When you consider starting your aquaponics setup, the first thing to consider is the fish species you will include. An aquaponic system needs proper harmony between fish, plants, and bacterial colonies. However, since the living conditions are pretty unique, choosing suitable fish species is crucial.
Since every fish species has its requirements, picking suitable species is crucial. You want to add fish species that will thrive in your aquaponics setup. Unlike aquarium tanks, aquaponics allows you to raise a variety of fish species. It offers a different degree of versatility that a standard fish tank won’t.
This article will explore the best fish for aquaponics that you can consider adding.
Best Fish for Aquaponics (Our Picks)
Unlike what many think, a range of fish species works amazingly for aquaponic setups. From edible fish species to decorative ones, the choices are pretty vast.
Let us take a look at the top choices.
|Growth rate||About nine months|
|Max height||Up to 60 cm|
|Light demands||Up to 18 hours of light per day|
The reason why tilapia fish works amazingly for aquaponics is due to their adaptability. They acclimatize pretty quickly, allowing you to home them just about anywhere. Even with less than ideal water conditions, they can sustain quite well.
However, the best feature of this fish species is its resistance to pathogens and parasites. Even under stressful conditions, it lives independently. They are omnivores, which makes their diet quite diverse too. If you are particularly looking for a hardy fish species, this is a good pick.
Depending on water temperature and conditions, a Tilapia is harvested between 6-8 months. Despite being a small or medium-scale setup, tilapias breed quickly in aquaponic systems. They also have a fast growth rate compared to other fish species.
|Growth rate||Around 12 months|
|Max height||Up to 45 inches|
|Light demands||14-18 hours of light per day|
|Scientific name||Oncorhynchus mykiss|
Next up, we have Trout. As common as this species is, it works amazingly for your fish tank. Unlike Tilapia, Trouts are carnivores. So, they will need a constant supply of animal products to sustain themselves in the aquaponic tank. They do belong to the salmon family.
When it comes to their living condition, they are perfect for both indoor and outdoor systems. Since their water temperature range is quite diverse, they fit in several aquaponic systems. Also, they thrive the best in colder water temperatures, between 56 to 68 °F.
Trout typically works best in Nordic country aquaponics for the favorable living conditions. Compared to Carp, you need to keep their diet high in protein. As for the water salinity, trout can thrive in almost every condition- salty, freshwater, and brackish.
|Growth rate||Three months|
|Max height||Up to 2.5 m|
|Light demands||Minimal light during day, no light at night|
Although there are so many different types of Catfish species available, almost all of them work well in aquaponics. They are hardy fish species and thrive in varying temperatures, salinity, and conditions. They are also highly resistant to disease, parasites.
Unlike some other fish species, Catfish works well in low DO lights. With Catfish, you need optimal mechanical filtration, and the rest falls into place. If you are a beginner, this is your ideal setup. Also, they are primarily carnivores and bottom feeders.
So, instead of flakes, pellets work ideally better for Catfish. Although catfish are pretty versatile, they work well in almost any aquaponic setup. They are also non-territorial and like their space to themselves. They do get stressed quickly, so be aware of the same.
4. Largemouth Bass
|Growth rate||In 12 months|
|Max height||Up to 40 cm|
|Light demands||Low DO requirements|
|Scientific name||Micropterus salmoides|
Following in the next is Largemouth Bass. This is another popular aquaponic species that blends in well with various water conditions. Despite the water conditions, they only need clean and hygienic water. If the water is dirty and not changed in regular intervals, be assured that it won’t survive.
They have a faster growth rate and can quickly grow into their adult self within one year. Also, they have a high DO tolerance. Largemouth Bass can also sustain in water with high ammonia and nitrite. However, we’d recommend cleaning the water in regular intervals.
The largemouth bass is a good pick if you aren’t looking to frequently change fish species in your aquaponics. It is beginner-friendly, which adds to the benefits. They will also eat just about anything, which is why they are so popular.
|Growth rate||Up to 2 years|
|Max height||70-75 cm|
|pH||7.5 to 8|
|Origin||North Atlantic, Pacific Ocean|
|Scientific name||Salmo salar|
One of the most widely eaten fish is also ideal for aquaponic systems. They are edible, not to mention very easy for beginners too. If you live somewhere with a colder temperature, this is the fish you need for your aquaponic.
