What fish can you use in aquaponics?

Choosing the right fish for your aquaponics endeavor rest on many factors. In a closed system, such as aquaponics, you can raise several species of fish. It is always a good idea to look into the best fish for aquaponics accessible in your location, considering weather conditions and the legality aspect. While many varieties of fish can live in a closed environment, some will require special attention, while others are relatively simple to keep.

What are the best fish for aquaponics?

Here is a short list of fish that are perfect for aquaponics cultivation:

  1. Tilapia
  2. Carp
  3. Trout
  4. Catfish
  5. Salmon
  6. Koi
  7. Perch
  8. Goldfish
  9. Barramundi
  10. Bass
  11. Cod
  12. Angelfish
  13. Guppies
  14. Blue gill

If you notice, the fish species in our list involve freshwater fish. The main reason is that fish that thrive in brackish-type water can withstand diverse water temperatures and pH levels. Moreover, freshwater is easier to maintain compared with saline water.

The list also includes edible fish and those that are not for human consumption. Now, both of these groups can be grown for commercial or recreational purposes. Of course, non-edibles have their aesthetic goals. Their presence can enhance or beautify certain areas in our homes and offices.

What factors should I consider in choosing fish for aquaponics?

Aim of cultivating fish for aquaponics

This aspect answers the question, "Why do you want to cultivate fish for your aquaponics?" Typically, growers use aquaponics either for commercial or personal purposes. Growing fish commercially would require more money on your part since you would need to buy large fish tanks and growing beds coupled with apparatuses to maintain the required environment. Before investing in a commercial fish farm, I suggest you thoroughly examine economic factors such as product demand, financing, production costs, and marketing.

Water temperature

There are three types of fish groups when it comes to water temperature: coldwater (up to 60 ºF or 16 ºC), cool water (60 - 75 ºF or 16 - 24 ºC), and warm water (at least 75 ºF or 24 ºC).

  1. Warm water - These fish are suited in water with a temperature range of 80° to 90° F (27 to 32 °C). Largemouth Bass, Catfish, Bluegills or Sunfish, and Crappies are examples of warm water fish. These fish are resilient throughout and may even withstand northern winters.
  2. Cool water - Species that thrive in cool temperatures make up the next group. White cloud mountain minnow and mosquito fish are preferred cool water aquatic species. These fish are in the middle of the two categories; they tolerate warmer water temperatures but not the extreme heat that warm-water species can.
  3. Coldwater - These are species that require cold water to survive, as the name implies. The most popular cold-water fish employed in ponds are trout and salmon. Trout ponds are commonly found in a country's northern parts or at high elevations where colder waters are usually found. Water temperatures ranging from 50 to 60 Fahrenheit are ideal for coldwater species to thrive. To maintain cold water areas, suitable depth ponds are also necessary.

Maintenance issue

Some fish are hardy and will not require much attention, while others are more difficult and expensive to farm. Choose a sturdier fish that can do well with unclean water and are immune to parasites and disease. This suggestion is because you will not put in much effort or time to maintain your system. Hardy fish like koi and tilapia are recommended for beginners. On the other hand, trout and salmon require high water quality standards (higher diluted oxygen (DO) levels, lower nitrate levels~~,~~ and stable pH).

Fish diet

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing fish for your aquaponics system is their diet. The type of fish food you use and the nutrients in that food can impact your system's maintenance costs. To survive, fish requires proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins, fats, and minerals.

Fish may be classified according to their food, such as herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.

  1. Herbivores - These fish feed on plants, fruits, and algae. They have a unique gut specialized to break down plant matter, and because they do not have a real stomach, they require more frequent feedings.
  2. Carnivores - These fish have huge mouths with sharp pointed teeth that can grab and rend their prey. Carnivorous fish have larger stomachs and are capable of swallowing their food without chewing. They should not be raised in the same tank as fish in their food chain since they might consume the other fish.
  3. Omnivores - These fish are the most adaptable among the three groups. They are perfect for raising because they're simple to feed. Omnivorous fish also consume live meals and flakes.

