Welcome to the wonderful world of aquaponics! If you’re looking for a fun, sustainable way to grow your own food and feed your family with delicious fish, then this is definitely the hobby for you. But before you get started on your journey of becoming an aquaponics expert or specialist, it’s important to understand which types of fish will thrive in these systems.
Whether you’re just getting into aquaponics for the first time or have several years of experience under your belt, I’ll provide helpful tips and advice so that you can easily find the right species that suits your needs and preferences.
Selecting the best breed of fish to grow in your aquaponics system is an easy task for most people. There are a few things that must be considered when selecting your fish. Some do not fare well in an enclosed environment, such as your tank, and you must also consider the climate and dietary requirements.
Consider the growth rate of your intended species as if it takes years for the fish to grow out to a size considered suitable for the table. There is a point where it becomes uneconomical to feed the fish for that period of time.
Some people catch their fish in the wild when they are small and stock their aquaponics system yearly from natural stock. This practice is a bit questionable in some ways, particularly in instances where local legislation prohibits the removal of small fish from the wild or when a disease is introduced into your system from less-than-healthy fish.
For the most part, your average aquaponic gardener will likely purchase their stock from a fish hatchery, and this is the path I prefer to take as fingerlings purchased from a hatchery tend to be disease-free. The hatchery may also be able to provide you with some advice as to what species are best for aquaponics and supply you with fish that are likely to be suitable for your climate.
In most places worldwide, tilapia is the most common fish picked for both home and commercial aquaponic projects. There are nearly a hundred different tilapia species, and in the wild, they inhabit freshwater habitats from shallow streams and ponds to rivers, lakes, and estuaries.
Because of their large size, rapid growth, and suitability for the table, tilapia are ideal for aquaculture. They are one of the three most commonly utilized fish in commercial fish farms. Tilapia are omnivorous and farewell on fish pellets and soft aquatic vegetation.
Tilapia may not be suitable for your climate or not permitted by local legislation. For example, tilapia is banned in all, but native fish are the most popular aquaponics in one state in Australia. Common choices include sleepy cod, jade perch, silver perch, barramundi, and Murray cod.
While brown trout and rainbow are not natives, they are selected in the colder regions. Consult your local hatchery for the species that is most suitable for you. Most hatcheries will endeavor to be as helpful as possible if you are not wasting their time and intend to buy something. Find a good hatchery and stick with them, and you will find they will appreciate your repeat business.
Now, let’s take a look at these 15 fishes that are best fit for your aquaponics system.
1. Artic Char
Artic char is like a gem in an aquaponics system, with its beautiful color and hardiness. It’s a great choice for those just getting started in the world of aquaponics, as it stands up to temperature swings better than most other fish.
The Arctic Char has a high tolerance for fast water flow and can survive in higher-stocked tanks for long periods of time. Its diet consists mainly of insects, small crustaceans, and mollusks which makes it relatively easy to feed in an aquaponics system.
So if you’re looking for a reliable fish that won’t require much maintenance then Arctic Char might be your best bet! With all these things going for it, Arctic Char should easily become one of your favorite aquaponic inhabitants.
When it comes to aquaponics, barramundi is one of the best fish to use. The Asian Sea Bass, as it is sometimes called, has a delicate sweetness and can weigh more than 50 pounds in the wild. They’re suitable for both novice and seasoned fish keepers because of their resilience and adaptability.
Since it thrives at higher temperatures than much other common fish, the barramundi is ideally suited to regions with a warmer climate. Another benefit of using these fish in an aquaponic system is that they require little care. This is the reason why:
Depending on their habitat, barramundi can reach harvest size in as little as six to twelve months. Feeding these omnivorous fish is straightforward and economical because they consume both plant matter and small aquatic organisms like insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, etc. Their beautiful scales reflect light, making them a welcome addition to any aquarium.
To sum up, the barramundi is a great option for beginners in aquaponics. It’s worth considering if you’re just getting your homestead off the ground because of how quickly it grows and how little care it needs.
