Arabs Use Fish to Feed Tomatoes

2 Jun

A popular golf resort in Dubai is using fish and tomato plants together to feed one another. They don’t use any chemicals or crop rotation, and the system is 100% organic, relying on a symbiotic environment, where the two species benefit one another.


Plants grown at the Jebel Ali Resort and Hotel using a new method of aquaponic gardening.

The process they are using is dubbed Aquaponics, and it involves feeding plants with the wastewater from the fish tanks of cherry fish, a local fish variety in the United Arab Emirates. Other plants that benefit are herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme, and they are currently doing trials with both mint and cucumber, as well as basil. Because the fish they use for the system are local tropical fish, no temperature control is needed for the water they are kept in. However the system is regulated with solar panels.

On May 17, 2013, the executive sous chef at the resort, Mischa Graafmans, was quoted in the online Khaleej Times as saying: “Fish feed the plants. Plants feed the fish”. That’s it in a nutshell.

About Aquaponic Gardening

Essentially aquaponic gardening is an organic form of gardening that is used to grow veggies, herbs and fruits using benefits from fresh fish as a safe and healthy protein source. It is 100% organic and is majorly constructive in forming a symbiotic environment.

Aquaponic gardening conserves energy and has been credited with assisting to control climate change. It is also said to contribute to minimizing the impact of overfishing our oceans, because it recycles the water the cherry fish live in.

According to the Khaleej Times article, aquaponics is 4-6 times more productive than other forms of gardening, and incredibly it uses 90% less water than most conventional gardening methods.

There is a big aquaponic centre in Abu Dhabi that house some 50,000 fish, but the Jebel Ali resort is the first organization or establishment to embrace the possibilities for its own use. But then they are proudly leading the pack, and along with the bio-garden where their cherry tomatoes and same-named fish are housed, they have 10 olive trees and other plants. The set-up is new, but they are already able to harvest plants and use them in meals they serve to guests.

Cherry Tomatoes are Thriving at the Resort

By May 2013, Jebel Ali was already harvesting some 10 kg of cherry tomatoes each week. While this seems like a large quantity, it isn’t nearly enough for their needs, and so they still supplement by purchasing cherry tomatoes – but only from local producers.

Aquaponics for Home Gardeners

We don’t have guidelines to share right now, but it seems that it’s easy enough to set up an aquaponic system of fish-tomato feeding at home, although you will likely need to live in a part of the world where cherry fish thrive! Still it’s an inspiration, and something we can all learn from.

For comprehensive information on growing tomatoes, be sure to grab our great book How To Grow Juicy Tasty Tomatoes.