20 Best Cold-Water Aquaponics Fish


Few things are more important for setting up a successful aquaponics system than picking the right fish. With so many viable kinds of fish available, how do you know which species is best for your system? 

Here are 20 of the best cold-water aquaponics fish: 

  1. Trout
  2. Salmon
  3. Tilapia
  4. Carp
  5. Catfish
  6. Murray Cod
  7. Goldfish
  8. Crappie
  9. Koi
  10. Bass
  11. Guppy
  12. Bluegill
  13. Largemouth Bass
  14. Shrimp
  15. Arctic Char
  16. Walleye
  17. Hybrid Striped Bass
  18. Smallmouth Bass
  19. Yabbies
  20. Sturgeon

Note that there are no species that are superior above all else. Each species has its own pros and cons, so this article will break down the advantages and disadvantages of each fish so that you can choose the best fish for your system. Keep reading to learn more about the best cold-water aquaponics fish!

1. Trout

Trout are some of the most resilient fish for an aquaponics system. If you’re a beginner, then trout is an excellent choice for your first cold-water aquaponics. Though they have a wide temperature range, they tend to thrive in cold water, so these are best for Nordic or temperate regions. 

On top of their easy care, trout are also extremely tasty. Their meat is extremely popular, with global trout consumption reaching close to one million tonnes in 2019.

Advantages of Trout

  • They have a wide ideal temperature range of 56 to 68 °F (14.44 to 20 ºC).
  • They have a wide diet and can live off insects, invertebrates, and small fish. 
  • They have delicious meat!

Disadvantages of Trout

  • They are slow to grow.
  • They need a lot of space to grow fully.
  • They cannot share the system with other fish. 

2. Salmon

Salmon is another great-tasting fish that is not too difficult to raise. One thing to look out for is that salmon swims against currents, so you will need a tank large enough to give them both space to grow and space to swim. You’ll also have to keep the water moving to simulate currents.

You’ve probably heard of Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, at least at the grocery stores. As you can imagine, these fish love cold water as they come from cold regions. Salmon is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a cold water aquaponics fish. 

Additionally, salmon is one of the most-consumed fish around the world. From sushi to grilled salmon, this fish is a staple in many cuisines worldwide. Whether you are looking to consume it yourself or sell it for a profit, you should have an easy time putting your salmon to good use. 

Salmon are very similar to trout in terms of care and life cycles, so choose whichever fish you have a personal preference for.

Advantages of Salmon

  • It is one of the most popular fish to consume. 
  • It can tolerate a wide temperature range of 55 to 65 ºF (13 to 18.33 ºC)
  • It is a social fish that can live with other species in the system.

Disadvantages of Salmon

  • Salmon eats a lot of food, requiring more intake per pound than other fish.
  • It tends to contract diseases more easily than other species. 
  • It has a somewhat slow growth rate, requiring up to two years to grow to full size.

3. Tilapia

Tilapia is one of the hardiest species for aquaponics systems. Although they prefer warmer waters, they can thrive in water temperatures as cold as 55 ºF (13 ºC). 

Tilapia is also one of the cheapest kinds of fish meat to buy. That’s because these fish grow quickly, reproduce easily, and don’t get sick often. These factors make them very easy to raise and maintain in your aquaponics system.

Although they are inexpensive, tilapia can be a great choice for someone looking to run their aquaponics fish tank like a fast-paced business. With quick harvest times and fast turnaround times, you can easily become a pro at raising tilapia in your aquaponics tank and turn a nice profit.

Advantages of Tilapia

  • They grow quicker than other species, taking only about nine months to grow fully.
  • Tilapia reproduce very quickly.
  • Their delicious flavor makes them great for eating. 
  • They don’t eat other fish! 

Disadvantages of Tilapia

  • They prefer warmer waters than other cold-water fish and should never be kept in water below 55 ºF (13 ºC).
  • If you live in an extremely cold area, you will need to warm the water during the winter.
  • They reproduce so quickly that it can become a problem for your aquaponics system.

4. Carp

Carp is another versatile fish that can survive in cold waters. They can survive in many different environments, so you don’t need to be too careful with water temperature. Although they can grow very large, most carp will weigh under 30 pounds (13.6 kg), making them a great choice for your aquaponics tank.