Carp have a long history of being used in aquaponics, going all the way back to Ancient Rome. In fact, carp account for around 40% of the fish typically found in aquaponic systems today. This is due to their hardiness and adaptability; they can thrive in a wide range of water temperatures and pH levels as well as different types of feed. Carp’s omnivorous diet makes them easy to maintain and keeps costs low since they can be fed almost any kind of food from vegetable matter to pellets or even other smaller fish like minnows.
Their size also makes them an ideal choice for large-scale commercial operations where cost effectiveness is key. Common carp typically reach sizes over 3 feet long when fully grown which means more protein per pound than smaller species like tilapia. They are also relatively resilient against disease, with some studies showing that common carp can survive outbreaks better than most other aquatic animals.
In addition to these qualities, carps also provide aesthetic benefits: their bright colors make them both attractive and entertaining to watch! Their peaceful nature allows them to coexist easily with other species while still providing plenty of activity in your system.
So if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option that will bring life into your aquaponics setup, look no further than the humble carp! With its versatility and beauty, it’s sure to please everyone who visits your tank.
After carp, catfish become one of the most sought-after aquaponic fish. Catfish are resilient and adaptable, making them a great option for a variety of settings. Additionally, they not only supply you with fish for food but also aid in cleaning your tank by eating algae and other debris. Catfish are fantastic additions to any aquaponics setup for the following reasons:
- Catfish don’t need much in the way of upkeep or special attention, making them perfect for those who are short on time but not on patience.
- Once acclimated to their new home, catfish can multiply at an alarming rate. If you don’t keep an eye on things, they can quickly overwhelm your aquarium.
- Catfish produce more waste than smaller fish species, so they are best suited to larger systems with an abundance of food.
- Catfish are omnivorous scavengers, meaning they will eat just about anything they can get their mouths on. This includes everything from leftover food scraps to small insects and larvae found in the water column.
All things considered, these characteristics make catfish an appealing option for aquaponics fish farmers who want to maximize productivity with minimal effort.
5. Fancy Goldfish
When it comes to aquaponics, fancy goldfish can be a great option. They can withstand the elements, boast eye-catching hues, and require little attention. Furthermore, they aid in system cleanliness by eating the leftover food and waste particles that the other fish produce.
Because of the variety in size and shape, you can select the perfect fish for your aquaponics system. Keep in mind, though, that if given adequate space, fancy goldfish can grow to be quite large, so measure your tank carefully before purchasing any new inhabitants.
Fancy goldfish add personality to an aquaponics system, swimming to the surface when they spot a human visitor.
Some species may become nervous in bright light, so make sure to give them plenty of places to hide (like caves or plants). Fancy goldfish, given the right conditions, can live up to a decade in captivity, making them an excellent choice for any aquaponic enthusiast concerned with the sustainability of their endeavor.
Moving on from fancy goldfish, let’s discuss koi. Koi is one of the most popular fish in aquaponics due to its vibrant colors and hardy nature. These carp-like fish have been bred for more than a century, so they are well-suited for any system. They come in many varieties, with some being quite large (up to two feet long!). While koi can be relatively expensive, they can provide years of enjoyment if properly cared for.
Koi require plenty of oxygen, so an efficient filtration system is a must. Also, these fish need lots of space – at least 50 gallons per full-sized individual – or else tank mates may become territorial and aggressive toward each other. A good diet is also essential; high-quality pellets as well as treats like live brine shrimp will keep your koi healthy and happy!
You’ll want to make sure that your koi don’t escape into local waterways where they could potentially harm native species. To prevent this, use strong stocking nets when transferring them between tanks or ponds and ensure that all pumps and filters are secure enough to handle their weight.
7. Largemouth Bass (Micropterus Salmoides)
When it comes to aquaponics, largemouth bass is a hot commodity. They are great for both novice and seasoned fish keepers due to their low maintenance requirements and adaptability to different water conditions. Moreover, they make excellent dietary staples.
These fish can grow to a maximum length of twenty-five inches and have wide mouths. Their upper bodies are dark green, while their lower halves are silvery, and their bellies are white, fading into a yellowish green. Largemouth bass, which is omnivores, consume a wide variety of food items in the wild, including insects, crustaceans, frogs, small mammals, and other fish. This species has a potential captive life span of 10 years or more, given the right care and diet.
