Desktop Aquaponics System – Is It a Good Option?

While aquaponics systems have become a trend these days, lots of beginners are limited because they simply do not have space for it. If they do, they will fail to keep it growing, so they will be stuck to a size. However, aquaponics is super versatile and can even allow you to come up with a system on a table. This is when desktop aquaponics kicks in – the solution is ideal for small environments. Just like for any other variety of such systems, there are some requirements, general rules, and considerations to think about upfront.

An aquarium can easily become the focal point in a living environment. However, a desktop system will bring in more than just a fancy appearance. Instead, you are also growing some plants that you can use later on. Besides these two major benefits, there are other reasons wherefore more, and more people opt for such systems.

Ethical purposes

Whether you are vegan or vegetarian, you probably dislike the idea of keeping animals in captivity and raising them. However, if you do want to grow some herbs or plants in a sustainable manner, an aquaponics system will get the job done without too much work. There are some limitations regarding the plants, but most herbs will thrive in this environment.

desktop aquaponics aquarium

Educational purposes

Desktop aquaponics system can be placed anywhere. They can go on a table top too, for example. If you teach in a school, it will help children understand the cycle of life. Even adults would be fascinated by having such a simple, yet efficient environment – fish and other creatures swimming around, as well as plants growing on top of the environment. It is all about nature and how it works.

Small investments

A classic aquaponics system will not bring in major investment, but you will still have to spend a little. The desktop alternative is much smaller. While limited in size and without too many scalable options, the system will simply be an insignificant investment. For instance, if you stick to small fish only, you will require a five gallon tank. Furthermore, you also have the option to keep some beautiful fish. On the same note, the maintenance of a small system will not cost too much either.

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Ideal for beginners

As a newbie, you are probably cautious about spending money on something you have no experience with. You would like a large aquaponics system, but you would love learning on a small one. Being cautious is perfectly fine, so you can start with the desktop alternative. Fish for small systems are not too pretentious and will not come with too many requirements. Plus, you will not require lots of equipment to keep the system running.

The ideal tank size for desktop aquaponics

Generally speaking, such a small aquaponics system can fit on your desktop. It does not mean that it will do with a tiny tank, though. There are still a few requirements out there. Based on how many fish you want to have, the tank should be more than five gallons in size.

For instance, should you decide on bettas, one fish will require three gallons of water or more – five is better. Learn about the fish requirements first, and then decide on a size for the tank.

Best fish for desktop aquaponics

  • Betta
  • Tetras
  • Fancy guppy
  • Dwarf gourami
  • Pencilfish

Just like for any other aquaponics system, choosing the optimal fish will determine how successful you can be in the long run. If you want to stick to desktop aquaponics, you will need small fish – maximum of 3.5 inches once they are mature. You can also find both solitary and schooling fish.


Betta is one of the most popular choices when it comes to fish for your desktop aquaponics system. They feel comfortable in pretty much any environment. They do not require too much, so they are easy to look after and suitable for beginners. The betta feels better living alone and can help if you want to grow basic herbs – such as basil or dill. Bettas are carnivores. You can feed them pellets or dried bloodworms. The pH should be between 5.5 and eight, while the water temperature must go between 64 and 82 degrees F.

betta fish


Tetras are more varied, and they can also grow in five-gallon tanks. This is a schooling fish. You can watch it swimming around the tank, but also working on your plants. There are more varieties to try out, with the neon tetra being the most common choice. This variety requires clean water due to a sensitivity to low quality. Monitor the water on a regular basis. The fish is omnivorous – flakes, brine shrimps, and so on. The water pH goes between 6.8 and 7.8, while the ideal temperature is 75 to 80 degrees F.

tetra fish

Fancy guppy

You can never go wrong with a fancy guppy. Not only is it beautiful and nice colored, but it will also thrive in small tanks. There are all kinds of bright colors you can choose from – in terms of sizing, the fish will go up to a couple of inches. It tolerates various conditions, yet the pH must be 5.5 to eight. The temperature should be between 64 and 82 degrees. In terms of dieting, the fish is omnivorous.

fancy guppy

Dwarf gourami

The dwarf gourami is a bit fussy about the tank size – do not go anywhere under five gallons. The fish will breathe air from above, so oxygen levels decreasing will not necessarily affect it. However, the water should still be warm and clean – 72 to 82 degrees F. The fish can be aggressive, but it can also have tank mates. If you bring a mate in, make sure the two will not attack each other. For example, brightly colored fish will intimidate males, which could become aggressive. The pH is six to 7.5. While the fish is omnivorous, it loves insects and algae.

Dwarf gourami


The pencilfish is just as attractive. It is not too pretentious, and meeting its requirements is a piece of cake. This fish likes hiding, so come up with nice décor and many hiding places – live plants will be excellent. The fish will not thrive if the nitrate levels in the tank are too high, so you will have to change the water all the time. The temperature should go between 72 and 82 degrees F, while the pH goes between 5.5 and seven. The pencilfish is also omnivorous and seems to prefer both frozen and fresh foods.



As a short final conclusion, desktop aquaponics is ideal from multiple points of view. The system is great for newbies who want to join this industry, but lack the experience and space – starting big is not always a great idea when it comes to living creatures. At the same time, the system is ideal for those with limited space as well – yet they still want the idea of keeping fish and growing plants in the same place. Apart from maintaining a perfectly functional food system, you will also benefit from a beautiful décor that will enhance the room.

Choosing the right fish is extremely important. Generally speaking, ornamental and small fish will be better than edible fish. No matter what you choose, research and educate yourself regarding the requirements.​

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