Best Fish for Aquaponics: 29 Species + Complete Grower’s Guide

Before you even get started with assembling an aquaponic system you must make several important decisions.

Fish play a major role in any aquaponic system, and it’s important that you choose the type of fish that will best meet your particular goals.

What are the best fish for aquaponics? The best fish for aquaponic systems depends on the size of the system, the location and temperature of the system, and what type of crops the system will produce. Tilapia, catfish, goldfish, tetras, bass, cod, salmon, perch, trout, and sunfish are among the top choices.

To find out more about all the best species of fish for aquaponics, read on below!

Best Fish for Aquaponics

Getting Started: How To Choose Your Aquaponic Fish 

Before simply choosing a random type of fish that seems like a good fit for your aquaponics setup, there are several important considerations to make:

Space Requirements

The amount of space you have available for your system, as well as how much space any particular sort of fish needs to thrive, are among the top considerations to make when choosing aquaponic fish.

Edible or Inedible

Another of the most crucial decisions to take into account before deciding which fish to invest in for your aquaponic system is whether or not the fish are edible. 

Do you want fish that you can eat or sell? Or do you simply want fish that produce enough nutrients for your plants and live for long periods of time?

Hardiness

Some fish are much more hardy than others, with the ability to survive temperature fluctuations and rapid environmental changes. 

Others are much more delicate and need precisely designed and monitored habitats with little to no changes in their day-to-day environment.

System Size

Aquaponic systems range in size from small setups that can easily fit in a spare bedroom to large commercial setups that take up acres of space outdoors.

When choosing the best fish for your setup, you must take the size of the overall operation into consideration.

Breeding Ability

As with other types of animals, each individual species of fish has their own breeding habits and requirements. 

Some fish require cooler climates to breed than others, making it difficult to cultivate them without shocking your plants by significantly lowering water temperatures long enough to allow fish to breed.

Other fish breed in the same temperature water that they survive in day to day.

Another major set of differences between fish breeding abilities from species to species is in how often they breed and how many offspring are produced each time.

Lifespan

The lifespan of fish varies widely. Some fish live as little as a few years while others survive for as much as 40 or more years.

Make sure you know the lifespan of any fish you consider adding to your aquaponic growing system.

Best Fish for Warm Climate Aquaponics

Australian Bass

Two Australian bass (freshwater perch) in a net on the ground.

  • Ideal Temperature: 50℉ to 79℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 3 to 5 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 6.5 to 7.8

These feisty fish are found mainly in coastal rivers in south eastern Australia. They typically weigh between 2 and 7 pounds and grow from 13.5 to 23.5 inches long. 

Pros:

  • Great for both warm and cooler climates.
  • Are friendly enough with other fish.
  • Can be eaten.

Cons:

  • Take a few years to mature.

Catfish

A small channel catfish swimming in a large fish tank.

  • Ideal Temperature: 50℉ to 80℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 18 months to 2 years 
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 5.0 to 7.0

There are over 3,000 species of catfish known to man. Some of them live up to 60 years!

Catfish can weigh anywhere from just over a pound to well over 200 pounds. They grow between 3 feet to over 8 feet long.

Pros:

  • Tons of species to pick from.
  • Work well in both warm and cool climates.
  • Diverse enough for systems of any size.
  • Work well indoor and out.

Cons:

  • Not all species are good eating.

Bluegill

A large bluegill swimming underwater.

  • Ideal Temperature: 65℉ to 90℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 3 to 10 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 6.5 to 8.5 

Also known as “brim” and “sunny,” bluegill are freshwater fish that are both fun to catch and eat.

They grow to be around 7 inches long and weigh approximately 1 to 2 pounds (give or take a few ounces).

Pros:

  • Does well in much warmer water than others.
  • Takes quite a while to mature.
  • Gets along well with other fish.

Cons:

  • Don’t give as big as many harvestable fish.

Hybrid Striped Bass

A hybrid striped bass swimming through dark blue water.

