Top 9 Best Aquaponics Fish

Aquaponics is an amazing way to garden. And the workhorses of an aquaponics system are the aquaponics fish.

As discussed in other pages, Aquaponics is a natural process whereby fish are raised in an aquarium, and their waste is pumped vertically into grow beds.  Waste is then naturally converted into nutrients for the plant’s roots to absorb within a grow medium. Plants, in turn, clean the water in this recirculating and symbiotic system.

Before you can grow your plants, you must first choose the correct aquaponics fish. Not all aquaponics fish are equal, or have the same requirements for survival. Therefore, let’s review some key considerations before choosing the best aquaponics fish for your needs.

Considerations for choosing aquaponics fish:

  • Ornamental vs. Edible

While there are many aquaponics fish which do well in aquaponics systems, not all are edible. Goldfish and koi, for example, are great ornamental aquaponics fish –  just don’t eat them! Actually, you can eat them but we don’t recommend it. 

  • Temperature

Some aquaponics fish thrive in cold water, while others do well only in warm water. Be sure you choose a species of fish that is hardy and adaptable for your particular indoor or outdoor conditions. Adding water heaters to your fish tank is an option.

  •  Purchasing your aquaponics fish

Choose a species which is readily available to buy as a fingerling or juvenile fish. Selecting a suitable adult fish is also a possibility.

  •  Breeding

If you want to produce your own stock, select a species that is capable of breeding within an enclosed aquaponics tank.

9 Most Popular Aquaponics Fish

Here are 9 of the best aquaponics fish.  We have included an ideal temperature range for each species. Please note the while most fish are able to tolerate varying degrees of temperature outside of the ideal range, we recommend you keep your aquaponics fish within these parameters as much as possible. This will ensure that the fish are able to grow effectively (and stay alive).

Top 9 Aquaponics Fish: In Detail

Tilapia

Ideal Temperature Range:   72° – 86° F

Plate Size in

6 – 9 Months

  • Popular, edible, warm-water aquaponics fish
  • Easy to breed and fast growing

Tilapia traces its origins back to the Nile River Basin in ancient Egypt. This species of fish is thought to be the oldest farmed fish on earth. Today, Tilapia is still an immensely popular fish to farm in aquaculture. It is also – quite possibly – the most popular aquaponics fish.

Why? For starters, tilapia is a great eating fish. It has a mild flavor, making it adaptable to many culinary styles.  Tilapia is also a great fish for aquaponics beginners.  They adapt to their environment and are able to withstand less than ideal water conditions.  Other benefits of choosing tilapia include their fast growth rate (about 9 months from fingerling to harvest), ability to reproduce easily, and have an omnivorous diet (so they won’t eat your other fish).

One drawback to raising tilapia is the need to keep your aquaponics tank warm. Water below 55 degrees will cause tilapia to struggle. A constant water temperature of around 80 degrees is ideal. Adding a water heater is a viable option if water temperatures are too low, or you may consider choosing a different aquaponics fish altogether. Another possible drawback is their ability to breed quickly (every 4-6 weeks). If you have a small aquaponics system, be advised that it may quickly fill with schools of young fish.

With that said, tilapia is often regarded as an ideal aquaponics fish and worthy of consideration.

Trout

Ideal Temperature Range:   56° – 68° F

Plate Size in

12 – 16 Months

  • Edible cold-water fish
  • Requires pristine water, high dissolved oxygen levels, and close pH monitoring

Looking for an aquaponics fish that thrives in cooler water? Trout may fit the bill. They thrive in temperatures ranging in the 50s and 60s, making them ideal for cool environments. This species of fish has a high food conversion ratio and grow quickly, although it may take up to 16 months to fully mature. In addition, trout are a desirable food source, loaded with protein and omega fatty acids.

Because trout thrive in cold water, some aquaponics enthusiasts alternate between raising tilapia during warmer months and trout during cooler months. Trout are also a popular aquaponics fish to raise in indoor garages and basements.

