There are a variety of freshwater fish that you can stock in your Aquaponics holding tanks. Before choosing the correct fish for your system, we suggest that you research which types of fish are best suited to the weather, temperature, and general conditions of your location. Some other things to consider:
- Fish do not develop or grow identically. Some fish grow faster than others, and some are better suited for living in a closed-tank environment.
- Some freshwater fish do not reproduce in holding tanks at all. If you select those fish, you will have to buy additional fingerlings after a harvest in order to begin the cycle again.
- Just as regions are zoned for gardening, different regions will be more successful in growing specific species.
- Choose fish that easily adapt to artificial feeding.
- Research fish that have low mortality rates and are resistant to disease.
- Choose fish that you will enjoy eating.
- Choose fish that are compatible to the vegetation you want to grow.
- Consider how much room you have for a system.
- Consider how much money you have to start your system.
- The legalities of starting an Aquaponics system. Some places require permits for certain types of fish.
(For more information on what you should consider when starting an Aquaponics system, refer to the eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Home Aquaponics System.
Today’s discussion will cover the fish most commonly stocked in Aquaponics systems:
Tilapia are categorized as an invasive species, butthat doesn’t mean they should be avoided. It just means that you have to be extra careful not to accidentally release tilapia into the wild to prevent this fish from competing with native fish species. (Tilapia can negatively impact the growth and reproduction of native species.)
Tilapia is a mild-flavored freshwater fish that can survive in holding tanks if some heating is given to maintain a consistent water temperature. Tilapia is a group of cichlids that can be found all over the world.
Tilapia feed primarily off aquatic vegetation and can easily reproduce in closed systems. They are easy to raise and can usually be harvested in four to six months. Tilapias that have escaped into the wild can reproduce hybrid tilapia if they are able to mate with other tilapia species.
A Midwestern species, the white bass is an excellent edible fish species that you should also consider stocking. Unlike the tilapia, the white bass is carnivorous and it can feed easily on small crabs and smaller fish.
In the wild, a single white bass can lay as many 900,000 eggs during the active spawning season. No care is given to the eggs after the spawning. The adult white bass leave the spawning sites after the eggs have been fertilized. The white bass can grow up to fifteen inches, but the average size for this species is nine inches.
The meat of the white bass is often cooked through smoking and is a crowd favorite in the Midwest, due to the fact that white bass is not hard to catch at all, especially during the spawning season.
Our third favorite is the crappie because of its delicately flavored meat and because of the fact that like the tilapia, it can adapt well to closed systems.
Unfortunately, crappies (unlike other fish) need at least two years before they are able to mate and reproduce. Once the female crappie lays her eggs, the male partner protects the spawning site from intruders. It only takes ten days before the fertilized eggs are hatched naturally.
Carnivorous by nature, crappies should be fed insects and small fish if they are kept in a closed system like a fish tank. Avoid stocking crappies with larger fish such as walleyes as these larger fish will actually prey upon crappies. You wouldn’t want to deal with larger fish nibbling on your crappies.
While the previous mentioned fish may be OUR favorites, there are other proven considerations for your Aquaponics system, including:
These fish spawn yearly through their life cycle and you can expect them to spawn from April through June. Time for these fish to be harvested will depend on the water temperature, fish age, fish density and their diet and feeding schedule. The climate of your region will also be imperative in the length of harvest time. Catfish are bottom dwellers so they are sometimes paired with Bluegills, who stay toward the top part of the tank. They are fast growers and you can expect a good food conversion. Please note that they do require skinning prior to being eaten.
These fish are fast growers and respond positively when fed well. They do not thrive with other fish, so if you choose to maintain this type of fish, keep them separated. The Hybrid version of the sunfish is a cross between the bluegill and female green sunfish and will require specialized care in your system.
While this fish may be a carp relative, these fish make a beautiful addition to your system. They are adaptable to various conditions and have shown resiliency. While traditionally, these fish have been ornamental, they can be raised for consumption. They may also be sold for pets or as decorative fish to private citizens or pet stores.
While they may also be categorized as a carp or domestic pet, these fish thrive in an Aquaponics system. They require the plant life for food, making them an exciting and necessary addition to your system.
Carp are often known as a pest species and in some parts of the world, these fish are not popular. These fish are naturally good Aquaponics choices due to their high reproductive abilities and their adaptability. Be careful of sharing the system with other fish as carp are known to eat smaller fish.
Bluegills thrive in warm and clean environments. Bluegills spawn in late spring through summer and at one year of age can range from 1 to 4 inches in size. They are fairly adaptable and make for scrumptious food consumption.
When these fish are grown in an Aquaponics system, they are reported to have a clean and crisp taste. They are easily harvested and typically are purchased more maturely so they have a higher production level at the end of harvest season. These fish grow better in warmer seasons.
Silver perch, golden perch
Perch are omnivorous and will eat virtually any vegetable scraps. They thrive in most climates and conditions. They are not fast growers and it may take approximately 12-18 months for fingerlings to grow into meal size.
This breed thrives better in cooler water. They produce a white and flaky meat, making them a popular dinner choice.
This fish has the HIGHEST levels of omega three oils of any other species. These perch need warm water and an omnivorous diet. In warmer climates, they are fast growers and have fingerlings quickly.
Trout are a good choice for cooler climates as they will survive in cold water. They are fast growers and ideal for food consumption. While the cooler water works well for the fish, it may limit your plant choices. Trout require high water maintenance as they require a clean living environment.
They are new to the Aquaponics systems and have been reported to do well. They are not compatible with other fish, as they may eat the other fish if they are not fed properly.
These fish are vegetarians, although I have read that they will eat almost anything, including hardware. They are fast growers and will thrive in warmer water.
Again, before you decide on a specific fish or types of fish to put in your Aquaponics system, do your research. Take into consideration your climate, how high the temperatures may reach and if you live in an area where your water may freeze. This is imperative for the success of your system, as some fish and plants may not survive in extreme climates either. If you live in an area where the temperature range is extreme, consider how you will maintain the temperature in your tank.
Think about how many fish you can successfully maintain in your given area. Some fish are bottom feeders while others live toward the top of the water. Some can easily swim with other species, while some are not compatible with others and may actually be dangerous to others. Consider what you want to feed them – artificial foods, fish pellets or an alternative food source. Also, consider how you want them to impact your system.
Another consideration before purchasing your fish is WHERE you will purchase them. In some areas, you can buy your fish directly from a pet store or Hatchery. Some distributors are limited in their ability to transport fish to specific areas. Additionally, some fish are prohibited in certain regions. Some areas may also require permits before purchasing certain fish species, particularly if they are considered “pests”. Check with your local agricultural board to ascertain what is legal for you to purchase and sustain in your area.