  • Ideal Temperature: 60℉ to 70℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 2 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.0 to 8.5

A hybrid that comes from a mixture of white bass and striped bass, hybrid striped bass can reach lengths of up to 30 inches long and weights of 20 pounds or more.

That said, they are more often 10 to 15 inches in length and weigh between 2 and 5 pounds. 

Pros:

  • Get rather large.
  • Mature faster than some large fish.
  • Can live with catfish and other species.

Cons:

  • Not as popular as other types of bass.

Tilapia

A tilapia fish set against a black background.

  • Ideal Temperature: 80℉ to 85℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 8 months
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 6.0 to 9.0

This well-known fish breed is one of the most sought after in the world. Many local grocery stores carry them, and most seafood restaurants cook them.

Tilapia grow up to 8 inches long and weigh around 1 pound when fully grown.

Pros:

  • Extremely popular to eat.
  • Lots of economic potential.
  • Easy to raise, with a quick maturity rate.

Cons:

  • May be an over-farmed species.

Silver Perch

A silver perch with a blue vertical light in the background.

  • Ideal Temperature: 73℉ to 82℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 10 to 12 months
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? No
  • Ideal pH: 6.5 and 9.0

An ideal fish for aquaponics, silver perch do well in schools of their own kind and grow up to 15 inches or more.

When fully mature they can weigh more than 2 pounds.

Pros:

  • Large capacity for breeding.
  • Grow into large adults.
  • Quick maturity rate.

Cons:

  • Aren’t very adaptable to cooler water.

Tetra

A neon tetra fish swimming in front of underwater grass.

  • Ideal Temperature: 75℉ to 80℉
  • Edible? No
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Only smaller and nonaggressive breeds
  • Ideal pH: 6.8 to 7.8

Another of aquaponics’ most popular fish is none other than the tetra. They only grow to 1.25 inches in length and weigh just a tenth of a gram, so they aren’t for eating.

They are easy to care for though, and do hold some market value as pets.

Pros:

  • Loads of subspecies to choose from.
  • Some retail market value as pet fish.
  • Easy to raise and breed.

Cons:

  • Aren’t for raising in multi-species tanks.

Best Fish for Cold Climate Aquaponics

Arctic Char

Two Arctic char swimming underwater.

  • Ideal Temperature: 60℉ to 62.5℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: Up to 15 years 
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? No
  • Ideal pH: 5.0 to 9.0

This type of fish isn’t the most well known for aquaponics, but it is a very good contender for cool climates.

Arctic char grows between 3 and 8 inches long and weighs from half a pound to 5 pounds or more.

Pros:

  • One of the best fish for cooler water.
  • Easy to manage.
  • Decent retail markets exists in regional locations.

Cons:

  • Does not do well in warm water.
  • Takes many years to fully mature.

Smallmouth Bass

A man using both hands to hold a freshly caught smallmouth bass.

  • Ideal Temperature: 60℉ to 79℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 3 to 5 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.4 to 8.1

Another breed that’s popular for sport fishing that doubles as a great choice for aquaponics is the smallmouth bass.

They grow to be well over a foot long and weigh between 1 and 5 pounds.

Pros:

  • A fan favorite of fishermen.
  • Do well in cool and slightly warmer waters.
  • Are able to live with other species.

Cons:

  • Takes a few years to reach maturity.

Koi

An orange-and-white koi fish at the water's surface.

  • Ideal Temperature: 59℉ to 77℉
  • Edible? No
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Only larger adult fish
  • Ideal pH: 7.0 to 8.0

A beautiful fish species typically found in backyard ponds and decorative fish tanks, koi are also an excellent choice for aquaponic systems.

The species reach lengths of 20 to 24 inches and weigh as much as 9 to 12 pounds.

Pros:

  • Beautiful fish.
  • High retail value as ornamental fish.
  • Do well in tanks with other large species.

Cons:

  • Aren’t for eating.

Murray Cod

Several Murray cod fish on ice for sale at fish market.