It should be noted that trout are not as adaptable as some other fish, as they require pristine water and high dissolved oxygen levels to thrive. Close monitoring of pH levels is also important. Another possible downside is less plants choices.  Because recirculating cold water may harm certain plants, be sure to pick hardier plants varieties. With that said, raising trout may be too much effort for some, but the payoff at the dinner table makes this species a popular aquaponics fish.

Perch

Ideal Temperature Range:   70° – 82° F

Plate Size in

9 – 16 Months

  • Edible, hardy, adaptable aquaponics fish
  • Slower to mature and carnivorous diet

Silver, Yellow, and Jade varieties of perch are popular aquaponics fish. Because they are adaptable to various conditions, perch make a good starter fish for beginners. Perch typically thrive in water temperatures ranging in the 70’s. However, they are able to withstand colder water down to the 50’s.

The diet of perch is primarily carnivorous, consisting of small fish, bugs, and shrimp. This may turn some off to raising perch because carnivorous diets involve more expense and effort (compared to fish who simply consume pellets and plant matter). Another factor to consider is the longer time frame to mature. Silver perch, for example, may take up to 16 months to fully mature from the fingerling stage.  Overall, perch are a good choice for those looking for a tasty aquaponics fish and have the patience to wait for them to develop…and the budget to feed them their preferred diet.

Catfish

Ideal Temperature Range:   78° – 86° F

Plate Size in

5 – 10 Months

  • Edible, popular aquaponics fish
  • High food conversion ratio makes them a fast growing fish
  • Sensitive to water temperature, water quality, and pH

Catfish are a popular bottom-feeding aquaponics fish. They vary in size and are often commercially farmed for their flavor and high vitamin D content. Another advantage to choosing catfish is their high food conversion ratio, meaning they convert their food to body mass quickly.

Raising catfish requires close monitoring of the aquaponics systems. Water must remain pristine, temperatures must remain close to 80 degrees, and pH should be kept in check. Catfish feed on a variety of plants, bugs small fish, and pellets. They do not have scales, so skinning is required before putting catfish on the frypan.

Barramundi

Ideal Temperature Range:   78° – 83° F

Plate Size in

12 Months

  • Edible aquaponics fish, popular in commercial aquaculture
  • High food conversion ratio
  • Aggressive tendencies towards smaller fish

Barramundi is one of the most popular fish raised in aquaculture, especially in Australia. They also make a great aquaponics fish and can be kept in both fresh and saltwater systems. As an edible aquaponics fish, barramundi have flaky white flesh and are regarded as a good species for eating.

Larger barramundi are known to attack smaller ones, so it is advised to keep these fish separated by size or risk young fish being injured or eaten.  Many aquaponics hobbyists purchase larger juvenile fish instead of fingerlings. This cuts down the likelihood of losing fish to aggression. Barramundi also require pristine water conditions and high dissolved oxygen levels. These aquaponics fish grow quickly, provide high amounts of waste to keep grow beds thriving, and are an entertaining fish to raise.

Bass

Ideal Temperature Range:   75° – 85° F

Plate Size in

12 – 18 Months

  • Edible and accessible aquaponics fish
  • Requires constant monitoring to ensure proper conditions

Largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass are another top aquaponics fish.  However, this species is less adaptable to unfavorable conditions compared to others. Conditions must be closely monitored to ensure pristine water, and proper oxygen and pH levels.  In addition, bass will not tolerate bright light or a poor feeding regime. Another downside is the long wait period to mature. Largemouth bass can take up to 18 months to reach its full size. Striped bass typically mature faster.

The upside to using bass as your aquaponics fish is that they are edible and fairly easy to acquire locally. Young fingerlings can be trained to feed on pellet food, but are otherwise generally carnivorous.  If you don’t mind the daily monitoring of your aquaponics system, bass are a viable and rewarding aquaponics fish.