If you’re planning on stocking your tank with largemouth bass, keep in mind that these fish prefer warmer waters (around 75°F).
Given their propensity for massive growth over time, it’s probably best to add several smaller specimens rather than a single massive one. If you keep your aquarium population small enough, all of its members can flourish in harmony without overwhelming the tank.
Largemouth bass is a good choice for aquaponics systems at any level of skill because they are hardy and adaptable.
Another great fish for aquaponics is the pacu (Piaractus mesopotamicus). Pacu, native to South America and related to piranhas, are an omnivorous species with a peaceful temperament. They can grow up to 36 inches long in captivity, making them one of the largest tropical aquarium species available. Here’s why you might want to consider adding this impressive fish to your aquaponic system:
- Pacu is extremely hardy and easy to keep. They thrive in temperatures between 75-86 degrees Fahrenheit, so they don’t require any special heating equipment.
- These fish have a unique diet that includes both plant matter and small shrimp or worms which makes them relatively low maintenance compared to other aquatic species.
- Given their size, pacu will eat large amounts of food which means more waste products being filtered out through the aquaponics system – making it even more efficient!
- They also reproduce easily in captivity, meaning you won’t need extra expensive fertilizers like some other types of fish do.
- These amazing creatures come in beautiful colors ranging from black & gold stripes all the way up to bright reds & oranges!
No matter what type of aquaponic setup you choose, having pacu as part of your ecosystem can be fun and rewarding. With its unique coloration and dietary requirements, it’ll be sure to add something special to your home environment while helping you maintain a healthy balance within your system.
9. Red Ear Sunfish
Red ear sunfish are a great choice for aquaponics systems because they’re easy to care for and provide plenty of benefits. They require very little space, making them perfect for smaller tanks with limited room. Plus, their small size means that they won’t need much food or consume too many resources from the tank. Not to mention, they can get along well with other fish species in the same system!
They also reproduce quickly, so you’ll have no shortage of new babies growing up in your tank. This makes it easier to keep your population balanced and healthy without needing to buy more fish. Red ear sunfish don’t produce as much waste as some larger fish species, which is ideal since this will help keep your water clean and clear throughout the year. As an added bonus, these fish are known for being quite colorful and active – adding life and vibrancy to any aquarium setup.
In short, red ear sunfish make excellent additions to any aquaponics system due to their low maintenance needs and helpful contributions. Their ability to breed easily helps maintain balance within the ecosystem while their bright colors bring joy into every home. With these advantages combined, there’s no doubt that owning one of these little guys could be an enjoyable experience.
Moving away from the red ear sunfish, let’s take a look at salmon. Salmon is an interesting fish to consider for aquaponics systems because it grows quickly and can be harvested with relative ease in comparison to other types of fish. This makes them perfect for aquaponic hobbyists looking for a quick return on their investment.
Those who live in colder climates but still value the benefits of an effective aquaponics system will find that salmon is an excellent choice. Not only are they abundant in flavor, but they also ensure that the fish you harvest won’t be tasteless.
One drawback of raising salmon, however, is that they require more food than other types of fish. For that reason, it might not be the best option if you’re concerned about saving money without sacrificing system health. They will require a large amount of space due to their rapid development; otherwise, stress levels will rise, and this could eventually lead to health issues.
Many people who are into aquaponics choose to keep sturgeon as their fish of choice. There’s something mysterious about these fish that will captivate your guests; they’ve been around longer than most other species. Be prepared to make a long-term commitment if you decide to care for one of these fascinating creatures as it reaches adulthood. Sturgeon have the advantage of being able to be fed a wide variety of foods, including plant matter and small crustaceans or insects.
When deciding on a type of sturgeon, it’s important to note that there are two main types: white and beluga. The white variety grows at a slower rate but can live upwards of 60 years if given proper care. On the flip side, Beluga Sturgeon tend to reach full maturity much quicker and can easily reach lengths over 6ft long within 5-7 years. Whichever type you decide upon, rest assured knowing that both make excellent additions to any home aquarium setup!
No matter which sturgeon you choose, they require plenty of space and clean water conditions in order to thrive. With good upkeep, though, they can provide hours of entertainment watching their graceful movements through the tank while also helping maintain a balanced ecosystem.