Growth rate

Varied fish species have different growth rates and ranges. Many aquaponists want to eat or sell fast-growing fish. If you don't plan on buying fingerlings every six months, you might choose fish that grow slowly and do not get any bigger over time. It's ideal to have a mix of fish with varied growth rates in your aquaponic system so you may collect fish regularly over a lengthy period. It is also essential to think about the time of year when the fish are ready to be caught.

Size and space of the fish tank

The size of your fish tank is a factor that will decide the type and number of fish appropriate for your system. Make sure you are aware of the mature size of the fish you're going to raise, as well as the tank size you'll require. Some fish need a certain amount of space to survive, so be aware of the fish's maximum adult size before you start raising them. A channel catfish, for example, can grow to be 40-50 pounds, necessitating a spacious fish tank of at least 250 gallons.

Availability of the species

The availability of fish in your area is the next essential factor to consider. The Barramundi, for example, is only available in certain places. This fish is hard to come by in the United States, but it is plentiful in Australia. The simplicity with which you may obtain fingerlings is also essential when deciding which fish to raise in your aquaponics system. Because they are hardy and widely available in most world regions, tilapia is the most common fish species utilized in aquaponics.

What are the best fish for small aquaponics set up?

Setting up mini aquaponics is an excellent option for beginners. A small aquaponics setup works best with little ornamental fish. While traditional systems can support both edible and ornamental fish, the dimensions of a small design can only accommodate certain types of fish.


These small fish are a favorite choice for small aquaponics growers. There are 40 different species of this fish, but the Common and Endler Guppies are most known. The color of this fish can vary depending on the type you choose, but the male variety can grow between 6 and 1.4 inches long. The female fish, on the other hand, can reach a length of 1.2 to 2.4 inches.

  1. Temperature: 74 to 82°F (23-28°C)
  2. pH level: 7 to 8
  3. Diet: Omnivorous


  1. Guppies do eat a variety of food.
  2. Guppies have excellent pH tolerance.
  3. Guppies can be mixed with less aggressive fish.


  1. Guppies need constant temperature monitoring.
  2. The cost of raising guppies could be more expensive than the profit it brings.


Another well-known aquaponics fish perfect for your mini setup is the goldfish. Goldfish are divided into two types: twin-tailed and single-tailed. This fish develops to be about 1 to 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) long in small fish tanks and does not reach more than 6 inches (15.24 cm). Goldfish in the wild, on the other hand, can grow to be 12 to 14 inches (30.48 to 35.56 cm) long.

  1. Temperature: 78-82°F (25-27°C)
  2. pH level: 7.5
  3. Diet: Omnivorous


  1. Goldfish are adaptable to pH changes.
  2. Goldfish are relaxing to look at.


  1. Goldfish do not get along well with other tropical fish.
  2. Goldfish tend to jump out of their tanks.


The Tetra Fish is another sort of fish that you may cultivate in your mini aquaponics. Tetra fish are found in almost 150 different species. Neon, Serpae, Glowlight, Cardinal, and Diamond Tetras are the most common varieties you'll come across. This fish can reach a maximum length of 1.5 inches.

  1. Temperature: 70-81°F (21-27°C)
  2. pH level: 6.8 to 7.8
  3. Diet: Omnivorous


  1. Perfect for small aquaponics systems
  2. Fast-growing


  1. The small temperature range needs close monitoring.
  2. Incompatible with other fish species

What are the best edible fish for aquaponics?

For commercial growers, raising edible fish using the aquaponics system is a primary purpose. Fish have high nutritional value compared to chicken and pork, so they have high market demand. Below I have shortlisted the best consumable species of fish for aquaponics.


Tilapia is a freshwater fish that originates from Africa and has gained much attention in the aquaponics world. Aside from its edible meat, aquaponics practitioners raise tilapia because of its high resistance to diseases and parasites. The fish can also tolerate overcrowding in the fish tank. Aside from overstocking, tilapia can endure water with low oxygen levels. Since this fish is omnivorous, feeding it is not much of a challenge.

