The 7 Best Fish For Small Aquaponics Systems

fish swimming in an aquaponics tank

Interested in Setting Up a Small Aquaponic System?

There are numerous reasons why someone might want to set up a small aquaponics system of their very own. For example, one person might be interested in having easy access to fresh fish as well as fresh produce. In contrast, another person might be more interested in how such systems can help them live in a more sustainable manner by cutting down on their use of water as well as other inputs. 

Whatever the case, you can’t set up the right aquaponic systems without choosing the right fish species. Luckily, there are many options to choose from. If you’re interested in setting up a small aquaponic system, these are 7 of the best fish species to include:


large mouth bass

There are several species of bass, which should make it easier to find a species that is best suited for your setup. Generally speaking, bass can survive water temperatures between 55°F to 85°F with a pH of between 7 and 8. However, this fish species is very sensitive to changes in the level of potassium in the water, so  that must be monitored on a regular basis.

On the plus side, bass are very open-minded eaters and don’t need a great deal of protein, which should please those who are concerned about feeding them. Bass are top feeders, which makes it very easy for caretakers to tell if they are overfeeding them. Just check for food particles that have fallen to the bottom of the container.


channel catfish

Catfish are a popular choice for both farming and fishing. For proof, look no further than the sheer number of catfish recipes available online, which range from catfish soup served with rice noodles to catfish rolled in cornmeal and fried.

Regardless of why you are interested in catfish, it’s important to note that the term “catfish” actually encompasses more than 3,000 species of fish. Generally speaking, most people choose to farm and fish the bigger catfish species. In particular, those who want to set up an aquaponic system should consider the Channel Catfish, which has a number of characteristics that make it a popular choice for said purpose.

For example, Channel Catfish aren’t very territorial creatures, so they make an excellent choice for people who also want to breed other fish species such as crappies and tilapia. Likewise, catfish are famous (and sometimes infamous) for being adaptable creatures that can survive under a wide range of conditions, though they fare best in warmer water temperatures of about 65°F to 90°F. On top of this, Channel Catfish can also grow at a rapid pace. It’s not uncommon to see members of this species hit three pounds within 12 months time.

Of course, Channel Catfish have some downsides as well. Catfish aren’t scaly creatures but instead have very sensitive skin, which means you shouldn’t handle them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Besides this, feeding them the right amount of food can require some serious effort as well. In most cases, the recommendation is 2.5 percent of their body weight in feed, which has to be based on an eye estimate because of their aforementioned sensitivity. However, there are some people who feed their catfish worms, insects, and aquaponic plants for a more balanced diet.


black crappie

Crappie are freshwater fish that hail from North America. In total, there are two crappie species: The White Crappie and the Black Crappie. Both are very similar in size, shape, and even their habits. However, it’s still possible to distinguish between the two species using a number of visual characteristics, such as how Black Crappie have black spots.

In any case, crappie are hardy fish, meaning they offer interested individuals some room for error. They prefer water temperatures that range from 70°F to 75°F. However, crappie can survive water temperatures as low as 55°F and as high as 80°F, though such conditions will have a detrimental impact on their performance. Besides this, water pH should be between 7 and 7.5 for the best results.

Unfortunately, crappies can bring some serious complications with them. For instance, crappies can start breeding at the age of one, so a lack of oversight can result in a lot more crappies than what you may be prepared to handle. Furthermore, it’s typically a bad idea to mix crappies with other fish because they are very spirited creatures that will defend themselves, their eggs, and even their young against perceived threats.

Even though crappies can get rather aggressive, they don’t fare well against bigger fish with carnivorous appetites, and often lose such fights. One of the biggest issues with crappies is they are picky eaters with a notable fondness for minnows, which can be problematic for people who want (or need) to keep feeding costs low.

Jade Perch

Jade Perch

Jade perch are endemic to Australia, but their hardiness have made them a popular choice for aquaponic systems in other countries as well. In short, Jade Perch can handle water temperatures that range from 60°F to 80°F, though they tend to prefer water temperatures on the higher end of that range. The species can also handle a pH of 6.5 to 8.5. These two characteristics make Jade Perch a safe choice for beginners concerned about making mistakes.

Other than their hardiness, Jade Perch have other strengths that are even more attractive for aquaponic systems. They are omnivorous, which means they can be fed on vegetation rather than restricted to a meat-based diet. Second, Jade Perch grow fast. They can hit 1 pound within 12 months, thus making them quickly ready for the plate. They also contain a lot of fatty acids, which make them a solid choice for people watching their nutritional intake.

Having said that, Jade Perch can be a bit too hardy and a bit too fast. Their numbers can get out of hand when people aren’t paying attention. However, the biggest issue is that while finding Jade Perch can be simple outside of Australia, getting the fish in some countries can be a bit more complicated and time-consuming.

Murray Cod

murray cod

Many people are most familiar with oceanic species of cod, such as the Atlantic Cod and the Pacific Cod. However, there are also species of cod that can be farmed in small aquaponic systems, such as Murray Cod.

On the whole, Murray Cod is another fish that can handle a wide range of conditions. They can survive in water temperatures of 46°F to 72°F. Furthermore, they can handle water with a pH of 7 to 8, which isn’t as good as some of the other fish species but is still not too bad. However, keep in mind that Murray Cod are freshwater fish rather than saltwater fish like their better-known cousins.

That said, Murray Cod are carnivores. So while they can share a living space with other species, they will start eating their neighbors if they get too big. Unfortunately, Murray Cod grow at a rapid pace, which produces another problem: They can quickly outgrow their containers. On top of that, Murray Cod can be susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections when packed together in close confines.



There is a reason Tilapia is seen as the fish for beginners when it comes to aquaponics systems. For starters, while they do their best in water between 82°F and 86°F, they are perfectly capable of surviving a much wider range of water temperatures.

They are also capable of the same when it comes to water pH levels. They can tolerate a pH between 6.5 and 9. Better still, Tilapia are also a great choice for those concerned about food production efficiency, seeing as how Tilapia tend to hit 1 pound in weight in only 6 to 8 months time.

The main problem with Tilapia is that they are fast breeders, which means their numbers can explode under optimal growing conditions.

Furthermore, while they are hardy, they aren’t actually invincible. As a result, you’ll have to avoid letting their water get too cold. Water below 50°F will kill Tilapia.



Walleye aren’t particularly interesting or good-looking fish. However, those characteristics aren’t necessarily bad for people who prize low maintenance when it comes to their aquaponic systems. Walleye can handle water temperatures of 68°F to 76°F and a pH of 6.5 to 8. Better still, Walleye are compatible with a wide range of plants, which should be welcome news for those who want to grow a variety of vegetables.

Naturally, Walleye come with some potential complications as well. For one, they don’t do so well with commercial food, so you’ll need to keep bait fish, prawns, and the like on hand. Two, a full-grown Walleye can weigh 20 pounds, though the odds of that happening in a fish tank aren’t very high. Still, they are big fish that call for big containers. Some people solve this problem by opting for keeping just a single Walleye in their aquaponic setup at all times.


Hi, I’m Fred! Recently, I had the desire to learn more about growing my own food in order to be a little more self-reliant. Also, it eases my mind a bit to know exactly where it came from.

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