As we sail away from the depths of sturgeon, let’s take a look at tetra–a much more accessible fish for aquaponics enthusiasts. From its vibrant colors to its easy maintenance, there are many reasons why it is one of the most popular varieties in the world.
The first thing that stands out about this little water dweller is its diverse range of sizes and shapes. Depending on the species you choose, your tank could house anything from tiny neon tetras to large silver dollars. It’s also important to note that these guys can thrive in temperatures ranging from 68-80 degrees Fahrenheit, making them suitable for nearly any climate. And when it comes to diet, they will happily accept flakes or pellets as well as frozen food like brine shrimp.
But perhaps what makes them such an attractive choice for aquarists is their reputation as peaceful creatures with no interest in aggression toward other fish. That said, they still require plenty of space to swim around and hide if need be! So while they may not occupy quite as much real estate as sturgeons do, make sure you have enough room before adding these delightful swimmers into your ecosystem.
Tilapia is an ideal fish for aquaponics and have become increasingly popular in recent years. They require a low level of maintenance, making them perfect for beginner aquarists who want to start their own system. Tilapia can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, which makes them resilient in various climates and they adjust quickly to changing environments.
The most important factor when considering tilapia is the temperature of the water; it should be kept between 72-90 degrees Fahrenheit (22-32 Celsius). Also, since they grow rapidly, large tanks or ponds will need frequent cleaning as these fish easily produce excess waste that could accumulate and cause problems with nitrate levels.
Tilapia are omnivorous by nature so they can thrive on plant-based diets such as lettuce, peas, zucchini, and fruits as well as animal proteins like shrimp pellets and worms. With proper care and nutrition, these fish can provide fresh food for your table year-round.
“As the saying goes, ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat.’ The same applies to aquaponics. While tilapia may be an ideal fish for many aquaponic systems, there are plenty of other fish species that can do equally well in the right environment. One such species is trout.
Aquaponic systems are well-suited to the hardy and simple-to-cultivate trout. This is the reason why:
- Trout are most likely to thrive in water temperatures of 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 18 degrees Celsius). Because of this, they are a great option if you need to store your system outside or have a small amount of room indoors.
- Proteins and carbohydrates make up the bulk of their diet, so they don’t require as much food as some other fish. Therefore, trout are less expensive to keep than their omnivorous counterparts in the long run.
- You won’t have a hard time keeping up with demand even if you’re operating a large system because of how quickly and easily they reproduce.
- If raised properly, trout can reach maturity in as little as 6 months.
For these reasons, trout is a great beginner aquaponics fish if you’re not confident in your ability to handle smaller, more delicate fish like tilapia or koi carp. Trout can be successfully bred in systems ranging in size from those found in private homes to those found in large commercial establishments, provided that the systems are properly maintained.
15. Yellow Perch
One of the best fish for aquaponics is the yellow perch. They are well-liked by both amateurs and experts because of their robust nature and delicious flavor. Furthermore, their compact size makes them ideally suited for homes with limited tank or pond space.
Feeding yellow perch a healthy, well-rounded diet is essential. Although they are best fed live foods like worms and insects, they can be taught to eat pellets and other processed foods. Due to their omnivorous nature, they require both plant- and animal-based foods for optimal nutrition.
Because of their eye-catching hues and low maintenance needs, yellow perch are great fish to have in an aquaponic system. These lovely fish could be the perfect addition to your system, whether you’re an old hand in search of variety or a newcomer to the fascinating world of aquatic gardening.
Feeding Your Fish
Different species prefer to eat different things; however, there are commercially available fish pellets to suit the dietary requirements of most fish. Some pellet manufacturers even go so far as to provide pellets tailored to the age and size of the fish.
Most fingerlings require more protein than older fish, and starter pellets are generally smaller at around 1mm and are more suited to their requirements. As the fish grow larger, their needs change, and they prefer a larger pellet.
Pellets are usually available in several sizes, from 1mm to 4mm, and some float on the surface while others sink quite quickly to suit the feeding habits of the species you are growing out of.