Advantages of Carp

  • They can survive in temperatures below 60 ºF (15.55 ºC).
  • They can live with other fish.
  • They have a wide diet, including worms, crustaceans, and mollusks.
  • They are edible and tasty.

Disadvantages of Carp

  • Their ideal water temperatures range from 82 to 84 ºF (27.77 to 28.88 ºC).
  • They tend to hibernate if the water temperature drops too much.

5. Catfish

Catfish is another highly durable species. These fish can live through different water temperatures, changes in pH, and swings in dissolved oxygen. These benefits make catfish another excellent choice for beginners in aquaponics.

Advantages of Catfish

  • They can live with other fish of all sizes.
  • They have tasty meat.
  • They can eat all kinds of food, including plants, small fish, and insects.
  • They are resistant to diseases.

Disadvantages of Catfish

  • Since catfish do not have scales, they need to be handled very delicately. 
  • Catfish prefer warmer water, although they can survive in temperatures as low as 50 ºF (10 ºC).

6. Murray Cod

Murray cod is an excellent species for someone with previous experience in aquaponics. Although they require some care, they present more advantages over other fish species. 

A real expert who can put in the time to look after them will benefit greatly from introducing murray cod to their aquaponics system!

Advantages of Murray Cod

  • They grow very quickly and are ready to be harvested in as few as 12 months.
  • They have a very large ideal temperature range between 45 and 75 ºF (7.22 to 23.89 ºC).
  • They can live up to 50 years if properly cared for!

Disadvantages of Murray Cod

  • They will eat smaller fish than them and can even eat other fish of the same species.
  • They are very hungry, so you will have to feed them a lot to prevent them from eating other fish.
  • Bacterial and fungal infections can be common. 

7. Goldfish

If you are not planning on eating the fish in your aquaponics system, then you can consider ornamental fish like goldfish. Although they are not edible, they pose some worthwhile benefits over edible fish: their ability to thrive in polluted water.

Advantages of Goldfish

  • They can survive in low-quality water and a wide range of temperatures.
  • They grow to full size in just 12 months. 
  • They produce helpful by-products for your plants.
  • Their beautiful colors make them a pretty species of fish to look at!

Disadvantages of Goldfish

  • Goldfish are not edible, so they will be strictly decorative.
  • You cannot mix them with other species of fish.

8. Crappie

Crappies are another excellent choice for an aquaponics system. While there are two types of crappies (black and white), they are both equally sturdy and can withstand a wide range of water temperatures.

Advantages of Crappie

  • They can thrive in water temperatures between 55 and 80 ºF (12.77 and 26.66 ºC).
  • They are edible.

Disadvantages of Crappie

  • It can take up to 4 years to grow large enough to harvest.
  • It will be hard to keep with other fish as they tend to eat all the food.
  • They have a strict water pH requirement (6.0 to 7.5).

9. Koi

Koi is a type of carp fish that has recently become one of the most popular ornamental fish species. Having an aquaponics system full of koi fish is sure to create a zen environment. 

Although koi are not edible, there are many benefits to farming koi fish. Introducing them to your cold-water aquaponics system can be a great way to generate waste for your plants while also bringing good luck to your tank!

Advantages of Koi

  • Koi fish have an incredibly long lifespan of up to 60 years.
  • They are generally resistant to disease and parasites.
  • They are readily available in most parts of the world.
  • They can survive in a very wide range of temperatures, between 35 and 85°F (1.67 and 29.44 ºC)

Disadvantages of Koi

  • They are not edible.
  • They can produce too much waste, which means you will have to clean the tank frequently. 
  • They can grow very large, so you will need a sizable tank to fit them all. 

10. Bass

Bass is common all over the world. Regardless of where you are, you will most likely find a type of bass that will be a great addition to your aquaponics system.

Advantages of Bass

  • Bass are friendly fish that can cohabitate with other species.
  • Their ideal temperature ranges from 50 to 79 ºF (10 to 26.11 ºC)
  • Bass fish have a very diverse diet and can eat practically anything.
  • They are widely available both in stores and in the wild. You could even fish for them yourself if you have a lake nearby!
  • They are very delicious to eat!

