Fish Species Suitable for Aquaponics System

Aquaponics systems are becoming more and more popular as additions to permaculture gardens. In fact, they are becoming increasingly important in the struggle to create more efficient and green methods of producing food. By allowing two harvests – of plants and fishes – as well as generating significant economies of energy input, water use and space, aquaponics systems may well have a claim to be one of the food production systems of the future – the beauty being that they already exist in the here and now. (Of course, aquaponics methods of agriculture have played a part throughout human history and remain important to many cultures, but remain relatively unutilized in the West.)

If you are considering establishing an aquaponics system as part of your permaculture plot, one of the key decisions you will need to make is which species of fish to stock it with. There are lots of factors that will come into play when making this decision – everything from what type of food the species needs, how it interacts with plant roots, their size and, of course, what they taste like. And, as with other permaculture systems that you institute, a thorough analysis of the needs, products and inherent characteristics of the fish should be done as well. Some of the criteria to consider when doing an analysis of fish species are whether the fish is suited to living in enclosed tanks, how resistant to disease the species is, what water conditions it needs (and what you can provide), and whether they are available for purchase near you.

However, there are certain species of fish that have proved to be particularly adaptable to aquaponics. Here we highlight some of the species that aquaponics practitioners have enjoyed success with.

Arguably the most common aquaponics species, tilapia are ideal candidates for the novice. They are very easy to breed, will thrive even in sub-prime water conditions, are omnivorous – meaning they eat algae, among other things, helping your system stay clean – and are very tasty on the plate. One note: they do require warm water, so a greenhouse system is best. There are actually more than one hundred species that make up the tilapia family, but the Nile tilapia is the most extensively farmed, due to its rapid growth and good size at harvest.

In contrast to tilapia, trout thrive in cooler water temperatures, so are perfect for outdoor aquaponics systems – a water temperature anywhere between ten and twenty degrees Celsius is fine. They are carnivorous so need fish-based food, insects and aquatic invertebrates as feed. Trout grow very quickly and have an excellent food conversion ratio – meaning you get more flesh to eat per fish for the amount of fish food you input into the system.

In previous centuries carp was one of the most farmed fish species across the world. It remains popular in parts of Eastern Europe and Asia, but has declined elsewhere. Fortunately, aquaponics and other agricultural innovations are managing to turn more people’s attention on these food eating fish. Omnivorous, carp thrive in a wide range of water conditions, making them a good choice if your plot has highly variable weather. Carp have a high reproductive capability, so you may be able to rear successive generations from you starter stock.

Catfish differ from the other species featured in this list in that they don’t actually have scales. That means that when you come to harvest them you would need to skin them – which is actually not as hard as it sounds once you’ve got the hang of it. Once skinned and ready for the plate, their high food conversion ratio means that you get lots of tasty, firm flesh. The channel and blur varieties of the species are particularly well suited to aquaponics systems as they have the broadest diets – including plants, insects and other fish – and are known for their high nutritional value.

You don’t have to incorporate edible fish in your aquaponics systems. Vegetarians or those who prefer not to harvest their own animals may want to consider koi. A species of carp, koi are common ornamental fish in Japan and have increased in popularity around the world as colorful, hardy animals that are adaptable to many types of water systems. Koi are renowned for their relatively long life span and their durability against parasites, meaning you will not need to replace your stock very often. Omnivorous, they will eat a wide range of foods, including algae from plant roots.

Perch are actually one of the healthiest fish to eat. They contain high levels of omega-3 oils, an essential nutrient that can help improve cognitive function. There are several species of perch that suit aquaponics, the most popular being the jade perch. Omnivorous, they will eat zooplankton, crustaceans, insects, mollusks, algae and plant material. Jade perch also grow quickly and have a robust constitution. They do require warm water so an aquaponics system in a greenhouse would be an ideal environment. Silver perch are another option, although they are not as fast-growing as their jade cousins, typically taking between twelve and eighteen months to reach harvesting size.

The largemouth bass is a viable species for larger aquaponics systems. They grow to maturity relatively quickly and aquaponics systemhave a very varied diet, ranging from insects and crustaceans as juveniles to anything up to snakes and small mammals as adults! Fully mature bass are too large for most aquaponics systems and require a large amount of feed, but harvested at a more juvenile size, they have a clean – if strong – taste.

There are a number of crustacean species that can be utilized in an aquaponics system, either as a standalone or in combination with fish species. Freshwater prawns, crayfish and mussels are all viable options. Crustaceans give a different dimension to an aquaponics tank and adding some to your system can help keep the bottom clean – mussels are particularly useful as they are filter feeders, so help keep the water clean.


No. The energy intensive nature of aquaponics is only the biggest problem with it. I think aquatic permacultures will outproduce aquaponics without any outside inputs.

poor fish – always with the slavery

Aquaponics produces veggies. The fish are a bi product.

Hmm never thought of it like that asha thanks for the perspective I appreciate it

Kathryn Gallagher


The biggest problem with aquaponics is fish feed. Unless you are providing the feed from within the system, which is possible with some species, it doesn’t have a place within a Permaculture system. Stripping the oceans of fish to make commercial fish feed is unsustainable.

I currently have 30 or so large gold fish and 12 crawdads powering my 400 gal unit. Raising salmon in fresh water?

Vegan…imagine that? just grow veggies..

Have a look at this Andea Andrea Kolbe!

Started mine this week

Oh sure, I’ll just suffer those nutrient deficiencies. No thank you.

