Fish Fertilizer: Unlocking the Secret to Thriving Plants

Have you ever thought about using fish as fertilizer for your outdoor plants? It may sound peculiar, but fish can actually be an excellent source of nutrients. Packed with vitamins, amino acids, proteins, and more, fish fertilizers offer organic benefits that traditional NPK fertilizers lack. They even provide micronutrients that are essential for plant growth. So, while they may have a slight fishy smell, don’t let that discourage you. Once diluted, the scent quickly fades away, leaving your plants thriving. Ready to dive into the world of fish fertilizers? Let’s explore the amazing benefits they offer, hear from a pro about their experience, and discover where to find them.

What Exactly Is Fish Fertilizer?

Fish fertilizers come in various forms, and to a beginner, they may seem a bit mysterious. Let’s demystify the different types of fish fertilizers and understand how they’re produced.

Fish Meal

Fish meal is a byproduct of fish oil production. It involves cooking, pressing, drying, and grinding the fish meat and bone. While it’s not composted, fish meal acts as a soil amendment, improving soil health. It comes in compressed cakes or loose meal form, with a fine, brownish texture. It can be grainy or powdery, making it easy to work into the soil for enhanced plant growth.

Fish Emulsion

Fish emulsion fertilizer has two variations. The most common commercial fish emulsion is derived from fish meal. The meal undergoes a steam bath, extracting proteins that condense into a liquid form. The second variation involves cooking down and straining fish remnants, such as internal organs or heads, to produce a fish emulsion fertilizer.

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Fish emulsion fertilizer has a distinctive fishy smell, which some people may find unappealing. It can be thick like molasses or slightly thinned down. Before use, fish emulsion fertilizer should be diluted in water.

Hydrolized Fish Fertilizer or Fish Hydrolysate

Hydrolized fish fertilizer has a similar end product to fish emulsion fertilizer. It’s a liquid with a pungent fishy aroma and can be thick. The process involves grinding whole fish or fish remnants, fermenting them into a paste, and breaking them down into a liquid form. You can even make your own DIY fish fertilizer through a fermentation process, but be prepared for a bit of a stinky experience. The resulting liquid fertilizer is rich in fish amino acids and proteins, providing easily absorbed nutrition for your plants.

Fish Waste

Fish waste refers to the waste produced by fish in an aquaponics system. In this system, fish live in a tank or pond connected to a garden space. As the fish produce waste, it breaks down in the water, which is then directed to the garden. The garden acts as a natural filter, absorbing the nutrients from the waste. However, fish waste is only viable in an aquaponics system and is not commercially available on its own.

How Does Fish Fertilizer Benefit Plants?

Fish fertilizer has been used for centuries to boost plant growth. Native American tribes would bury fish when planting seeds, providing nutrition as the fish decomposed. Modern fish fertilizers work differently from other organic fertilizers.

Fish meal offers slow-release nutrition, improving soil health over time. It provides essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, as well as minerals and vitamins that plants need. On the other hand, fish emulsion and hydrolized fish fertilizers are liquids. They have already been broken down for easy absorption by plants. Once diluted in water, they can be used as foliar sprays or in irrigation systems, providing rapid N-P-K feeding and other micronutrients.

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While there is some debate about the cost-effectiveness of fish fertilizer compared to other organic options, it’s an excellent choice if you have access to fish remnants or enjoy fishing. Making your own hydrolized fish fertilizer is a simple and eco-friendly solution. Additionally, fish fertilizer benefits extend beyond plant nutrition. They also enhance soil health and support microbial populations that aid in nutrient absorption.

How to Make Fish Fertilizer

Making fish meal or fish emulsion fertilizer at home is unlikely. However, producing hydrolized fish fertilizer is much more feasible. You’ll need airtight containers, an abundance of fish, and some form of sugar, such as brown sugar or molasses mixed with sawdust.

The process is similar to bokashi composting, where bacteria break down the fish over several months, transforming it into a liquid fertilizer. After straining out larger pieces, dilute the liquid in water and use it as fertilizer. One farmer, Binyamin Klempner, shared his experience making fish fertilizer. His company, Galil Soil Farm, sells organic options to promote healthier farming practices.

Binyamin’s Fertilizer Experience:

To make fish fertilizer, Binyamin and his intern, Craig, visited a local outdoor market known as a shuk. Despite the language barrier, they managed to collect an assortment of fish parts from the fishmongers. Although the fishmongers were initially confused by their request, Binyamin cleverly referred to the parts as food for cats. Back at the farm, they mixed the fish with brown sugar and sealed the barrels. Binyamin’s excitement and connection to the fish he used added a unique touch to the fertilizer-making process.

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Where to Find Fish Fertilizer

If you’re not keen on making your own fish fertilizer, there are numerous options available. Let’s explore some of the top products and their pros and cons.

Fish Meal

Down To Earth is an excellent supplier of organic amendments and fertilizers, offering both fish meal and fish bone meal. Their meal has an 8-6-0 rating, while their fish bone meal is 3-16-0, providing fantastic fertilizer options.

Fish Emulsion

Alaska fish fertilizer offers multiple formulations of their fertilizer, with the most common being a 5-1-1 NPK ratio. It’s deodorized with wintergreen, but there may still be a slight fishy aroma. Another option is Fertilome fish fertilizer, which is also 5-1-1. It’s a cost-effective choice, especially if you prefer to buy American products.

Hydrolized Fish Fertilizer

Neptune’s Harvest provides a 2-4-1 hydrolyzed fish fertilizer, which is excellent for promoting flowering in established outdoor plants. GS Plant Foods offers a slightly lighter version at 2-3-1, suitable for regular foliar spray use. Both options should be diluted in water before application.

In conclusion, fish is not only a great source of nutrition for you but for your outdoor plants as well. Fish fertilizers offer unique benefits that can contribute to healthier soil, improved plant growth, and reduced waste in landfills. So, why not give fish fertilizers a try and watch your plants thrive?

*[NPK]: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium