Top 9 Fish for your Aquaponic system

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Top 9 fish for an aquaponic system. How to choose the right aquaponic fish to ensure a substantial growth rate. Information applies to my aquatic systems. We will provide the correct methods to feed your fish.

When building your aquaponic system, you are faced with many dilemmas, one example is; what fish do I pick? Before you choose what fish is best for you, one must decide are we growing food or adding a new pet to the family.

#1 Tilapia

On top of our list, you will find Tilapia. The most common aquaponic fish are tilapia. Incredibly sturdy fish can survive even the harshest of conditions. Their ability to sustain to high pH level is inexplicable.

Not the biggest aquaponic fish on our list, tilapia can mature over 5 pound – taking years to get there. Supplying high protein food during summer will provide a reasonable fish growth rate.

Omnivorous, in this case, they are top feeders. During feeding time, they seek what all omnivorous eater’s want. Keep reading our list to find out what’s on Tilapia’s menu. A well-balanced diet is essential for aquaponic fish; garden greens with insects are my favorite source of food.

Generally, if you feed your tilapia right, they can become as big as plate size within a year.

The best two tilapia species for aquaponics is Nile tilapia and Mozambique. Both types of fish snowball if fed correctly. If the habitat of your tank is built right, your fish should have low-stress levels. When the Nile or Mozambique fish feel relaxed, they will wait until maturity to breed.

Female fish will lay 200 to 300 eggs in a single spawn. After laying her eggs, she will defend her nest for about eight days. For one week after the eggs hatch, the female will protect your young in her mouth.

To breed tilapia, you need to provide hiding places for the female’s nest. Placing grave rocks on the bottom could offer a quick solution.

The Nile tilapia was one of the first fish cultivated. As far back as 4,000 years ago, the Egyptian empire farmed tilapia.

Over hundreds of years, humanity bred tilapia creating hybrid species.

The biggest drawback to tilapia is that it is not legal in every state. It is best to check your State Park & Fishery. We will provide information about laws for tilapia – By no means can this be used as legal advice.

If you choose to order aquaponic fish online, remember that it is illegal to transfer exotic animals without the correct permits.

Exotic Animal Permits cost about $263 plus $27 once a year. Then you will need a TCEQ license and a TDA Aquaculture Facility permits. So if you wanted to skip all the permits, you could just buy Mozambique which is legal in Texas. 

Check out our article about Fish Laws by States.

#2 Trout

Trout are super delicious fish, but they are not for beginners. Trout are typically found in rivers more than lakes. You can find a few species of trout in lakes.

For the most part Trout like fast-moving currents. You can easily create a flow in your Aquaponics system.

Want to learn how to create currents for trout click here!

I would not recommend Trout to anyone new to Aquaculture. These fish are not as healthy as tilapia when it comes down to their durability against water conditions.

Despite the fact of its inability to survive harsher water conditions trout are tolerant to lower-temperatures then most fish. Around 68 degrees they will start to stress out, higher the temperature higher stress levels for our fish.

If you live up north even though they love the cold, some conditions might get to rugged for these fish. Then again, if you live in the south during the summertime, you will need a water chiller with a well-insulated tank.

Rainbow trout are the most common species of trout found in Aquaponics. You can quickly identify rainbow trout by their blue-green spots with a red horizontal line. Over thousands of years, the trout has formed camouflage colorations to help protect them against predators.

If you choose to go with brown trout or lake trout, they usually are more aggressive then rainbow trout. It is possible that higher the stress level in your tank the slower fish growth rate you will receive.

Unlike tilapia, trout prefer lower temperatures. Originally coming from mountain streams, they enjoy high oxygen levels with fast moving currents. When oxygen levels fall below 5.0 ppm, it can lead to many, if not all, your fish dying.

In many cases, wild brown trout can grow twelve to fifteen inches long and up to about six pounds. Brown trout can be identified by dark spots with rings around them.

It is critical to check pH levels more often when raising these fish. On a rule of thumb 6.0 to 7.0 is efficient for fish.

#3 Bluegills

The most giant bluegill ever caught was in 1951, it weighed in a whopping 4 pound and 12 ounces! Unlike number two on our list, these fish love calm water. During spring bluegills have been seen hanging out in waters less then couple inches deep, yet they will dive down to 35 feet.

During mating season spring and early summer you will see remains of bluegills along the coast.

You can usually identify bluegills by the black vertical lines on their side, while mating males might be hue.

Feed your Bluegills Right!

Bluegills are omnivorous, which means they can eat 30% fewer proteins. These not so friendly fish, will eat kitchen scraps, bread, corn, oats, crackers, high proteins, worms, insects and even their eggs.

Baby bluegills will mostly eat zooplankton.

If your aquaponic fish friends start to eat vegetation or algae, it’s a sign of not enough food. Feeding at least two times a day will help a steady fish growth rate. I recommend 3 to 4 times a day during the summer months.

Are the Bluegills Family Friendly?

Bluegills aren’t always friendly with other aquaponic fish species. Bluegills are cousins of piranhas which naturally makes them territorial. They have been known to live peacefully with catfish, largemouth bass and even goldfish. Bluegills become more aggressive during breeding, about six times a year.

If you choose Bluegill for your aquaponics, please remember they are one of the most dangerous fish in North America. This species is responsible for 50 deaths each summer in North America. More prominent schools of bluegill will attempt to eat bigger prey. If you have kids, I will pass on the Bluegill. Carp are similar to Bluegill just not as angry.

#4 Unique Cat like facts about Catfish

Antarctica is the only continent not suitable for catfish. Catfish are fished and farmed commercially. One thing that sets these creatures apart from other fish is their lack of scales, not to mention their whiskers. There are over 100 different kinds of gene pools for the catfish species.

A huge Wel catfish was caught over 370 pounds! Growing up remember your mother telling you to “respect your elders” well you better listen these fish can live up to 60+ YEARS!

To say the least these aquatic fish will have a substantial growth rate.

  • Cat Fact: Catfish only have 16 bones. In most species their fillets are boneless. Want to learn how to flay a fish click here.

The skinless Ray-Finned family

Depending on what species of catfish some use cutaneous respiration, mucus-covered on the skin that allows them to breathe. Scutes are little boney plates that cover some types of catfish skin.

Why do catfish have whiskers?

Just like a cat or dog have whiskers, they help the animal feel, smell, and sense food that is nearby. The scientific name for whiskers is Barbells. There is no need to fear the Barbells; it is the fins that will get you!

On a rule-of-thumb, it’s best to never mix species of fish. Doing this will cause an aquaponics apocalypse.

#5 Carp: Ole French Carp

Carp are part of the omnivorous family, which means they can survive by eating both animal matter and plants. Typically the carp are bottom eaters. You can train carp to eat pallets naturally; this isn’t their instinct.

All carp have a Y shaped bone. In many cases this Y shaped bone stacks one above the other. Some species of carp have 108 bones! Consequently, this is a significant drawback in harvesting carp in your aquaponics.

Carp are defensive fish; they don’t sit well with other species of fish. They are also part of the sunfish family related to Largemouth bass, Bluegill.

Carp can hold their breath beneath the water for a long time. During winter, they slow their heart rate down to consume less oxygen.

Over oxygenating, your fish can lead to high pH levels, algae, and poor water conditions for all fish! Together we can prevent this Read More.

Why are carp known as the water rabbits?

Carp have been known to be water rabbit for their ability to lay 300,000 eggs at once. In a single season, a full grown female can lay up to a million eggs!

During mating season (spring and early summer) carp get very defensive. After the female lays her eggs, the male will fertilize the eggs.

Carp males are full-time dads; for ten days, they will defend the offspring.

The secret is to watch these fish ensure over populating doesn’t happen. If the fish become too crowded, it will ruin your aquaponic system. To many fish will equal higher and more dangerous pH levels.

Carp Pros:

  • Ability to slow their heart rate down to consume less oxygen during winter months.
  •  MmM Good, Eatin’.

Carp Cons:

  • Mr. Grumpy doesn’t play nice with other fish.
  • Actively supervise levels of pH.
  • Bones in Fillets

#6 Koi – The Japanese Carp 

Koi is the same family as carp. This untasty fish is used more for ornamental decoration than a source of food.

Initially, Koi fish were farmed in rice fields for food.

Decades of interbreeding carp gave birth to a colored mutation now known as Koi. 

Koi are excellent fish for aquaponics but they are also outlandish pond fish.

Yes, you can eat Koi even though the taste is not great, it is edible.

Koi fish can be beneficial for vegetarians or someone looking for a new set of pets.

Most koi fish can live up to 25+ years, which makes them life long pets!

Different species of koi maintain different growth rates. Many species will grow about 18+ inches in 4 years. Growth rate with almost all fish always depends on how well you feed and care for their environment.

Koi is a profitable fish industry due to its growth rate.

Let’s Make Money on our Aquaponic System with Koi Fish click here to find out more

If you are looking to make money from your Aquaponic system! Koi fish can be a good pick.

Despite the time it takes koi to mature, they sell for a pretty penny once 12 inches long. While you are growing your fish, you can harvest vegetables for your family.

Once your fish are at maturity, it can quickly sell for a couple of 100USD.

  • There are over 100 different species of koi, choosing the type that best fits you is a job in its self. For more unique facts on species of koi, click here.

Millions of people worldwide utilize koi fish as pets! In the United States, there are clubs based around koi fish. Awards are given each year to the winner!

During winter months, when the temperature drops below 50F, it is best to stop feeding. Staying on top of water changes during the cold months will ensure a healthy fish growth rate for koi.

  • Have you ever changed the water in your fish tank before? Don’t worry! We are always here to help!

Koi are part of the omnivorous family: an animal that can eat and digest meat & plants.

#7 Largemouth Bass

Largemouth Bass are great for Aquaponic environments. They desire little more refreshing water then some fish. Some largemouth bass can live up to 25 years! Romer has it that a guy caught a 30-pound largemouth bass not in an aquaponic system.

Largemouth bass are not are only great fish for aquaponics but they are also fantastic pond fish

In Aquaponics, we can feed our fish the correct amount of food. Doing so will ensure the taste of our produce and fish is top grade.

Grow your Fish Food, Start Saving Today!

Feeding your Fish insect, worms, snakes, and water birds will ensure high protein. Buying insects can become very expensive!

  • Want to grow worms for fish food? We will show you how!

It’s critical to the success of largemouth bass to endure the right amount of proteins. In the wild smaller largemouth bass usually tastes better, thanks to their diet which consist of insects.

To maximize flavor with largemouth bass, we strongly recommend feeding the fish insects.

What can I feed my largemouth bass?

  • Insects: Worms, flies, caterpillars, etc.
  • Lizards
  • Small snakes
  • Baby birds
  • Floatable pellets
  • Potete Fish
  • Nutrients from Aquaponic grow beds

Water changes are the best way to ensure you are not overfeeding your fish!

Overfeeding your fish can lead to an Aquaponic diester!

Fish on this list will devour insects. I enjoy growing my fish food for many reasons! For starters, over time, it becomes cost-effective.

Feeding your family Bass that have eaten insects is a treat. Additionally, it provides me comfort to know my family is eating healthy, low-cost organic food.

As a bonus, if you’re growing worms, they will eat parts of your garden/kitchen scraps. Worms provide high protein giving you a good aquaponic fish growth rate.

Largemouth bass can be trained to eat pellets. If you decide to go with bass, we recommend you to place a cover over your tank.

Some times these fish like to jump out of the tank. Cation this can be a sign of over-crowding or lack of oxygen. Placing a cover over your tank will help provide protection.

  • If you decide to place a cover over the tank, remember to test the water oxygen levels and algae.

The Largemouth black bass is the largest of the Largemouth bass family. Most black bass can be identified by their olive green color, while on each flank they have a dark horizontal stripe.

#8 Gold Fish – Calico

Circus and theme parks love to give goldfish away as prizes. I remember my first goldfish, R.I.P Sunny

Calico are ideal fish for an aquaponic system. Latently, this fish has some of the fastest growth rates in aquaponics.

Goldfish in the wild are omnivorous. Most people like to feed their goldfish flacks or pellets. You can do this! Furthermore, overfeeding goldfish can lead to a DIRTY tank!

Many people have goldfish for fish tanks which they normally feed the fish flakes

Goldfish are superb fish for aquaponics, if you have a pond and choose to keep goldfish I recommend monitoring the fish population.

As a result, a dirty tank can benefit your grow beds. Increasing the flow of water from your fish tank to your grow beds might help clean the aquaponic tank. Ultimately, increasing the flow of water might give you a higher yield on vegetation.

One of the most popular domesticated fish in aquariums are goldfish. However, this species of fish has its own set of drawbacks.

Goldfish are vulnerable to parasites. Also, they lack a delicious taste!

  • Their body consists of fewer proteins, providing you with a terrible flavor.

One of the biggest goldfish on record is a whopping 2 pounds and 15 inches long!

Goldfish will easy provide substantial growth rate, you don’t want to eat them.

