Aquaponics may seem relatively new to a lot of people. While governments have tried to support this type of activity, it is only catching up now. It is basically a mix of hydroponics and aquaculture. You can grow both fish or other similar creatures and plants in the same environment. Both elements benefit from each other and come up with a self-sustainable environment. Obviously, you need to find a balance between them and ensure you pick the right species – both for the plants and your fish.
Choosing the best fish for aquaponics is time-consuming because there are more options, and each of them has a different profile. You must consider their needs and requirements, but you should not overlook the plants either – hence the necessity of a proper balance. Keep in mind that not all species of fish are suitable for an aquaponics system – the same rule applies to plants. Now, what species are more common and why? But before getting there, here is how to make a more informed decision.
How much space you have
Not the whole system is devoted to your fish, but only a small part of it. In fact, the actual fish tank is about 30% of the whole system. For fish that can take good stocking densities, the proportions may even go a bit lower. The beauty of an aquaponics system is the fact that you can have it anywhere – including a tabletop. In other words, the system is small and does not require too much work or maintenance in the long run.
But this is also the reason wherefore you need to consider the fish. Ideally, you should go for fish that will have a small size even when mature. If you get this system indoors, it will probably be even smaller. You want it to look good, but do not sacrifice the fish for it. Such small systems could also do with tropical fish. For instance, you do not want a koi carp that will grow large when mature. Instead, you could do with a goldfish.
What you want to do with fish
The fish in an aquaponics system can be used in a few different ways. For example, you could keep the fish for decorative purposes, but you may also have fish for lunch. You probably have a plan already, and you know the answer straight away. Feeding yourself and your family with fresh and natural fish is quite appealing to lots of people. But at the same time, fish has personality and can add to the beautiful profile of your living space.
Are you ready to get rid of fish once they reach the best size? How would you feel about killing something that you have grown for months? Fish keeping is addictive, no doubts about it. You will also get attached to fish. The truth is it also depends on how much fish you have. When you have plenty, you can do the right thing without having too many emotions or feelings involved – the longterm plans will help you decide what species to go for.
The available water supply
The water supply is often overlooked when trying to find the best fish for aquaponics. Most people see themselves as fish keepers, but they are actually water keepers. Water is a critical ingredient in the system, so consider the quality standards before supplying it to your fish. Tap water is the only practical option out there, as rainwater can be inconsistent and polluted.
Most water supply companies will provide details about the water quality, yet you can invest in random tests as well. Use all these details to determine what species of fish could survive in that water. For example, if you have hard water, you are less likely to thrive with some tropical fish used to soft waters. Apart from the hardness, pay attention to the alkalinity and pH too.
You need to know that most companies will rely on chlorine to get rid of bacteria. Chlorine is extremely harmful and will most likely kill your system. Luckily, it gets out of the water if you leave it for 24 hours. You can also collect most chlorine in the tank with an activated carbon filter.
What the water temperature is like
The metabolism of your fish is highly connected to the water temperature because these creatures are poikilothermic. No matter what species you are after, there are clearly a few requirements you must respect in the smallest details. While there is a range, avoid going close to the limits, as the fish will no longer eat – eventually, they die.
Plants also come with their own requirements, hence the necessity of reaching a balance. Generally speaking, a bit of heating will be required for most plants out there. Cooling is not really needed – it also costs more. The general idea is fairly simple to understand – determine if you need to control the water temperature.
How big the fish will grow
If you are interested in eating fish, there is obviously a minimum requirement for the portion size – usually between 14 and 21 ounces, with exceptions. Flexibility is a must then, as different fish from the same species will probably grow at a different rate. This is why large fish farms separate fish every now and then in order to maintain some standards.
Growing such large fish in a small aquaponic system will not happen. The fish size will guide you on how to manage the stock. Fish will keep growing and multiply – the same goes for plants. You take a fish out, you ruin the balance, so you always need to adapt. There is nothing to worry about in terms of food – you can use the same amount to feed more small fish or less big fish.
Some species eat less as they grow larger. For example, a tiny crab will eat up to 10% of its bodyweight on a daily basis. On the other hand, a large Crap will only need 2% of its bodyweight. You have to do the math and see which option is better. If you are new to aquaponics, you might want to keep the number of individuals low.
Now, what is the best fish for aquaponics?
Simply put, you can only grow what you can find. You need a decent supply of fish at a good price – no disease and no toxic exposure. Small live fish can be sent anywhere in the world, but they can fall ill because the process is too stressful. The disease-free aspect is the most important thing to consider. If the whole farm is infected, the farmer will need to cull the whole stock and disinfect before restarting, so be careful there.
In order to ensure you get the best out of it, make sure you stick to registered fish farms only. Choose fish that you have the conditions for – you can breed it yourself. Then, if you want to eat it, produce species that you can have without having to move them somewhere else. All in all, here are the best options you can try for your aquaponics system.
Tilapia needs around six months to reach a pound in weight. It is tasty and easy to breed because it can adapt to numerous environments – no issues whatsoever. The fish has a highly diversified diet and will resist all kinds of conditions, yet you must be careful with the temperature (82 to 86 degrees F) and pH range (6.5 to nine). Tilapia can eat other fish, too, as well as insects or worms.
Tilapia is tough and hardy. It can survive outside the ideal living conditions, but it will not feel good – if the temperature goes under 50 degrees F, it will die. As for the harvest time, give it anywhere between half a year and eight months – it depends on the water temperature and how large you want it to be. Ideally, you should not harvest it before reaching a pound in weight.