  • Ideal Temperature: 65℉ to 70℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 4 to 5 years 
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? No
  • Ideal pH: 6.8 to 7.0

In nature, Murray cod fish reach enormous sizes, often weighing over 200 pounds and stretching up to 6 feet long.

In aquaponic systems, they grow to lengths of 21.5 to 25.5 inches and weigh between 4.5 and 11 pounds.

Pros:

  • One of the larger aquaponic species.
  • Easy to breed.
  • Works well in cool water.

Cons:

  • Takes a few years to reach maturity.

Trout

A pair of brown trout swimming along the river bed in shallow water.

  • Ideal Temperature: 49℉ to 67℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 12 to 14 months
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? No
  • Ideal pH: 6.5 to 8.0

The average aquaponic trout doesn’t grow more than 20 to 24 inches long or weigh over 6 to 8 pounds.

Out in the wild, a freshwater beast, trout can reach lengths of over 4 feet long and weigh in at a whopping 50 pounds or more.

Pros:

  • High-value fish.
  • Produce large amounts of fish easily.
  • Matures rather quickly.

Cons:

  • Not for very warm waters.

Yabbies

Several yabbies on ice at market.

  • Ideal Temperature: 50℉ to 68℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 1 year or more
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.5 to 10.5

In Australia, catching yabbies is a common pastime in the summer. In aquaponics, these 1 inch long lobster-like miniatures are excellent nutrient-makers for plants.

They are easy to raise, play well with others, and only weigh a single ounce. Essentially, yabbies are a sort of Australian crayfish.

Pros:

  • Easy to get started with.
  • Simple to breed.
  • Work well in cool to slightly warmer waters.

Cons:

  • Short lifespan.

Salmon

An Atlantic salmon just below the water's surface.

  • Ideal Temperature: 49℉ to 68℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 14 to 24 months
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? No
  • Ideal pH: 7.5 to 8.0

You’ve probably seen salmon before, whether you realize it or not.

The big fish with a reddish pink belly that photographers love to snap photos of while it’s sticking out of a bear’s mouth? Yep. That’s the one.

They have high market value and work very well with large scale aquaponics.

Pros:

  • Great for cooler waters.
  • Very easy to breed.
  • High-value fish.

Cons:

  • May take a couple of years to mature.

Best Fish for Large Aquaponic Setups

Carp

A pair of common carp swimming near the water's surface.

  • Ideal Temperature: 77℉ to 82.5℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 10 to 14 months
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.5 to 8.0

Depending on what part of the world you’re in, carp are either considered a delicacy or a useless bottom feeder.

Regardless how you feel about them, they make great stock for aquaponic fish tanks. They vary in size and weight – anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 feet and 4.5 to over 30 pounds.

Pros:

  • May or may not have market value.
  • Works well with larger aquaponic operations.

Cons:

  • Not good for cool water.

Crappie

A man holding a freshly caught crappie by the mouth.

  • Ideal Temperature: 68℉ to 72℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 2 to 4 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes (but they may eat most of the food)
  • Ideal pH: 6.0 to 7.5

Another fun fish to angle for that also does well with aquaponics is crappie. These guys generally grow between 6 and 21 inches and weigh between 1/2 and 5 pounds. 

Pros:

  • Easy to manage and care for.
  • Works in tanks with other types of fish.

Cons:

  • Can takes several years to mature.

Largemouth Bass

A largemouth bass swimming near smooth rocks underwater.

  • Ideal Temperature: 59℉ to 82℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 3 to 4 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 6.5 to 8.5

Speaking of fish that are enjoyable to angle for, largemouth bass are at the top of many anglers’ list.

In tanks, these fish reach lengths of 15 inches to well over 20 inches. They often weigh between 4 and 10 pounds.

Pros:

  • Works well in cool and warm waters.
  • Produces large amounts of fish.
  • Ok with other fish in the same tank.

Cons:

  • Takes a few years to mature.