Commercial fish pellets will provide optimum nutrition for your fish. However, there is nothing wrong with using more natural feeds though you may find that your fish grow more slowly as a result. Worms, bugs, and soldier fly larvae are the most commonly used natural feeds.
I like to go through my garden, pick the pest insects off the leaves, and put them in an ice cream container. When I can’t find any more pests, I feed these collected bugs to the fish and leave them for 20 minutes to feast. I then finish with native fish pellets, ideal for the silver perch I am currently growing out.
Overfeeding fish is a common mistake, one I have made and still occasionally make myself. It is surprising how little fish really eat, and if there is uneaten food in the tank, it will break down into ammonia and contribute to poor water quality.
This can be useful if your fish are small and don’t poop enough to provide enough ammonia to be converted into nitrate to feed your plants, however, if your fish is big, your stocking rate is high, or you don’t have enough grow bed area this can make a bad situation worse.
Watching the fish as they eat can provide a clue as to how much to feed them. When they are hungry, and you drop food into the tank, you will see that they run for the food with vigor, but after a few seconds of feeding, this vigor subsides, and they eat at a more leisurely pace. Aim to provide them with the amount of food they would eat vigorously and no more.
How Many Fish?
How many fish you can grow is referred to as your stocking rate. Determining your stocking rate can seem difficult because many factors influence how many fish your system can hold.
If your fish are fingerlings, you can have many more of them in your system than you could if they were grown out and ready for the table. The size of your grow bed is important, too, as this determines the level of biofiltration available to your system.
A recommended ratio for your system is 1:1. That is for every 10 liters (approx 2.5 us gallons) of fish tank capacity. It would help if you had 10 liters of grow bed capacity. I would suggest no less than 10 liters of fish tank capacity per fish. So in this example, if we have 1000 liters of fish tank capacity and 1000 liters of grow bed capacity, our maximum stocking rate is 100 fish. Clear as mud?
If you had a fish tank capacity of 1000 liters, but your grow bed capacity was 500 liters, I would not suggest more than 50 fish for this system as the biofiltration is not likely to be adequate for fish to get bigger. With 20 liters of fish tank capacity per fish, you will probably have happier fish too.
The above rule of thumb works reasonably well until your fish start to grow beyond the 500-gram mark. Some fish species can grow well beyond 5 or 10 kg, and the above formula completely falls apart well before that point. A better measurement of your stocking rate is kilograms of fish per liter of fish tank capacity.
Confusing? Not really. As your fish get larger, they will create more fish poop, and they will require an increasing amount of water per fish as a result of this. A fish that weighs 5kg will create far more fish poop than 20 fingerlings.
I have seen many different recommendations for stocking rates from several different sources. To provide some guidelines, 1kg per 30 liters of water is a very safe stocking rate. That is, if your fish all weigh 2kg each and you have ten of them, you should have a fish tank of at least 600 liters.
A stocking rate of 1kg/20 liters is ok, but you must monitor your water quality regularly and avoid overfeeding your fish. If the water quality falls outside of acceptable guidelines, immediately change 1/3 of your tank capacity for fresh water and be prepared to change another 1/3 24 hours later if the situation does not improve.
Needless to say, you should start looking for the cause of the problem. I have grown silver perch successfully at stocking rates as horrifying as 1kg/10 liters with a 2% mortality rate. However, this is running very much on the ragged edge and has absolutely no margin for error.
I consider the secret to this incredible stocking rate to be duckweed, which silver perch absolutely loves to eat. When added to your fish tank by the shovelful, it has the additional benefit of removing some ammonia from the water before the fish get around to eating it.
An efficient solution when your fish have grown, and your stocking rate is beginning to push the boundaries is to start harvesting the bigger fish, which will create more room for the smaller ones. My favorite, silver perch, is best for the table when they are between 1 and 1.5kg.
As you will discover, not all of your fish will grow at the same rate, and there will be a number of them that will be ready to eat long before others. Some selective culling will soon put your stocking rate to right.
Aquaponics is a balancing act at all times, and testing your water regularly will alert you to any problems as they develop. Avoid the temptation to overstock your tank, particularly if it is your first effort.
Read also: Best DIY Hydroponics Solution in Easy Steps