Lol, you are silly…

You must watch fox news haha

The Plants have need too. ^_^
Thats really the primary function of them, Use Goldfish or Koi or other “decorative” species if you dont want to eat them.

Ive been into acaponics…before I went Vegan.. You can get all nutrition from plants.. Except for vitamin B and D but B I get from supplements and D from the Sun…

Yes, eventually.

My small system from last year. We grew the tastiest produce I’ve ever experienced. All organic. All in our backyard. Friends and neighbors visited regularly for updates as no one had seen something quite like it.

At Hillbilly Acres we considered this option because of the summer heat in texas. We found that the only fish that would do well would either be perch or tilapia. Being from the south we are big fans of catfish, but that wouldn’t work. Still doing research on what would be best before investing time and money…

when I first saw this concept it just made so much sense. Wish I was younger and had the money to make it work.

Thilus Athyrian Athathin x

Fish aren’t that well suited to aquaponics, you need a higher load rate to maintain the perfect 6.2 PH level for optimum plan nutrient availability. It works better if feed with chicken waste or goat waste. You have to push fish loads extremely high on the scale major aquaculture and at that rage it would be better to be growing a micro algae culture for things like fresh water muscles and prawns. People often use Tilapia you can have 500 of them in 500 gallon but what’s the point of eating fish. It’s also wise to eliminate the biofilter and feed the nutrient directly to the plants.

Probably not…we have raccoons..:P

I have a 18inch silver koi free to a good home

Kyle León Dennis Leon

I had a 1 acre pond dug on my property and had it stocked with trout and catfish.

Dante Broadbent Karisa Broadbent

Victoria Crowe

1 acre of water is 250,00 Ga. Does anyone use UV light to kill algae and a diffuser for oxygen. This will maintain nitrogen levels also. I want to start a aqua farm for salmon.

I have been considering a small pond in my yard and I would love to have fish in it.

We have a 4k gallon koi pond in our backyard that has been green for the 10 years we have had it so I decided I am going to try aquaponics to remove the nutrients and try to clean it up so we can actually see the fish and enjoy them as we intended when we installed the pond.

So a few weeks ago I built an indoor system with a 45 gallon tank and I am using fancy guppies. I am so impressed with how healthy the system is. This is our test system to work out the bugs before spending the money on a much larger system to add to the koi pond.

I have a 2,500 gallon pond in my yard with goldfish, I want to make it bigger and this year will redo the pond in spring…..


This is sad- Not only did you recently refer to chicken cultivars as “species” in an earlier article, you’re now referring to Mussels as “crustaceans”…(Mussels are Molluscs, as any 8th grader will attest)

If you don’t know what a simple biological term actually means, please look it up, first….or seek guidnace from some who does.

This shoddy pesudoscientific approach only serves to highlight the shaky foundations of
“permaculture” at large.

This is sad- Not only did you recently refer to chicken cultivars as “species” in an earlier article, you’re now referring to Mussels as “crustaceans”…(Mussels are Molluscs, as any 8th grader will attest)

If you don’t know what a simple biological term actually means, please look it up, first….or seek guidance from some who does.

This shoddy pesudoscientific approach only serves to highlight the shaky foundations of
“permaculture” at large.

Make sure your fish have adequate room to live enjoyably!

Hi, fish biologist here. I would take Koi, Carp and Tilapia off that list in a big hurry.

Look up “Thiaminase” to find out why you never want to eat carp/koi.

Tilapia are garbage, they’re a hybrid of nobody knows how many species and are nutritional junk.

Trout is by far the best thing on that list in terms of nutrition, head and shoulder above the rest.

“Neither fungi, plants, nor animals are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes required for its synthesis, although many foods are a natural source of B12 because of bacterial symbiosis. Ultimately, animals must obtain vitamin B12 directly or indirectly from bacteria, and these bacteria may inhabit a section of the gut that is distal to the section where B12 is absorbed. Thus, herbivorous animals must either obtain B12 from bacteria in their rumens or (if fermenting plant material in the hindgut) by reingestion of cecotrope feces. Besides certain fermented foods, there are currently only a few non-animal food sources of biologically active B12 suggested and none of these have been subjected to human trials.”

Unless you are taking B vitamin supplements made through bacterial fermentation-synthesis, you will not get enough B vitamins, B12 specifically, in your diet. So unless you eat a diet rich in fermented foods, you will be a slave to man made vitamin supplements. I plan on living a self sufficient, sustainable homestead/permaculture lifestyle and only purchase products i dont have the time/skills/resources to create myself. So rather then living an extremist vegan lifestyle (and be forced to consume man made viatmins to remain healthy), i will just eat a naturally balanced diet. That diet includes meat products, some of which i plan on farming and hunting myself.

Realistically, why is an animals life any more instrinsically valuable then a plants life? Life is life is life, either all life is of equal instrinsic value and treated with the respect it deserves, or no life is. A plant is just as much alive as any animal someone consumes, it is no more unethical to consume meat then to be vegan. The way that animal is treated/raised in life and the way it is killed are what matter. I might eat meat, but i still believe animals deserve enough respect to be raised humanely, with as high a quality of life as possible and to be killed as quickly and painlessly as possible. I personally advocate using a bullet or spike to severe the animals brain stem, killing it instantly, BEFORE slitting its throat to bleed out.


Would be nice if it wasn’t blurred!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

David Foale your thoughts on this

Trout are always a winner. You can eat them after harvest

Outside of fishing to catch them where would one order fish to buy them for their aquaponics set up?

Pretty cruel system.

Gustavo Rodriguez 🐳🐟🦈🐠🐬🐡

Bill Meyers

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