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The Most Frequently Asked Question is “What’s the Best Fish for Aquaponics?”

The Most Frequently Asked Question is “What’s the Best Fish for Aquaponics?” 
by Colle and Phyllis Davis

The most often asked question in aquaponics after, “How does aquaponics work? What fish can be used successfully other than tilapia?” The vast majority of aquaponics installations in the Northern Hemisphere use tilapia because they are readily available year round, they’re a healthy fish that grow quickly, convert feed very effectively into body mass and are very easy to raise.

 

There are some jurisdictions in which tilapia are not allowed. This is because they are so prolific in increasing their numbers that they displace native fish if allowed into the wild. PFAS LLC has passed on millions of dollars of business because the California Fish and Game Dept only allows, under specific condition, the possession of tilapia in the six most southern counties of the State. In the rest of the State, tilapia are banned by the Fish and Game Department and are considered illegal, and the cost to the perpetrator is a nice round $10,000 PER FISH in violation fines. Fish and Game are very serious about banning tilapia because of the severe shortage of water in the state and their need to protect the rivers, ponds and streams. 

Now that we’ve relocated our corporate headquarters to Southern Florida, we’re using BLUE TILAPIA because that variety of tilapia is legal in the State of Florida. 

Blue Tilapia

Blue Tilapia

What other fish can be used in aquaponics successfully in aquaponics?
Catfish is our personal preference because they taste great, we grew up eating catfish, they grow fast and are very easy to raise. The single problem is the fry or fingerlings are only available three months during the late spring each year (May, June and July). This inflexible supply of fish requires a batched system where all the fish are the same age and have to be harvested at about the same time. This leaves the systems with fewer and fewer fish near the end of the annual cycle.
Koi are a wonderfully easy fish to raise. The fingerlings can be obtained year round, they grow fast, they are beautiful and no one eats them. They are the perfect ‘poop producers’ because their gut is very ineffective and they eat and poop constantly. There is a market for the most unusual and most beautiful specimens of koi but again, no one eats them. If you only want poop, these are a great choice or if you are a vegan and want to name them as pets, koi are your answer.
Goldfish, yep, the little feeder goldfish you buy in the pet store for a few cents each can be used in aquaponics. You need five to ten per gallons of water instead of one, as with tilapia, because they are so small and grow relatively slowly and never grow too large in size. The problem? What do you do with them? Eating them is out, selling them is unprofitable and so you will simply have to keep them for a long time. Eventually you will have to start removing some of them from the system because they are prolific breeders also. Putting in a few bass or perch or even some catfish might work too.
Salmon/trout are a slight possibility if raised in cold climates. The fingerling problem is similar to the catfish in being seasonal. The systems for these fish requires a double heat exchanger arrangement and there needs to be an inexpensive source of electricity because the water has to be first heated and then chilled each time the system cycles.
Carp work extremely well but they have the same limitations as koi without the possibility of selling the cute ones. Some ethnic markets will buy all you can produce, check your markets to see if there is one nearby.
Perch, bass, crappies and several others are carnivores and the feed for them is currently limited. They also have the same limitations as the catfish of limited fingerling availability.
In Australia they use white perch and barramundi in their system very successfully. These fish in most cases cannot be imported into the US and Canada.
Crayfish and shrimp are both detritivores and some of them are cannibalistic and present the operator with different challenges. Yes, they can be raised in aquaponics successfully. Some people use them to help keep the bottom of the fish tanks cleaner and add a tiny bit of revenue to their operation.
Our choice is tilapia – a fast growing, healthy, easy to obtain in most places and with an unlimited supply of fingerling year round. That is spelled TILAPIA.
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14 comments

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  1. Tim

    I live in Northern California which means that it’s a no go with Tilapia as my fish source. How much does that affect my ROI if I cannot sell the fish side of this system? How much profit is typically tied to the sell of the fish vs the sale of the vegetables?

    1. portfarms

      Tim,

      The price of tilapia has dropped in half over the last 6 years and then it has started to come back up. Catfish on the other hand have slowly risen in price, so catfish, which are legal in California, are also an excellent choice. Now the kicker, the real story. The fish barely pay for their own feed and upkeep, it is the vegetables that are the super stars of the Portable Farms. This has always been true and with today’s food prices it is the vegetables that make the installations work so well and commercially make such a short ROI. We look forward to having you as a student to understand the Portable Farms system more deeply.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  2. chris cooper

    Any experience or comments on Barramundi as a fish source?

    Regards

    1. portfarms

      Chris,

      Barramundi have far more restrictions in most jurisdictions than even tilapia, therefore we do not recommend them because we have no experience with using them in the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  3. Karl Walker

    My name is Karl, I want to start up a Aquatic Farm and within a short period of time I would like to operate two 100 x 100 operation tables and I need some solid advice and to partner with a quality establish technical team.

    1. portfarms

      Karl:
      Please call Colle Davis, CEO, PFAS LLC and Lead inventor of Portable Farms to discuss your project. He can be reached at 239-829-5526. (Skype). EST.

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Phyllis Davis, President, PFAS LLC, Co-Iventor, Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems

  4. Keith

    What about bluegill’s can i use them

    1. portfarms

      Keith,

      As long as you can obtain feed and fingerlings they will work. They are carnivorous so they need an animal/fish based protein feed. Tough to catch or raise enough grasshoppers/cricket/flies to keep them growing.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  5. Valerie St. Germain

    1.) I am looking into building a small aquaponics system. Do you thing that fresh water flounder would be a good choice for fish? What are the limitations with that and how many per gallon?

    2.) Also, I am trying to avoid buying clay pebbles for my plant bed. Do you think it would be just fine if I filled the area with gel orbs. (I don’t want to use dirt either)

    1. portfarms

      Valerie,

      These fish are actually a brackish water fish and are not suited for freshwater aquaponics. Also the feed necessary for the raising of them in large number is a subject we have no information on to share with you.

      The Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems use double cleaned 3/4 inch common crushed gravel. Clay pellets actually do not work as well as the crushed gravel. Gel orbs are great for flower pots but we have no experience with the either. Interesting to see how they work.

      We trust information helps in some manner.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  6. Justin

    I have researched Salmon but have not found much information. I would oike to know what your opionion on farming Salmon with aquaponics is and if your systems would be condusive for them.

    1. portfarms

      Justin,

      If you have unlimited FREE energy you may want to try Salmon. There are some logistical problems with using Salmon in aquaponics. 1) They require cool or cold water to remain healthy (plants hate cold water) 2) They require a animal based protein feed (ground up ocean fish are the main ingredient).

      This means you have to keep the fish tank cool then raise the temperature so the plants will grow at their maximum rate and THEN COOL THE WATER AGAIN before returning it to the Fish Tank. PFAS LLC recommends only warm water, fresh water herbivores or omnivores. PFAS LLC will not be involved in your project if it includes Salmon.

      Good luck.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  7. Sid

    Tilapia is very regulated and expensive in Texas. I’ve got a couple of 400 gallon tanks that have had goldfish in them. Could catfish survive in them with maybe some plants and a waterfall added for circulating the water? i don’t want to run a cord out there if I can help it.

    1. portfarms

      Sid,

      You can use catfish, goldfish or any other easily kept freshwater fish that loves warm water. Waterfalls? Not sure how you would do that. The plants you want to grow are in the Grow Tables growing to be eaten.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

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