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. 

Mozambique tilapia

                    Mozambique 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.


Read Five New Ebooks About Aquaponics-Related Topics
Written by Colle and Phyllis Davis, Inventors, Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems and Published in 2015

For more detailed information about these books: CLICK HERE.


Commercial Aquaponics GOLD


Listen to an important message from Colle Davis, Lead Inventor, Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems

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Backyard Aquaponics GOLD

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An overview for those considering the option of installing an aquaponics system near their home.


Greenhouse & Warehouse Aquaponics GOLDgreenhouse book cover

This ebook discloses the facts, figures and formulas necessary for successful greenhouse and warehouse aquaponics growing. 


 Solar Aquaponics GOLD

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Let us show you HOW, WHY, WHAT, WHERE and HOW MUCH it costs to install your own solar powered system for YOUR aquaponics system.



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  1. Shawn Heneghan

    Can pacific salmon be used? Where do ya buy the fingerlings?

    1. portfarms


      Sure as long as you can find plants that like to grow in cold water. Watercress springs to mind, but little else. You will have to find a supplier of fingerlings no matter what species you chose.


  2. Debbie

    Great info. What would be a good fish for more acidic water (as the ones above seem to need neutral to alkaline water). Thankx

    1. portfarms


      You can easily adjust the pH in the fish tanks with our systems. Water pH is not a problem for the fish.


  3. whitlie

    what types of fish would really work cause we are making a aquaponics and we need to know this, this is our first time?

    1. portfarms


      How else can we say tilapia? For more information buy one of the GOLD books.


  4. Dean Decker

    What is the best type of fish for raising in an aquaponic tank in Northern Mississippi? Also, can a water heating device be used in the water during the winter?

    1. portfarms


      We suggest tilapia, but you can use catfish or crayfish. Yes, we use a tank heater in most situations outside the tropics. This topic is covered in the Aquaponics University Course.


  5. Valerie

    Hi! Thank you for the great info! I haven’t started yet, I’m in the research stage but would love to have aquaponics in my back yard but I’m a little nervous about the temperatures here in Tucson AZ! Summertime puts us into the 100’s early in the day and for the height of the summer it rarely goes below 80-90 even at night! Is an aquaponics system possible here? Are there certain fish/plants that would do better in our weather?? Any recommendations for keeping everything from frying??? Any other related info is appreciated as well! Thank you in advance and keep up the good work!!

    1. portfarms


      You are too kind, thank you for the kudos. The guideline noted in all of our literature is to build a ‘Climatically adapted structure’ referring to the building housing your aquaponics system. The bright, hot climate in Tucson requires heavier moveable shade cloth, excellent ventilation and other details carefully covered in the Aquaponics University Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems Course©. There are already a number of installations in the Arizona, New Mexico area that are operating successfully. No, we will not put you in touch with the owners because they choose not to host tours or tell people they have an unending food supply.

      Oddly enough it was Florida that presented us with the most challenges. The heat, humidity and brightness combination took us months of careful observation and adjusting to have beautiful bounty from our two Grow Tables. We are constantly posting the results on the website. The new information on Florida and Caribbean growing has already been incorporated into the AU Manual.

      Good luck and we look forward to having you as a student.


  6. Camilo

    First of all, great article guys! Well, thing is I live in Chile, South America, and we do not have tilapia so I’d like to know, what other kind of edible fish could I get for my aquaponics?

    1. portfarms


      Thank you for the very kind words. Any warm water, sweet (fresh) water fish, herbivore will work in the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems. We are not familiar with your local fish, but someone there will be able to assist you in your fish choice.

      Please do keep us posted on your progress.


  7. Zalipie

    Hi, great website!

    I would like to do aquaponics using an existing backyard pond with a flat smooth concrete bottom. To simplify, could I just use a metal/plastic tray for a grow bed, and place it in the water? Am thinking perhaps about one inch of gravel would be above the water line with several inches of gravel below, and that could eliminate the need for a pump.

    Also, am in Northern California so tilapia won’t work, and would like to harvest the fish but also understand the challenge of the annual cycle of catfish. So could I combine koi and catfish?

    Thanks so much. Really excited about your book!

    1. portfarms


      You are certainly welcome to try your method. Here are a few things you may want to be aware of that have nothing to do with the Portable Farms® Aquaponics Systems Technology: 1: If there are any waves your tray may sink. 2. Most plants do not like their roots wet all the time. 3. Tomatoes will not grow in flooded conditions, nor will most blooming plants. 3. Without pumping the water it will stagnate in the tray. 4. Almost any fish will work if you can figure out what to feed them.

      Good luck. Thanks on the book.


  8. somas wodi Anisahoni

    you folks are incredible…..you answered each and every question with a degree of professionalism and pure truth based on your vast experiance….and time tested application…..you are very pure in your business plan as well…one here on arizona looks forward to commencing with the planning stages within the next 6 weeks. One has been give a postive nod from a couple of people I have referered to your site and the response was more postitive than one was expecting. thank you for your reponse and honesty in responding to all of the sincere people that posted real meaningful questions and you men and women are just perfect…..blessing to you all this twilight….sincerely somas wodi Anisahoni

    1. portfarms

      Thank you very much Wodi: We appreciate your kind words. We do our best to educate people all over the world about aquaponics which is NOT always an easy task and we appreciate your comments. – Thanks again. – Colle and Phyllis Davis

  9. Andrew

    Would Pacu work as a good fish? I see they are a popular food fish in some countries, complete vegetarians and grow quite large.

    1. portfarms


      Pacu are an endangered species in some of their home countries. The taking of fry (babies) is now prohibited as is taking of the fish is certain areas in order to protect the fish from overfishing and extinction. When the fry are available from captive stock, they will be a great fish for aquaponics.

      Colle Davis – Inventor

  10. Melanie

    What fish do you recommend for the Sothern Hemisphere (New Zealand)?

    1. portfarms


      You may have access to yellow perch an excellent fish for aquaponics. Catfish will work, but make sure Fish and Wildlife Dept approve of them.

      We trust this helps.


  11. 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


      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

  12. chris cooper

    Any experience or comments on Barramundi as a fish source?


    1. portfarms


      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

  13. 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

      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

  14. Keith

    What about bluegill’s can i use them

    1. portfarms


      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

  15. 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


      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

  16. 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


      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

  17. 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


      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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