Disadvantages of Bass

  • It can take up to 5 years to harvest.
  • They can be sensitive to potassium, so you will need to monitor your water.

11. Guppy

Also known as rainbow fish, guppies can be excellent inhabitants of your aquaponics tank. Although they are very small in size, a large guppy school will help you achieve your aquaponics goals. Just don’t plan on feasting on guppies any time soon! 

Advantages of Guppy

  • They are extremely easy to maintain.
  • They can survive in cold water, as low as 60 °F (15 °C) in temperature.
  • They can tolerate pH changes very well.

Disadvantages of Guppy

  • Although they can live in cold water, they thrive in warmer waters.
  • They cannot be eaten.

12. Bluegill

Bluegills are native to North America and have recently become popular in seafood restaurants. If you live in North America, you may be able to even catch bluegill in the wild and transfer them to your aquaponics tank. 

One of the downsides of bluegills is that they don’t tolerate too cold water. They will do well in water as low as 65 ºF (18.33 ºC), so don’t get them if you intend on having a very cold aquaponics tank. 

Advantages of Bluegill

  • They are social fish that can get along with other friendly species.
  • They can eat algae and other plants.
  • They are edible fish that can be harvested in as little as 12 months. 

Disadvantages of Bluegill

  • They cannot tolerate very cold water.
  • They need to eat constantly to grow fast, so plan on multiple feeding sessions per day.
  • They can eat other bluegill fish when mating.

13. Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass is a species of bass that is very common in North America, particularly in the South of the United States and Northern Mexico. If you live in any of these regions, you may be able to fish for some largemouth bass yourself! Otherwise, you should not have any trouble sourcing some from a store. 

Like other bass species, the largemouth is a very tasty fish to eat. If you’re looking for a cold-water aquaponics fish that you can also eat, you really can’t go wrong with any type of sea bass. 

Advantages of Largemouth Bass

  • Largemouth bass can live happily in a wide range of water temperatures. Although their ideal range is between 65 and 90 °F (18.33 to 32.22 ºC), they can swim happily in waters as cool as 40 ºF (4.44 ºC).
  • Largemouth bass are named appropriately, as they can eat a very diverse diet. From insects to pellets, largemouth bass are not fussy eaters. 
  • They grow depending on how much food they consume, so you can just increase their food intake if you want to speed up their growth.

Disadvantages of Largemouth Bass

  • Like all types of bass, largemouth bass are sensitive to potassium. You will need to closely monitor the potassium levels of your tank.
  • Bass are sensitive to light, so they will struggle in well-lit aquaponics systems.

14. Shrimp

If you’re thinking of an aquaponics system, shrimp might not be the first thing to come to mind. However, these little creatures can prove extremely profitable if that’s what you’re after. Shrimp is probably the most popular seafood in the United States, so finding a market for your shrimp should be no problem.

These crustaceans have an excellent turnover as they can be ready for harvest in as little as three to six months. However, you need to know what you’re doing before you commit to raising shrimp in your aquaponics system, as they can die quickly if not properly cared for.

Advantages of Shrimp

  • It grows very quickly and can be very profitable.
  • Minimal maintenance is necessary once tank and water requirements are taken care of.
  • It has a wide temperature range of 57 to 84°F (14 to 29 °C).

Disadvantages of Shrimp

  • They are not suitable for beginners.
  • Shrimp cannot share a tank with other fish as the fish may eat them.
  • Shrimp may get into deadly fights with each other.

15. Arctic Char

As their name suggests, arctic chars are extremely tolerant of cold temperatures. These salmonids are native to Alaska, so they will thrive in your cold-water aquaponics system if you live in an extremely cold region. 

Plus, as a relative of salmon, arctic chars are a complete food source and very tasty to eat! These can be a great option if you are looking to harvest and consume the fish of your aquaponics system yourself. 

Advantages of Arctic Char

  • They thrive in cold water.
  • They are very nutritious and tasty to eat.

Disadvantages of Arctic Char

  • They can take up to 15 years to fully mature.
  • They cannot be kept with other fish. 
  • They are likely difficult to source, depending on location.