  1. Temperature: 55-86°F (12-30°C)
  2. pH level: 7 to 9
  3. Diet: Omnivorous


  1. Tilapia is uncomplicated to breed.
  2. Tilapia can handle varying water quality and temperature ranges.
  3. Tilapia has a fast growth rate.


  1. Tilapia grows best in warm water.
  2. Tilapia's quick growth rate could pose a problem if left uncontrolled.


Trout is one of the most farmed fish in the world, owing to its delicious flavor. Trout are known for their rapid growth, allowing you to expand your population. This is great if you want to earn from raising the fish.

  1. Temperature: 56-62°F (13-17°C)
  2. pH level: 6.5 to 8
  3. Diet: Carnivorous


  1. Trout meat is rich in protein and omega fatty acids.
  2. Trout does well with cold water.
  3. Although carnivorous, trouts eat assorted meat like fish, insects, and invertebrates.


  1. Trout requires clean water.
  2. Trout has a slow growth rate.

Yellow Perch

These fish's typical habitats would be ponds, lakes, creeks, and slow-flowing rivers. Yellow perch is most commonly found in clear waters near vegetation. For more than a century, the yellow perch has been commercially cultivated.

  1. Temperature: 66-70°F (19-21°C)
  2. pH level: 7 to 8
  3. Diet: Carnivorous


  1. Yellow perch can survive in a wide variety of temperatures and pH levels.
  2. Yellow perch can live in shallow waters.


  1. Yellow perch tends to eat smaller perch.
  2. Yellow perch requires constant water temperature monitoring.


If you reside in a colder region, salmon is one of the most excellent producing species for an aquaponics system. They require a larger fish tank and can grow to full size in two years. Salmon care in aquaponics systems is not for the faint of heart, but the long-term advantages may be well worth the effort.

One factor that you should consider in farming salmon is the fact that it is anadromous. This type of fish anadromous are born in freshwater but spend most of their life in saltwater before returning to spawn in freshwater. Considering this nature of the fish, salmon growers would transfer their adult salmon to separate fish tanks that contain saltwater. However, some land-based salmon growers can raise the fish in freshwater throughout their life's stages.

  1. Temperature: 55-65°F (13-18°C)
  2. pH level: 6.5 to 8.5
  3. Diet: Carnivorous


  1. Salmon is delicious and nutritious.
  2. Salmon can tolerate frigid water temperature.
  3. Salmon can cope well being mixed with other fish species.


  1. Salmon are susceptible to diseases.
  2. Salmon requires a variety of fish feeds in every stage of its life development.

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass is also called wide-mouth bass, bigmouth bass, or bucket-mouth bass. This fish is thought to have a largemouth. This species is also the largest black bass, reaching 30 inches (76.2 cm) in length and weighing 25 pounds (11.34 kg) in the wild.

  1. Temperature: 55-85°F (13-29°C)
  2. pH level: 7 to 8
  3. Diet: Carnivorous


  1. Largemouth bass has excellent taste.
  2. Largemouth can have a variety of diets since it is omnivorous.
  3. Largemouth bass can tolerate elevated nitrate levels.


  1. The largemouth bass is sensitive to bright lights.
  2. The largemouth bass requires clean water, adequate oxygen, and optimum pH levels. Thus, its conditions must be closely checked.

What are the best ornamental fish for aquaponics?

Ornamental fish are those species of fish bred for house decoration. Ornamental fishes are beautiful, colorful fish of a tranquil character maintained as pets in confined places such as aquariums or garden pools. Aquaponics is also utilized to grow ornamental fish.


When it comes to ornamental fish, koi is a favorite choice among fish growers. One of the primary reasons for this is it has ample size and the fact that it has appealing colored skin. Koi fish is a species of Japanese carp commonly seen in big ornamental ponds and outdoor aquatic gardens. They're prized for their toughness, as they can survive extreme temperatures all year and are parasite-resistant. Unlike the most commonly utilized aquaponics fish, tilapia, which requires over 75 °F (24 °C) to grow, koi may thrive in temperatures ranging from 65-75°F (18-24°C).