Start Breeding Gold Fish in your Aquaponic System

Goldfish will prey on their young, so keep a close eye and separate the youth from the elderly during breeding. For goldfish, the breeding season is spring and summer. Then again, it all depends on where you live.

Breeding goldfish, it’s recommended to cover the top layer with plants. Duckweed or lily pad are common aquaponic plants that will float. While breeding goldfish enjoy the comfort that water plants bring.

Goldfish will have substantial growth rate when feeding and relaxing.

Besides, adding plants can start to entertain your fish. Water plants add oxygen and food to the tank for the fish.

I do not recommend goldfish fish for ponds.

Why NOT eat goldfish?

They are members of the carp family, which entitles them to many bones. For as small as they might seem there are 1500 bones!! That’s more then I can chew!

  • Goldfish, when faced against lack of oxygen, they usually do not jump out. Instead, goldfish will hang out around the surface of the tank, gasping for air.

Goldfish can be aggressive fish against other aquatic life. Placing freshwater shrimp is a good idea if you have a tank design to secure their safety.

Calico is the most common goldfish; they are generally orange in color. Many goldfish have colors such as red, yellow, orange, white, and even black shades.

#9 Freshwater Shrimp or Crayfish

To have freshwater shrimp or crayfish in aquaponics, we have to secure their safety in the fish tank. Much larger fish will eat or bully these creatures to death.

You can find Shrimp or crayfish on the bottom of the tank. It is necessary to build a custom habitat for these animals.

Crayfish are related to the lobster family known as Asteroidea. 

Crayfish will eat garden/kitchen scraps. We usually don’t feed our fish scraps. Uneaten food in our tanks can add up to hazard environment for our fish. We recommend you using separate containers for these bottom feeders!

Here are a few items on the menu for crayfish

  1. Small fish
  2. Dead fish
  3. Blood Worms
  4. Fish Foods
  5. Frozen Foods
  6. Shrimp
  7. Snails
  8. Insects
  9. Fruit
  10. Vegetables
  11. Meat
  12. Mosquito Larvae
  13. Daphnia
  14. Aquarium Plants
  15. Caterpillars! Collect them from your growing beds

I have seen some people hand feed crayfish! Well, I might need some tongs.

If you order shrimp or crayfish, they will arrive particularly to small for a big aquaponics rig. Some people have said that the pump can suck baby shrimp out of the tank.

Growing shrimp in a fish tank before they come of age to integrate into your aquaponics. Forgetting to accurate the fish will lead to disaster.

Crustaceans are great members of the aquaponics world. Unfortunately, the crustaceans growth rate is slow for larger species. I exclaim having a couple of bottom feeders it helps with keeping a well-balanced tank.

Almost all bottom feeders like to live in nets or something to make them feel secure from predators. Slicing up PVC pipes and sinking them brings plenty of real state to our aquaponics.

This tip can work for all species of fish in your aquaponics. REMOVE THE DEAD ASAP!! Leaving dead fish in your aquaponics will cause harmful bacteria to grow, resulting in plants and fish all dying!! So, please take my word for it and DON’T be lazy!

Do you have a favorite aquaponic fish, that is not on our list? We want to hear all about your beloved fish in the comments down below!!

Related Q/A’s

Will Betta Fish Work for my Aquaponic System?

  • You can indeed use betta fish for aquaponics. Only on a small scale, betta fish will not supply enough nutrients for more extensive backyard setup. 

Want to test how Aquaponics works, by using just your fish tank check this out!

Best place to buy fish online?

Are aquaponic fish healthy to eat?

  • Of course, they are healthy to eat. One perk of owning an aquaponics system you can grow organic fish and plants.

If I don’t have to fertilize my plants, should I add food to my tank for the fish?

  • Yes! People can’t eat only salad to remain healthy, so don’t expect your fish only to eat veggies. If you want to ensure a substantial growth rate by all means.

I want to start an aquaponic system. Do I need a greenhouse to get started?

  • Generally speaking no. Owning a greenhouse might produce higher yields and help control the climate; it is not necessary to start with.

I am interested in aquaponics. How much money would it cost to get started?

  • Well, there is no quick answer to how much money it would cost to build an aquaponics. Depending on what exactly it is you are trying to accomplish prices may vary. It is ranging from 500 to 100,000! You can set up a back yard rig for about 1000.

How long will it take for my aquaponics fish to grow?

  • Depending on the fish’s diet, living conditions, and the season will all have a significate impact on fish growth rate.

For more information about cost check out our article DIY Low-Cost Aquaponic plans

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