16. Walleye

Also known as the yellow pickerel and the yellow pike, the walleye is a beautiful fish native to North America. The walleye can be a great choice for someone looking for an edible fish that can be kept with other types of fish. 

Advantages of Walleye

  • They thrive in cold water, ranging from 44 to 50 ºF (6.67 to 10 ºC).
  • They have edible meat.
  • They are very common in most of North America.
  • They can be kept with other non-aggressive fish.

Disadvantages of Walleye

  • They can take up to three years to harvest.
  • They can be fussy eaters and may have a hard time eating commercial fish food.

17. Hybrid Striped Bass

The hybrid striped bass is—as its name suggests—a blend of two different types of bass: the striped bass and the white bass. This hybrid was originally developed in South Carolina and has since become a very popular type of fish throughout the entire Southern United States. 

Like other bass types, the hybrid striped bass is edible and very tasty. If you plan on eating or selling your aquaponics fish after harvesting, then this is a great choice for you. They can also be kept with other non-aggressive fish, so you can combine these with another docile species for a varied aquaponics system.

Advantages of Hybrid Striped Bass

  • They can live in water temperatures ranging from 45 to 80 ºF (7.2 to 26 °C), although they prefer their water to be on the warmer side. 
  • They grow very fast and can mature in as little as two years.
  • They can share a tank with other friendly fish.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Striped Bass

  • They might be harder to source than other types of bass, depending on your location.
  • They prefer warmer water, so they may not thrive to their full potential in a cold-water aquaponics system.

18. Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass is yet another type of bass that can work wonderfully well in your cold-water aquaponics system. Unlike the hybrid striped bass mentioned above, the smallmouth should be very easy to find anywhere in North America as it is one of the most popular types of fish for fishing. 

One of the unique advantages of the smallmouth compared to other bass types is that it can do significantly better in colder waters. The largemouth bass, for example, will slow down significantly in cooler waters, whereas the smallmouth can handle the cooler temperatures. 

Advantages of Smallmouth Bass

  • They can live in cool waters with temperatures ranging between 40 and 65 ºF (4.44 ºC and 18.33 ºC).
  • They are very popular fish, particularly among fishermen.
  • They are tasty to eat.
  • They can live with other non-aggressive fish. 

Disadvantages of Smallmouth Bass

  • They can take up to five years to mature.
  • They can grow longer than one foot, so they might take up significant space in your tank.

19. Yabbies

If you’re unfamiliar, yabbies are crustaceans that look similar to lobsters. While yabbies are abundant in Australia, they are illegal in parts of the United States, so you should consult with your local authorities to see if you can legally raise yabbies in your area.

If you do live in a region where yabbies are allowed, these crustaceans can be a great way to get into cold-water aquaponics. They are very easy to raise and breed, so you won’t have difficulty keeping your yabbies alive. 

Yabbies are also edible, so you can have some sort of crawfish bake once they are ready to harvest! 

Advantages of Yabbies

  • They are very easy to raise.
  • They can thrive in temperatures ranging from 50 to 68 ºF (10 to 20 ºC).

Disadvantages of Yabbies

  • They are readily available in places like Australia but can be hard (or even impossible) to get in many areas in the US.
  • They reproduce very quickly, so you may end up with too many yabbies. 
  • They have a short lifespan of fewer than five years.

20. Sturgeon

Sturgeons are an extremely versatile family of fish, with 26 different variants that can live in many different habitats. These ancient fish have been around for about 200 million years, which shows how durable and adaptable they can be. 

If you’re looking for a sturdy fish that is not too hard to keep, then sturgeons can be a great choice for you. They can even grow into giant fish, measuring well over 12 feet (3 meters) in length. Be prepared for large fish if you’re looking to raise sturgeons!

Advantages of Sturgeons

  • They are very easy to raise.
  • Sturgeons can live in a very wide range of water temperatures, from as low as 37 ºF to as warm as 68 ºF (3 to 20 ºC).
  • They can grow very large, if desired.
  • They are edible.
  • They can be kept with other friendly fish.

Disadvantages of Sturgeons

  • Sturgeons can grow too big for an aquaponics tank, weighing well over 1,500 pounds (680kg). 
  • They can take between five and seven years to be ready for harvest.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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