The fish has a fast growth rate and tastes great. It has good conversion rates and does not require a lot of dissolved oxygen. Now, the quick breeding capabilities might become a disadvantage too. If you have a small system, it will ruin the balance, so you keep an eye on it and make small adjustments every now and then.
The catfish is excellent for an aquaponics system. It will take a while to get used to the system and actually thrive, but once it does, it will grow at a very fast rate. The fish can adapt pretty much anywhere and may even grow in polluted ponds, so small mistakes are not going to affect the environment too much.
It is worth noting that catfish can easily survive in temperatures between 75 and 86 degrees F. The pH range is between seven and 8.5. Growing quite fast, it will reach a pound within 18 months. If you are planning to eat the fish, you will have to wait a little for your first harvest – it will become an ongoing cycle then.
The catfish is not too territorial and has good tolerance to various environments. You have more species out there, and the taste will not disappoint you. In terms of dieting, opt for high protein food for proper growth. At the same time, you should avoid handling them because they are sensitive and can get shocked.
More here – Top 3 Best Species To Use In Catfish Aquaponics
Requiring a temperature of 59 to 77 degrees F, the koi carp needs a pH range of seven to eight, and it is not suitable for eating. It makes a great ornamental fish, though, and can easily adapt to artificial ponds, so raising it in a tank is a piece of cake. Koi carp fish can be mixed with other edible species, though – just make sure there is plenty of space for all the fish, or they will end up fighting.
Koi carp fish love eating algae, so maintenance is minimal. They can resist most parasites out there and will not get ill too easily. The optimal temperature is ideal for their environment, but they are forgiving and can resist out of the range too – not really recommended, but worth knowing if you make a mistake while looking after them.
In terms of disadvantages, koi carp fish are not the best option if you want edible fish. At the same time, older fish will produce excessive amounts of waste, so cleaning the tank might be a bit challenging. The fish can live for up to three decades. Furthermore, they can grow up to two feet in length, which is impressive.
The Murray cod is one of the best fish for aquaponics because it can adapt to all kinds of environments and survive temperatures ranging between 46 and 75 degrees F. The pH requirement varies between seven and eight. As for growing, the fish will need anywhere between 12 and 18 months to reach a pound in weight.
The fish will grow fast in a closed environment. It is suitable for those interested in high stocking densities. Different types of perch will keep your fish happy. However, you should know that larger fish tend to eat smaller fish, so you might need to separate them every now and then. The fish will require good amounts of food if you do not want them to attack each other.
Maintenance is obviously required, so this type of fish is suitable to those with plenty of time on their hands. Healthy fish can live for up to half a century. Moreover, some individuals can be a bit fussy when it comes to food. If you opt for a high stocking density, there is also a higher risk of various infections – mostly fungal and bacterial.
The goldfish is not suitable for eating, but it makes a beautiful ornamental fish. It has a temperature requirement of 72 to 82 degrees F and a pH range between six and eight. If you are now starting an aquaponics system to eat fish, goldfish is one of the most suitable choices. The best part? It is relatively simple to look after such fish, so it is great for beginners.
The goldfish is an ornamental fish, but you would be surprised by how resistant it is too. It can grow without too much hassle in all kinds of environments – even highly polluted systems. Now, there are two types of goldfish out there – twin and single tail. The single tail is fast and slightly aggressive, while the twin tail looks more attractive.
It takes the goldfish about a year to reach a pound in size. But since it is not harvested for food, this is not really an issue. In terms of sizing, some fish can reach up to a foot in length. As for drawbacks, avoid mixing two different species in the same tank because they will not really get along. Since they are not edible, such fish may also cause issues with overstocking later on.
Suggested article: Goldfish Aquaponics System – Everything You Need To Know
Last but not least, the trout is not to be overlooked either. The growth rate stands out in the crowd. Since it prefers temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees F, the fish obviously prefers colder waters. From this point of view, maintenance will be fairly simple. Obviously, you also need some vegetables or flowers that also prefer cold water for a perfect balance.
The water pH should be anywhere between 6.5 and eight. Now, the growth rate of this fish is great, but the speed is quite slow. In other words, a trout in the wild will get to a pound in weight in about four years. Compared to other fish, the trout is not the most profitable fish in the world, but its exquisite taste will make the waiting period worth it. Once you get there, you will get a continuous cycle.
Apart from the good taste and the possibility to raise trout in colder waters, you should also know that it feeds on pretty much anything – from insects and fish to soft-bodied invertebrates. On a side note, you should not keep it with other fish. Since it grows quite large, it will require plenty of space, as well as high levels of dissolved oxygen.
Other fish worth some consideration include:
- Prawns and shrimps (more here – Shrimp And Prawn Aquaponics – The Basics That You Need To Know)
- Tetra fish
- Red ear sunfish
- Bluegill (more here – Bluegill Aquaponics Systems – Are They Worth Your Time & Money?)
- Jade perch
- Silver perch
- Golden perch
- Yellow perch
- Salmon (more here – Salmon Aquaponics Explained – Is It Worth the Time?)
- Largemouth bass
- Arctic char
Bottom line, you do have some good options when it comes to choosing the best fish for aquaponics. Some options may seem better than others – different growing stages or appearance, but at the end of the day, your primary needs should dictate the final decision.
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