear the tomatoes are streamed on and clipped to the string as they grow hamstring is the support for the plant.

This is required because the roots are not holding on to anything firm to uphold the Salk of the plant as if it were planted in the soil.

Tomatoes however although I have tried before and was successful at it. They really should not be grown with other types of plants in the same system. And there are specialized nutrient formulas geared specifically toward tomatoes.

This is one major difference between aquaponics and hydroponics.

The nutrient-rich water in an aqua Panik or hydroponic system provides the basic elements for all plants to grow nitrogen phosphorus and potassium

This makes it possible to grow all different types of plant in such systems all the NFB systems are best suited for short Spond leafy plants other plans can also be grown in the same system just put a little modification

NFT rails

Major Components of a NFT System

The major components of an NFT system are

  • Rails (PVC pipes or guttering type of material)
  • Net cups
  • Nutrient-rich water
  • Supply and return lines
  • Pump
  • Sump
  • Mechanical filter
  • Biofilter
  1. The rails can consist of PVC or guttering material in which holes are drilled for the net cups to sit and how it is positioned creates a film of water for the plants to get nutrients.
  2. Net Cups – This is where the plants reside. The plants are placed in the net cups with a support material such as rockwool which doesn’t restrict the plant’s growth.
  3. Nutrient-rich water – This is the water that comes from the fish tank after the ammonia has been broken down into useful nitrates for the plants.
  4. Supply and return lines – This is the conduit in which the water travels to and from the NFT rails and are usually smaller PVC pipes.
  5. Pump – This is literally the heart of the system which circulates the water and keeps the system functional.
  6. Sump – This is a component that usually houses the pump
  7. Mechanical Filter – This is the component found after the fish tank and its function is to remove the heavy solid waste that fishes produce.
  8. Biofilter – The biofilter is found after the mechanical filter and it main function is to house the majority of the bacteria in the system responsible for the conversion of harmful ammonia into nutrient Nitrates for the plants.
drawing of NFT system

Types of NFT Systems

NFT Systems allow for water to be inputted at one end and flow at a rate that passes through the roots and then exited on the end of the rail. This occurs because the real is slanted slightly towards the end allowing water to flow.

A modified version of the NFT rail system is by allowing the rail to be horizontal or leveled. In this way, the rails hold a level of water within the system. This modified system resembles a kind of floating raft system where the roots are partially immersed in a level of water.

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