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There are a wide number of essential minerals that are known to be important for the plants development. The most crucial ones are called “Macronutients”. We generally put the following in this category: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S), magnesium (Mg), carbon (C), oxygen(O), hydrogen (H). Others called “Micronutrients” or “Trace minerals” are needed in lower quantity. They are: iron (Fe), boron (B), chlorine (Cl), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni).
In a classic garden the worms are constantly mixing the deep soil with the surface and raise minerals to the surface. This action brings the macro and micronutrients available for the fungus, bacteria and plant roots.
In aquaponics we don’t have this link between deep soil/rocks and the ecosystem. We are only relying on the fish food added to the system.
The fish food profile is different between brands but is generally high in nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium but rarely covers all needs of the plants. Unfortunately the worms and fungus are not able to have access to rocks and make them available to the plants. A good way to fix this situation is to add rock powders into the system.
This can be under the form of rock dust or more elaborated mineral element powders. It will allow the life of the system to have access to all the minerals needed for the plants.
The quantity to add is difficult to evaluate. I generally recommend 2mg/1000L or growbed square meter. The frequency is also tricky to evaluate. Some aquaponics growers like to add the powder once a month.
I personally prefer to add it when I can see the first signs of deficiency on my plants. In winter I ca run the system for months without adding any minerals but in summer I generally add some every other month.
There is one mineral that is very quickly oxidised in aquaponics due to the moist and aerobic (in contact with oxygen) environment and this is the iron. Iron turns into rust none available for the plants. The best way to regulate this problem is to add chelated iron which is a special iron that is encapsulated in another particle.
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