They have a slower growth rate, but that’s due to their size. The ideal water temperature should be between 55 – 65 °F. Also, they need a pH from 7-8. The standout feature of salmon is their friendly nature.
Since they thrive in colder temperatures, they are easily best bred in colder countries. The biggest downside to this species is the feeding cycles. It requires a lot more food compared to other species. They are also more prone to diseases.
|Growth rate||3-10 years|
|Max height||Up to 7 inches|
|pH||6.5 to 8.5|
|Origin||Mexico, Canada, USA|
|Scientific name||Lepomis macrochirus|
Bluegill is often known as brim or sunny; Bluegill is quite a unique fish species for aquaponics. They are freshwater fish that are edible too. The fish is beginner-friendly, making them ideal for just about any individual to grow.
Their water parameters are pretty specific. Also, when it comes to water temperatures, you need to keep them in warmer water temperatures. Their harvesting period is quite lengthy, so it takes weight on people’s patience.
However, the pros outweigh the cons. Bluegill is quite adaptable, especially as tank mates. They can live with just about any fish species you can think of. This is a good pick if you are starting with an aquaponic system.
7. Yellow Perch
|Growth rate||Around 1 year|
|Max height||Up to 7.5 inches|
|pH||6.5 to 8.5|
|Scientific name||Perca flavescens|
Yellow Perch is an ideal choice if you are looking for a species that is edible and has a quicker growth rate. Thanks to their quicker harvest time, they make a fantastic addition to the aquaponics setup.
When you are choosing one for your setup, the choices are diverse. There are yellow Perch, European Perch, and the Balkhash perch. The yellow Perch is the most common of the lot. It is also a beginner-friendly choice.
Besides its unique and slender structure, the fish is quite adaptable too. It does prefer moderately cold to warmer water temperatures. The ideal water temperature is between 67-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, the pH should be between 6.5 to 8.5.
|Growth rate||One inch per year|
|Max height||1-2 inches|
|pH||7.0 and 8.4|
|Scientific name||Carassius auratus|
While we are on the subject of discussing common fish species for aquaponics, there’s nothing that beats Goldfish. They aren’t edible. So, they are more like a decorative fish species.
The standout feature of this species is its adaptable living conditions. Not only are they good tank mates, but they can sustain in different water conditions too. This makes them ideal for any kind of aquaponic system.
Since they have a parasitic nature, they aren’t suitable for consumption. However, they can sustain for a long when it comes to the setup. Goldfish lives best in same-species tanks and produce beneficial waste for the aquatic plants in the system.
|Growth rate||2-4% of body weight daily|
|Max height||47 inches|
|Scientific name||Cyprinus carpio|
While talking about the best fish for aquaponics setup, there’s no way we could miss out on Carp. This freshwater fish stands out with its stunning color scheme. They are edible and are often farmed for their meat.
Compared to Tilapia, Carp is more adaptable and thrives well in beginner-friendly aquaponic systems. They are also great for aquaponic systems with extreme water temperatures. Also, if you can’t tend to the water quality frequently, this species works excellent for you.
They are commonly found across several countries except for Africa, Australia, and a few parts of the United States. Carps contribute to the nutrient availability in the aquaponic system too.
Things to Consider When Choosing Fish Species for Your Aquaponic
Setting up an aquaponic system isn’t easy. Certain factors contribute to the ideal setup conditions. That said, once you master the basics, it becomes easier to swerve through the complications.
Let us walk you through some of the basics.
Edible vs. Ornamental Fish
Some aquaponics fish species are edible, like salmon and Tilapia. And then you have ornamental fish like Goldfish. Ideally, we’d recommend knowing the basics about the edible fish species before you go ahead and eat them.
Compared to the edible fish, the ornamental fish species are easy to care for. They also have better resistance to water conditions and diseases.
Like fish tanks, you need to sort out the water temperature even with aquaponics. You can pair a fish that needs cold water temperature with one that thrives in warmer water. This is an install buzzkill and results in a failing aquaponic system.
So, familiarize yourself with the essential requirements first. Once you have an idea of the weather and the water temperature, choosing the fish species becomes easier.
Exotic species are fun and games until you think about availability. Several exotic and less-known aquaponic fish species aren’t available everywhere. Baramundi, for example, is very hard to get your hands on.
