Catfish Aquaponics – Top 3 Species To Use

catfish aquaponics

Aquaponics is practically a gardening system. Fish rely on plants to survive, and plants rely on fish to get fed. Deciding on the right fish species is critical. You need to analyze more types of fish, find which ones have a good growth rate for the plants, and ensure a perfect balance in the long run. Some fish are more popular than others because they are easy to look after and forgiving. This is when catfish aquaponics kicks in – an excellent choice, but with more options and a bit of research needed upfront.

Catfish is easy to take care of, especially if you are new to aquaponics systems. They can adapt to multiple environments, but just like any other fish, they have some ideal conditions to grow in a healthy manner. However, as you start your research, you will realize there are a few thousand species of catfish. In other words, knowing that catfish will work is not everything. Instead, you have to find the right species and decide whether or not it can meet your requirements.

Benefits of catfish aquaponics

Catfish aquaponics represents one of the most common choices out there. Catfish species are regularly farmed because they will have no problems adopting to tanks and various living conditions. They simply know how to survive and gain as much as possible from their environment. Finding a balance between different aquaponics elements is a challenge, so finding strong species is mandatory. Apart from it, there are more reasons to rely on catfish.

When it comes to growing, catfish can convert the food you provide into body mass in no time. They eat, and they grow straight away – simple as that. This aspect is crucial because catfish are edible, so you want your fish to be large before cooking them. When it comes to foods, you can feed them the classic food pellets, but you can also throw in small fish, plants, or even bugs. They are not picky and will only care about eating – regardless of what it is.

Catfish will also breed very fast. You can start with a few fish, and they will multiply over a short period of time. Even in large amounts, catfish are not territorial. If you plan to grow other species of fish too, they are less likely to fight them. Catfish will most likely mind their own business with no issues at all.

Living requirements

In terms of living requirements, they are forgiving and can also tolerate high levels of dissolved oxygen. The temperature can also get out of the ideal range – yet you should try your best to keep it within the optimal limits. The same rule applies to the pH levels – while different pH levels will not kill catfish, you should aim for what they truly like.

Catfish are hardy and can resist most fish diseases out there, so you are less likely to ever deal with an infestation. As for the taste, you will love it. They are more appetizing than many other species of fish.

Now, when it comes to catfish aquaponics, most species would adapt very well. But then, professionals tend to rely on three species because they provide just the right nutrients to plants.

Channel catfish

The channel catfish is the most popular choice when it comes to catfish aquaponics. Initially, these fish were first noticed in Mississippi. They are also used in recreational fishing, and they have been introduced all over the world. Farming became later on, as the people realized they are quite economical – around the 1960s.

The color of this fish depends on more factors – the water it lives in is the most significant factor. For instance, the fish could adopt a slightly yellow color if the water around it is musky. When it comes to crystal clear water, the fish has a dark appearance – almost black.

The species grows in no time, so it makes an excellent choice for those who want to harvest the fish. Expect it to gain around three pounds within a year only. Since the fish adapts fast to most environments, it can survive in large tanks with no issues whatsoever.

The fish is also omnivorous – protein pellets represent a must, but it can also have larvae and even worms. Given the characteristics of the waste, mineralization will be much better. Compared to tilapia, expect more dissolving capabilities. Since the fish can resist most affections and parasites, experts can harvest more of it.

channel catfish

African catfish

The African catfish is not to be overlooked either. From many points of view, it is similar to tilapia. During the 1970s, the species was the most common option in aquaculture.

These days, the fish is all over the world. It has become a good choice for aquaculture all across the world, but especially in hot climates. When it comes to its appearance, it is easy to spot because it has a massive head and a long body. At the same time, it has anal and dorsal fins.

The African catfish is known for its air-breathing capabilities. It is common in aquaponics because it can tolerate unfavorable environments, such as low dissolved oxygen and high levels of ammonia. If the electricity is quite unstable in your area, this fish can take different living conditions without dying.

When fully grown, expect a single fish to weigh around 40 pounds. But then, the growth depends on the living conditions – keep them within the ideal range, or you can alter the growth. For example, most fish will stop growing if the temperature drops too much.

Believe it or not, you might be able to start with tiny fish and turn them into two-pound monsters within the first 10 months. The fish is a heavy waste producer and requires three meals a day.

african catfish

Brown bullhead catfish

The brown bullhead catfish was common in North America. It was not the most appealing fish in the world because it used to taste mucky. The fish loves growing in dirty waters, so it was referred to as the trash fish. With time, it was discovered that it could make an excellent choice in catfish aquaponics. The water is filtered round the clock, so the fish adapts to the clean environment.

You do not have to be an expert to identify this species. While many species of catfish are similar, this one stands out in the crowd because of its strong serrations. They are located on the edge of the spine. They have a brown appearance. However, they may change their colors and turn gray if the belly features a cream color.

The brown bullhead catfish was not a very popular choice for aquaponics. But after a few farms relied on it, the species gained notoriety overnight. The fish is now available everywhere. Not only does it adapt to anything, but it also multiplies in no time. Start with a few individuals, and they will breed straight away. Furthermore, the species tends to be more active during its first years. After a few years, its multiplication rate drops down a bit.

Care and maintance

In terms of care and maintenance, just like other species of catfish, the brown bullhead catfish can survive in tanks with no problems at all. In fact, while not recommended, it can also take decent periods of time without any aeration at all. Such things occur if your fish have plenty of water. The water must be shallow, and the stocking density should be low.

This species is omnivorous and will eat food pellets, worms, insects, crayfish, and plants. The fish will usually feed overnight, but this is not a general rule. While it may grow slower than other species, it can still exceed one pound in weight during the first couple of years of life. Just like other catfish, this one is a heavy waste producer and requires one or two meals on a daily basis.

Brown Bullhead


As a short final conclusion, the catfish is known to be a bottom dweller. With all these, most species can be grown in aquaponics systems. Some of them grow faster than others – this is what you need to focus on. The Chanel and African catfish are the most common species because they are forgiving and grow fast, but the brown bullhead catfish is not to be overlooked either – slightly slower in growing, but still tasty and efficient.

Generally speaking, the availability of such species depends on more factors, such as where you live. Make sure you become aware of the local laws and regulations too. If unsure, you might want to get in touch with local professionals to find out more.

As for catfish aquaponics, any of the above-mentioned species will thrive in a tank. They do not require too much care and should not be affected by diseases if you look after them. While they can adapt to conditions that are less than ideal, it pays off establishing the best living environment for them.

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