Crustaceans

Ideal Temperature Range:   prawns: 82° – 88° F, lobster: 71° – 76° F, oysters: 75° – 79° F 

Plate Size in

prawns: 6 – 12 Months

lobster: 24 Months

oysters: 24 Months

  • Edible
  • Feed on organic plant matter
  • Help to keep your tank clean

While not considered a fish per se, crustaceans offer aquaponics hobbyist another choice to add to their system. And it doesn’t have to be a matter of either/or. Crustaceans – such as freshwater prawn, crayfish, mussels, oysters, and even lobsters – can either be added to aquaponics system alongside fish or within their own separate tank. They like eating dead organic plant matter at the bottom of the aquarium, so feeding crustaceans is a simple task. They also help to keep aquariums clean.

Mussels are very popular aquaponics crustacean because they are able to grow within grow beds, as well as inside fish tanks. They are filter-feeders, naturally helping to keep the tank water clean. In Australia, yabby and red claw crayfish are popular aquaponics crustaceans. Crabs, shrimp, and lobster are also viable for aquaponics.

Fish are prone to attack and eat crustaceans, so many aquaponics hobbyists separate larger fish from these creatures. Others raise crustaceans as food for fish. All and all, crustaceans certainly add a new dimension to aquaponics and are worthy of consideration.

Koi

Ideal Temperature Range:   65° – 75° F

Ornamental, not typically eaten

  • Ornamental, hardy, and attractive aquaponics fish
  • Omnivorous, parasite-resistant, and lives a long time

One of the most popular ornamental fish is Koi. They are often found in decorative ponds and widely revered in Asian culture. Like goldfish, koi produce a lot of waste matter and are easy to find at pet stores. This makes koi a popular aquaponics fish.

Koi – a subspecies of carp – are prized for their beauty and bright coloration. Surprisingly, koi are considered an edible aquaponics fish. However, we don’t recommend eating them.  Most hobbyist raise koi strictly for ornamental purposes. Did we mention koi are a strikingly beautiful fish?

Other advantages of koi include their resistance to parasites, long life-span, and their simple omnivorous diet. A key disadvantage is the cost to purchase koi. While they are fairly easy to find at pet stores, koi tend to be more expensive than most aquaponics fish.  Koi can live up to an astounding 40-60 years, so maybe it is money well-spent over the long term.

Goldfish

Ideal Temperature Range:   68° – 75° F

Ornamental, not typically eaten

  • Small, hardy aquaponics fish
  • Produces lots of waste despite its size

Goldfish are one of the earliest species of fish to be domesticated and among the most popular fish used in aquaponics today. They are attractive in appearance, and are readily available at local pet shops. Generally speaking, these miniaturized carp species are hardy and adaptable to various water conditions. They prefer a temperature in the 60s-70s degree range.  Goldfish are especially well-suited for smaller aquaponics systems, but can thrive in an aquaponics system of any size.

Goldfish are known as a shy fish. Because of this quirkiness, they require plant cover to breed. For such a small species, goldfish produce lots of beneficial waste nutrients for aquaponics grow beds to absorb.

Due to their small size and susceptibility to parasitic issues, goldfish are not considered edible fish.  But for those who want an easy introduction into the world of aquaponics fish, goldfish make a wonderful choice for the tepid beginner.

Additional Information for Aquaponics Fish

 

  • Other aquaponics fish include: common carp, sunfish, crappie, pacu, blue gill, guppies, eels, and many more.
  • Most fish require a pH level between 6-8
  • Aquaponics fish need oxygen! (see our Aquaponics Plans page for air pumps)
  • Drastic temperature changes will kill your fish (if possible, do not let temperatures fluctuate more than 3 degrees in any given day)
  • Ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish. Nitrates, on the other hand, are permissible for fish and required for plants (see our Aquaponics Plans page for monitoring kits)
  • Aquaponics fish do not like bright light and direct light

We hope that you found this information helpful. Good luck choosing your aquaponics fish!