Getting the Right Fish for Your System

While creating an aquaponics set up from scratch may seem daunting, it is actually not as challenging as some would lead you to believe. A number of species of fish are able to thrive in an aquaponic environment. Once you have your fish and their environment set up, you can begin growing a few crops and expand on the variety of plant life in your garden over time. While there are no specific fish needed for particular plants (or vice versa), this article will help you learn what kind of fish is best suited to an aquaponic habitat, as well as what kind of tasty treats you will be able to grow.

Now the question of getting the right type of fish, all depends on how and where you have your Aquaponics system. Because it all depends on the moderation of temperatures that fish can bear. If you are looking to keep your system indoors, or in a climate-controlled greenhouse then you have a ton of options because those that need to keep things warm (even when there is a chill outside) can be utilized.

If you are keeping it outside with little input to temp control, then you want that hardy fish species that can take the fluctuations in temperatures that your area experiences over the course of the year… both cold and the hotter temps as well.

Another consideration you must undertake is how big is your system? If you are looking at a desktop/countertop unit build then getting a mess of bass isn’t going to work. Likewise, if your system is good sized to be able to feed 4-6 people on an ongoing basis, if you pick goldfish, you are going to have a sheesh load of them at least in the beginning as they grow.

Additionally, you need to take into account if you are looking to breed and then harvest the older fish in the tank. There are some kinds of fish that need special conditions to be just right for breeding purposes. They can be a finicky bunch if you get the wrong type of fish for your own designs for your Aquaponics System.

Lastly, for those who fish species that are territorial, or hierarchical in how their own habitats function? Can they bear having several females in the tank at one time, or having several males? There is nothing worse than going in to feed them and find most of them floating on top of the water.

Best Fish Species for Aquaponic Habitats

You want to stay with the freshwater type of fish. It would be cool to keep small sharks or flounders… but keeping that salt content is never good for plants and would be a complete headache for the filtration systems. A good safe bet for you, if your system is larger is a freshwater fish called tilapia. They generally are the go-to for newcomers starting an aquaponic farm. Tilapia are able to thrive in a variety of water conditions. Tilapia are also edible, with firm white meat that many aquaponic practitioners enjoy.

Goldfish are ideal with the smaller systems that you can have, especially indoors. They aren’t fish that can be eaten, however. They would be more for the utility and show rather than a future food source

Other Fish Species

Do your homework. Find out what fish are in your geographical area. Which ones are the hardier than the rest, who can take stresses to the system that inevitably can occur i.e. acidic vs. alkaline levels, temps, and pH balances highs and lows? Rainbow Trout, Largemouth Bass, and even Koi have been able to be used. Some aquaponic farmers have found success with types of carp, catfish, and barramundi, but these fish will require more care and attention than the adaptable tilapia.

Plants that Match with an Aquaponic System

Lettuces and other leafy greens are the easiest to grow in an aquaponics set-up and are generally recommended to start with. You may also want to try Bak Choi (a Chinese vegetable with high mineral content), as well as arugula, spinach, and kale. Many spices can also easily be cultivated, including basil, chives, and mint. Most common houseplants will also function in an aquaponic set-up; they may not be feeding you, but aside from adding variety and decoration, they aid in the filtration of the water for the fish.

Expanding Your Plant Repetoir

Once you are confident that your plants and fish have created a healthy and sustainable ecological balance, you can begin experimenting with more ambitious crops. A robust aquaponic environment can support beans, peppers, tomatoes, and squash, but these advanced crops will take a lot more attention and care, so it is generally advisable to introduce them slowly. Keep an eye on the health and happiness of your fish; the introduction of a new plant is not likely to send their world into a tailspin, but every change to the environment is going to have an impact, and you must always be aware of how they adapt.

Striking a Balance

The number of plants you can grow is directly related to the size of the tank and the number of fish, as well as how much and how often you feed your fish. There is no exact formula to explain the fish to crop output ratio; it is simply a matter of trial and patience. Most importantly is about learning how to work with the ecosystem you have so carefully crafted.

It may take some time to find the perfect match of fish and plants for your aquaponic garden. However, the day you see your first tomato sprout, you’ll be glad you took the challenge.