Red Ear Sunfish

A fresh red ear sunfish on ice.

  • Ideal Temperature: 65℉ to 68℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 3 to 5 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.0 to 8.5

Also known as “cherry gill” and “shellcracker,” red ear sunfish raised in aquaponic reservoirs reach sizes of 4 inches to over 10 inches.

They typically weigh anywhere between 1/4 and 2 pounds.

Pros:

  • Works well for cool waters.
  • Works in tanks with other fish.

Cons:

  • Not the greatest fish for warm waters.
  • Takes up to several years to mature.

Pacu

A large pacu fish close-up image.

  • Ideal Temperature: 76℉ to 82℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 1 year or more
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes (but prefer their own species)
  • Ideal pH: 6.0 to 8.0

Easily one of the most preferred fish for aquaponics, pacu are easier to care for and breed.

They reach between 6 inches and 2 feet (sometimes larger), weighing in at a massive 30 pounds or more.

Pros:

  • Very easy to care for.
  • Fish produce a lot of meat.
  • Works well in warm water.

Cons:

  • Not great for cooler waters.

Jade Perch

Three jade perch huddled together in fish tank.
Image credit: Jayden Cheng
  • Ideal Temperature: 75℉ to 80℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 6 month to 1 year
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 6.0 to 8.0

The jade variety of perch also makes great aquaponic fish. They don’t do too well with other breeds, but are otherwise very much ideal.

They grow to be 10 to 15.5 inches and generally weigh between 10 ounces and 1 pound.

Pros:

  • Good for eating.
  • Quick maturity rate.
  • Can be raised with other species.

Cons:

  • Not great for cool water.

Barramundi

An Asian sea bass or barramundi fish swimming in a large tank.

  • Ideal Temperature: 77℉ to 82.5℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 6 months to 2 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.2 to 7.8

A pretty massive fish in nature, even in tanks these Asian sea bass reach lengths of 2 to 3.9 feet long.

They weigh between 13 pounds and well over 30 pounds. In the wild, these fish can reach 6 feet long and over 130 pounds!

Pros:

  • One of the biggest aquaponic fish.
  • Produce enormous amounts of meat.
  • Good for eating.

Cons:

  • Not good for cooler waters.

Sturgeon

A Danube sturgeon swimming in front of an underwater branch.

  • Ideal Temperature: 68℉ to 79℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 5 to 7 years 
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 6.5 to 8.0

With great attention to oxygen and a reliable food source, sturgeon are one of the easiest aquaponic fish to keep, and they can live up to 100 years.

Their size varies depending on the size of their habitat. In the wild, these monsters reach sizes of up to 20 feet long and over 1,500 pounds!

Pros:

  • Giant-sized fish if desired.
  • Medium-sized fish if desired.
  • Easy to care for.

Cons:

  • Takes several years to mature.

Best Fish for Indoor Aquaponics

Goldfish

A bright orange goldfish swimming in a fish tank.

  • Ideal Temperature: 68℉ to 74℉
  • Edible? No
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.0 to 8.5

Everyone knows about goldfish, the cute little fish people like keeping in glass bowls. What they may not know is that they are one of the best types of fish for indoor aquaponics.

They aren’t for eating, but they live for over a decade and are super easy to care for.

Pros:

  • Popular fish.
  • Some market value.
  • Easy to care for and breed.

Cons:

  • Not for eating.

Guppy

A beautiful guppy fish on a black background.

  • Ideal Temperature: 72℉ to 82℉
  • Edible? No
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 6.8 to 7.6

Next to goldfish, guppies are probably the most well-known “pet” fish in many parts of the world. They are beautiful and also excellent fish to raise in aquaponic systems.

That said, they have 1/10 of the lifespan of goldfish, living just 1 to 3 years (sometimes 4 to 5 years).

Pros:

  • Aesthetically pleasing.
  • Easy to care for and breed.
  • Some market value.

Cons:

  • Not for eating.

Shrimp

A large pink shrimp on the bottom of a fish tank.