When you are just starting with an aquaponic system, keep it simple. Start with fish species that are available locally. Also, choose fish species that are hardy and easy to care for.
Some fish species are adaptable and hardy, and some aren’t. There are a few species that require particular requirements for growth and stability. Some fish species are susceptible to water changes and die on the spot. You want to avoid these species unless you are skilled enough.
Ideally, Tilapia, goldfish, and koi fish are considered ideal for beginners. They are very adaptable and easy to care for.
The breeding habits of a fish species are crucial when choosing them for your aquaponic system. If you are housing a very easy-to-breed species, it can become challenging to manage their life and growth in small aquaponics. They can easily over-populate the space. An overpopulated aquaponic system can quickly cause an imbalance in dissolved oxygen levels.
In similar conditions, the aquaponic system can be under-populated too. So, we’d recommend managing this factor before setting everything up.
Besides breeding, the fish diet matters too in an aquaponic system. You want to keep fish species that will live in harmony in the tank. The fish food nutrient availability in an aquaponic system is crucial. Keep a balance of top feeding and bottom-feeding fish species.
Also, keep fish species with differing feeding cycles. Moreover, add species with different diets, so everything is eaten and balanced out in the tank.
Water Quality for the Fish
High ammonia and nitrite levels in an aquaponic will harm the fish species. Despite how susceptible they are, ammonia has negative impacts on fish health. If your ammonia levels in the aquaponic system are over 1 mg/liter, it is toxic. This contributes to common fish diseases, leading to damage.
Fish species in an aquaponic system require a variety of pH conditions. However, the general range lies between 6.5 to 8.5. Although the pH has a favorable range, any drastic changes to the pH levels can lead to complications in the system.
DO or dissolved oxygen is responsible for converting fish waste into nutrients in the aquaponic system. Typically, the DO should be 5 ppm or higher for optimal functioning for an aquaponic system. In lower DO levels, air stones or an aeration pump can rectify the issue.
Light and darkness
The light exposure in an aquaponic varies from one species to the other. While some fish species like Tilapia need up to 18 hours of light, others like Salmon need low light exposure. A low light level also prevents excessive algae growth. Maintaining a balance between the light and dark cycles is crucial for an aeroponic system.
Acclimatizing The Fish
Fish species are susceptible to water changes. Some are highly adaptable, and a few others aren’t and take more time to adjust. The best way to acclimatize the fish into a new aquaponic would be to make the process gradual.
The sudden change in water temperature and pH can cause stress to the fish. So, you need to ensure that the water parameters are optimal. Instead of taking your fish and adding them directly to a new aquaponics system, be gradual.
Start by keeping the fish in a small aerated tank of their original transported water. Add a little water from the aquaponic system throughout the day and equilibrate the water temperature gradually. Once the fish adapts, you can transfer them to the aquaponic system.
Caring Tips for Your Aquaponic Fish
Taking care of fish species in an aquaponic system is no different from standard fish tanks. You need to feed them well and maintain the water temperatures optimally to support a stable life.
If your fish isn’t happy in the setup, their behavior is a dead giveaway. Some species work amazingly in new tanks, while others don’t. For optimal growth of the fish, here’s what you need to follow through:
- Maintain the water quality and environment of the aquaponic system.
- Maintain the ideal water parameters, including the water temperature and the pH.
- Ensure that the fish has an ideal living habitat with proper aquatic plants, hiding places, etc.
- Avoid overfeeding the fish species to maintain water quality.
- Keep compatible fish species in an aquaponic tank instead of rival species.
- Keep an eye out on the behavior of the fish species to take early actions in case something is wrong.
These are just the basic requirements for the fish species in an aquaponic system. If you want your edible or ornamental fish to live longer, it is crucial to follow these through. Cleaning the aquaponic system is also crucial to maintain.
Maintaining the right living conditions reduces risks of fish disease too. With the right food and care, they can easily thrive without complaints.
If this is your first time setting up an aquaponics system, these are some of the best fish species to look into. All of them are of premium quality, some are easy to care for, and they add a lot of value. Choosing the right fish is crucial for a successful aquaponics system.
The care instructions aren’t very different from your staple fish tanks. With the correct feeding and proper care, you can easily set up a thriving aquaponics system in no time at all.
We hope this article gives you all the insights you need concerning an aquaponic system. If you have further queries, leave them for us in the comments.