Aquaponics Tips #1 – Choosing Your Fish

Getting The Breed Of Fish Right Is Half The Battle In Aquaponics

One of the most important decisions when setting up any aquaponics system is, obviously, which breed of fish to choose. The correct choice of fish can truly make or break a system and you need to be sure that one you opt for is suitable for the environmental conditions, the size of the tank and even your lifestyle -after all, some species require more husbandry than others.You should also ensure that the breed of fish you decide to use is allowed in your part of the world. For example, one of the most popular breeds of fish commonly used in aquaponics systems – the Tilapia – is actually banned in some parts of the world. If in doubt check with your local university or local authority – its better to be safe than sorry.

Another important consideration is whether to choose fingerlings or fry. Fingerlings are slightly more mature fish, usually about the length of your finger (hence the name) while fry are fish that are newly born. The most important thing to remember is never to mix the two because the larger fingerlings will eat the fry. My personal preference is to start with fingerlings because they are instantly more productive and fry can sometimes take a few months to develop.

Once you have determined the best size of fish to use, you need to choose a breed. The ambient temperature will play a large part in this decision and if you live in a cold climate you  may be forced to add some supplemental heat during the colder months if you opt to use warm water fish. Of course, this can dramatically add to the cost of running your aquaponics system, so its an important decision to get right at the outset. Cold climates, or exposed outdoor locations, for example, can make it difficult to raise Tilapia or Chinese catfish but there are plenty of breeds such as crappie, bluegill and even perch that do well in these kinds of conditions. Cold water species such as trout and even salmon – if space is not a problem – can do very well in colder climates and have the added advantage of tasting delicious!

Here are the 3 most popular species of fish used for aquaponics farming:

Tilapia – this fish is the fifth most popular species used in fish farming because it is very tasty and it can quickly grow to a decent size. The Tilapia is also one of the most commonly used fish for aquaponics. The fact that they grow quickly, that they are easy to look after and they also thrive in almost any kind of conditions also make them ideal if you are an aquaponics novice. In fact the only downside with Tilapia is that they are a warm water fish meaning that they aren’t suited to cold, harsh climates so if you live one you will need to incur the extra expense of heating the water when it gets cold outside.

Silver Perch – this Australian fish is very hardy, versatile and also tastes yummy! Unusually for fish, they are can also be fed greens which make them very cheap to look after. The only real downside with Perch is that they take much longer to mature than the other breeds so you do have to wait a bit longer to enjoy a nice bit of fish with your dinner.

Trout – This is my preferred species for building aquaponics systems that work. Trout grow very fast and they can withstand a range of temperatures making them the ideal choice for most conditions. They dont need much husbandry and best of all they taste delicious.

These are only 3 of the many varieties of fish that can be used in aquaponics systems but the are the most common ones, and with good reason. If, however, you don’t want to eat the fish then you can use almost any kind of fish that you like, but, in my opinion, this negates half of the advantages of owing and running such a setup.

Providing you stay within the law, and you take the environmental (and of course the cost) factors into consideration the sky really is the limit. Personally , I would never mix species in an aquaponics system because this opens up a new set of potential problems such as the spread of disease from one species to another as well as the risk of different species eating each other. Basically, the more species you see,the harder your job will be, and I’m all for simplicity.

If this article has been useful and you would like to know more about which species of fish to use in your aquaponics system, then check out Aquaponics4You from this page of my aquaponics blog.