  1. Temperature: 65-75°F (18-24°C)
  2. pH level: 6.5 to 8.5
  3. Diet: Omnivorous


  1. Koi fish are perfect for enhancing the ambiance of your homes and offices.
  2. Koi fish are resistant to diseases and parasites.
  3. Koi fish are known for their extended lifespan.


  1. Koi fish produce more wastes as they grow, which means cleaning your tanks becomes more challenging.
  2. Koi fish may require large fish tanks.

Red Ear Sunfish

The red ear sunfish is native to the Southeastern United States and lives in freshwater. It resembles the bluegill, but it is larger and has a dark olive green color that fades to pale green and silver on the edges. Vertical bands can also be seen across its body, though they are usually faint.

  1. Temperature: 70-75°F (21-24°C)
  2. pH level: 7 to 8.5
  3. Diet: Omnivorous


  1. Red ear sunfish is a hardy fish that resists diseases and pests.
  2. Red ear sunfish feed on insects and snails, which can help reduce the spread of illness in your system.
  3. Red ear sunfish has a variety of diets, from insects to algae.


  1. Red ear sunfish may require large fish tanks.
  2. Red ear sunfish becomes aggressive once you overstock its companion fish.


This is a tropical fish native to South Africa. The angelfish can reach a total length of 6 inches (15.24 cm) and a height of 8 inches (20.32 cm). Like most cichlids, they have a laterally compressed body structure, which essentially means they are pretty thin. Solid silver, multicolor stripes, and black-and-silver marble are among the hues and patterns available for these fish.

  1. Temperature: 75-85°F (24-29°C)
  2. pH level: 6.0 to 7.5
  3. Diet: Omnivorous


  1. Angelfish can be fed with live creatures and plant material.
  2. Angelfish do well with other fish.


  1. Angelfish may eat fish smaller than its size.
  2. Angelfish are tricky to breed.

Where to buy fish for aquaponics?

Basically, there are two ways to buy fish for your aquaponics setup. You can purchase them from your local fish farm or store, and you can shop for fish online.

Local fish farm

A fish farm is dedicated to breeding various fish species for food, ornamental, and other purposes that serve a customer's preference. The advantage of buying fish from a local fish farm is that you can physically see and choose the species you want. Another benefit of visiting local fish farms is contributing to their success whenever you purchase your aquaponics fish.

Online fish store

Online stores suit you if you are the type of grower who cannot find the time to visit local fish farms for your aquaponics fish. There are hundreds of online stores out there, so how do you choose which is best for you?

  1. Consider the location of the store. It would not be practical to buy fish from stores overseas because of the great distance. Moreover, the fish might be stressed as they travel to your residence.
  2. Look for the reviews of the online store. This feature will give you enough idea about the store's performance in dealing with their previous customers.
  3. Determine their warranty offers. Some stores provide security to their customers to ensure they deliver the species they promised without any defect.

What fish to avoid for aquaponics?

Not every species of fish is advantageous to the aquaponics approach. Below are some of the fish you have to avoid caring for in aquaponics:

  1. Saltwater fish - Since you will grow plants that require freshwater, growing saltwater aquatics is very impractical. Salmon may be considered as an exemption since this fish does spend time in freshwater and saltwater.
  2. Fish that produce plenty of wastes. Although plants filter the water from the fish tanks in an aquaponics setup, I still recommend that you avoid utilizing fish that emit massive amounts of effluents. Such a situation is detrimental to plants and fish because the pH level is greatly disturbed. Plecos are good examples of this type of fish.
  3. Aggressive fish - If you plan to mix fish for your aquaponics, I advise you to avoid purchasing aggressive fish. This kind of fish tends to exert its dominance over the other species to the extent that it consumes them.

To succeed in aquaponics, you should know the suitable species of fish you would grow, coupled with an appropriate maintenance system. I advise that you be careful to regularly examine the pH, ammonia level, and water temperature. Such a course of action will enable you to detect potential problems before affecting your fish or plants.

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