Before we discuss the best fish species to use with your aquaponics systems we need to cover the basic importance of why fish are the lifeblood of this system. In essence the fish used within a standard aquaponics setup act as a source of nutrition and this is cycled through the water via interconnected pipes to a growing platform or grow bed containing plants (fruit and/or vegetables).
Don’t think that an aquaponics system is going to be very complex and expensive, quite the contrary, in fact it is a simple setup and will only require minimum maintenance due to the recycling nature of the water between the fish and plants. Many people actually find that it is more beneficial to add the plant growing cycle to their existing fish keeping setup thus combining both the aquaculture and hydroponics methods which results in less upkeep of their fish tanks.
You need very little experience to keep and grow fish and all the things you do need will be explained in more detail in the how to build an aquaponics system guide which gives detailed guidelines on this entire subject. However, in my experience as about 3 years ago, being once a relative novice to this whole subject I was surprised at how straightforward it was to care for fish such as Tilapia (Cichlids species), Trout and Crappies and I was up to speed in no time at all.
Deciding upon stocking an aquaponic fish species
You can choose a wide array of fish species for your system with the main considerations being based around climate and supply. Some fish thrive in a colder climate and others vice versa so let’s say you live in a colder part of the world then you may consider stocking rainbow trout which thrive in this climate; again more detail on this subject can be found outlined in the guide above.
Notwithstanding that some people may not want to eat the fish used in the aquaponics system which means a wider array of freshwater species become available including carp and catfish to name but a few. In the initial setup we would recommend perhaps opting for an all year round fish species that can cope with your yearly climate and this will save on half yearly harvesting.
So let’s say you decide on probably the most popular fish which is the Talapia (Part of the Chiclids family) then you will need to make sure that you can get a local stock of fish to put into your aquaponic system. The Tilapia is a very versatile fish and most importantly it breeds easily and generally available in most freshwater fish suppliers outlets.
However remember you will need to start out with a decent stock of brood fish to begin the process. In addition some freshwater species are unable to reproduce within a tank and therefore a new batch of fingerlings will be necessary for every growing cycle.
Recommended list of Aquaponic Fish
Tilapia (Species variation of the Chiclid family)
Is probably the most common fish species used within many aquaponics systems because they are an extremely hardy fish, quick to breed, they grow very fast and can withstand poor water situations. The downside to keeping Tilapia fish is that they do need warm water and some colder climates may mean they can be unsuitable.
Trout (Most popular being the rainbow trout)
The Trout species is a good choice for colder climates as they can withstand much colder water. The freshwater trout family will be happy in water temps in the range of 8°C and 22°C which is a really wide range of temperature. On the major upside it is well known that Trout are extremely good to eat and used within the aquaponics method you get even better flavour from an already great tasting fish.
Another popular aquaponics fish species is the Crappie which is again a great fish to eat and the meat is produces is extremely flavoursome. The downside of crappies is that they have a long reproduction cycle, as much as 2 years, so this does pose some problems for using these with a large scale aquaponic setup. Additionally, if you do decide to stock Crappies then please make sure that you don’t introduce any substantially larger fish species with them as they are popular prey for such larger fish.
You will find that bringing on the species of aquaponics fish
mentioned above is very rewarding and enjoyable. Many people that have built a home aquaponics system both now enjoy a great hobby and have a sustainable home grown organic food source and fantastically edible fish stocks year on end.