  • Ideal Temperature: 68℉ to 74℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 1 month
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.5 to 9.0

These tasty sea creatures aren’t just for dipping in cocktail sauce; they are also for using in aquaponics.

Not only are they easy to care for, they are also super-quick growing and have a decent market value.

These little guys typically reach sizes of 1.5 to 3 inches but can grow as large as 8 inches.

Pros:

  • High market value.
  • Quick and easy to grow.
  • Very tasty.

Cons:

  • Larger fish may eat them.

Walleye

A freshly caught Minnesota walleye lying on the ice.

  • Ideal Temperature: 65℉ to 70℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 2 to 3 years 
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 6.0 to 9.0

Native to North America, the walleye is also known as the “yellow pickerel” or “yellow pike.” In tanks, walleye are simple to raise, and may do well with other non-aggressive fish.

They have a wide range of growth, often growing between 18 and 28 inches. The fish may weigh between 2 and 12 pounds.

Pros:

  • Popular fish.
  • Larger than many indoor species.
  • Easy to care for.

Cons:

  • Takes a few years to mature.

Yellow Perch

A yellow perch lying in a net on the grass.

  • Ideal Temperature: 70℉ to 75℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 1 year or more
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.0 to 8.0

No to be confused with the yellow pike, aka walleye, the yellow perch is another of aquaponics’ best freshwater fish breeds hailing from North America.

In their natural habitat, these bad boys reach 20 inches or more.

Tank-raised yellow perch may grow to around 7.5-15 inches long and weigh between just under 1 pound and over 2.5 pounds.

Pros:

  • Medium to large fish.
  • Popular in the US and Canada.
  • Easy to care for.

Cons:

  • May not be ideal for cooler water.

White Bass

A large white bass near bottom of river.

  • Ideal Temperature: 52℉ to 68℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 2 years or more
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.0 to 8.0

Slightly bigger than the yellow perch, white bass is another freshwater fish. It grows to be 10 to 15 inches on average, though some may grow as much as 17 inches or more.

The species, when raised in tanks, tend to weigh in at just over a pound but are sometimes recorded at over 5 pounds.

Pros:

  • Great for cooler water.
  • Easy to maintain and breed.
  • Medium to large fish.

Cons:

  • Not so ideal for warm waters.

Crayfish

An American crayfish swimming underwater.

  • Ideal Temperature: 70℉ to 75℉
  • Edible? Yes
  • Time To Reach Harvest Size: 4 years
  • Can Be Kept With Other Fish? Yes
  • Ideal pH: 7.0 to 8.5

Known in North America as crawdads, crawfish, crawdaddies, freshwater lobsters, mudbugs, and a whole lot of other names, crayfish are freshwater crustaceans that really look a lot like lobsters.

Often harvested for the meat in their tail, either was a delicacy or as fishing bait, crayfish are incredibly useful and effective in aquaponics.

Pros:

  • Affordable to get started.
  • Some market value.
  • Work well in systems of all sizes.

Cons:

  • Takes a few years to fully mature.

Related Questions:

How Much Does a Small Aquaponic System Cost?

Purchasing a small aquaponic system costs between $1,000 to $1,500 on the low end of the spectrum.

If you are also paying for shipping and handling, rather than purchasing the system in person, it may add an additional several hundred dollars to the bill.

What Is the Ratio of Fish to Plants in Aquaponics?

The general rule of thumb for fish to plants ratio in aquaponics is one fish for every plant.

However, there are exceptions depending on fish and plant species as well as the type and size of your setup.

A Final Word About Picking the Best Fish for Aquaponics

Choosing the best fish for your aquaponics system doesn’t need to be a stressful decision. In fact, it should be both an exciting and informative process. 

You will learn a bit about the various fish that work well with aquaponics, including which breeds are best suited for your very own setup.

Hopefully this article helps make the process quicker, more enjoyable, and most of all, as well-informed as possible!

Image credit for jade perch: Jayden Cheng