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There are several species of fish that are used in aquaponics around the world, both food and ornamental fish can be used. Depending on the environmental conditions and the type of use several options are available:

  • Tilapia is the most commonly used fish in aquaponics. There are several reasons for that, one is that it was the fish used by aquaponics pioneers and therefore has become iconically associated with it. Tilapia is a warm water fish and can survive in waters ranging from 14 to 28 C; however, it will thrive in water above 24 degrees. Since it’s a warm water fish it is recommended to always keep the water temperature above 14 degrees. Tilapia become sick below 14 and start dying of below 10 degrees.
  • Bass prefer mildly cool water ranging between 15 to 35 C with 24 to 30 degrees being the preferred range. The younger fry need water that is little cooler than 24. Keep in mind that bass are big fish when fully grown so they do not make an ideal species for small systems.
  • Trout is a cold-water fish, but is an excellent aquaponics fish because it grows fast. This species grows to be well over a foot when cared for properly. They prefer temperatures around 0 to 12 degrees. During the fry stage, the minimum temperature for trout is 5 degrees.
  • Goldfish can be used as a starter fish since they are cheap and very readily available. They do take much longer to grow and have a long life span.
  • perch is a very adaptable fish, and makes a good starter fish for aquaponics enthusiasts. Perch come in several colors, but the three most used as aquaponics fish are the yellow, silver, and jade variety.[i]

Figure 9: Common fish species used in aquaponics (Source: Cebu Aquaponics)[ii]

 

Tilapia

There is a reason why Tilapia is the most common aquaponics fish. They are highly adaptable and can survive in low water quality and can survive spikes much more easily than other fish. They can live in crowded waters and are also highly disease resistant. Tilapia have a good feed conversion ratio typically greater than cold water fish, they grow rapidly with the optimal temperature, they are a highly marketable fish with high-yield and mild flavor. There are several types of tilapia species used in aquaponics.  The most common ones are Nile, blue and Mozambique.  The Nile tilapia is the most commonly grown fish since it grows the fastest and has the highest resistance to disease. Blue tilapia has the lowest temperature tolerance but it is a much slower growing fish. Mozambique is similar to Nile and can be used depending on availability.

Type Temperature Tolerance Growth Rate  
Nile Thrive in water above 24C

(most commonly grown)

5-7 months to reach 1-2 lbs

 

Blue Lowest temperature

tolerance

2 years to reach 2-3 lbs
Mozambique Similar to Nile 1 year to reach 1-2 lbs

 

[i] Paul, Smith, T., uy, christian, Fu, S. and Elliott, W. (2013) Home. Available at: http://aquaponicsideasonline.com/aquaponics-fish

[ii] Cebu Aquaponics (2016) Fish Species for Your Aquaponics System. Available at: http://cebuaquaponics.com/fish-species-for-your-aquaponics-system/