As you probably already know, aquaponics requires fish to operate, and these fish will create waste. This waste is then processed by bacteria in the water into a chemical form (nitrates) that the plants you’re growing will process.
This is a complimentary system where fish waste gets into plant food and some of the plants can be turned back into fish food. You can actually build a closed ecologically sustainable system using aquaponics.
Given the tremendous benefits aquaponics brings to the table, it’s very easy to assume that any fish would do. This is a mistake too many aquaponics hobbyists and even specialists and experts in the United States make and can lead to many problems down the line.
It’s important to know that when it comes to stocking the water system for an aquaponics setup, all fish are not created equal. If you are looking for a heavyweight fish that will not only do an amazing job creating waste in the water but also makes for great eating, you don’t have to look further than the tilapia.
That’s right! The African perch, also known as tilapia, is the aquaponics fish for the following reasons.
1. Suitable for Most US States
First of all, tilapia can tolerate a wide temperature range. This is a big deal because in many parts of the United States, it gets colder than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature level, tilapias die.
The good news is that there are many parts of the United States where the temperature is above 55 degrees. This wide temperature tolerance pretty much ensures that you can set up an aquaponics system in a huge area of the continental United States.
If you live in Hawaii, you don’t have anything to worry about because, generally speaking, the temperature doesn’t plunge below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. It’s a Hardy Fish
Another great reason tilapia should be your number one candidate for your aquaponics setup is that it’s a hardy fish. A lot of fish species are very vulnerable to disease. Many fish species are very sensitive to water temperature, water purity and other factors.
If you’re looking for a fish that can tolerate a wide range of adverse situations, the tilapia meets the criteria. In fact, many tilapias can live for a long time in low oxygen water. Try to do that with other fish species and you’re going to have a nasty case of dead fish on your hands.
3. Breeds Quickly
The third reason tilapia should be your number one choice for aquaponics is that it breeds quickly. Tilapias don’t need encouragement to breed as long as the temperature is right and there is a good balance between male and female tilapias, it will breed easily.
In fact, this is one of its advantages. It breeds so much that tilapias tend to get stunted in growth. One drawback to this species is that you cannot stock too many of them in one area; otherwise, they will stop growing.
Since they breed so quickly, don’t be surprised if you have many small tilapias in your aquaponics operation. This is why you need to be vigilant in ensuring that you use only a certain number of tilapias.
If your fish population exceeds that, you will need to remove the excess to preserve the size of the fish you’re cultivating.
4. They Grow Quickly
Tilapias also grow quickly. In only a few months, they can go from a fingerling to harvest size. This means that you can turn over crop after crop of tilapia to sell. Many large-scale aquaponics operations harvest several times a year.
5. They’re Not Picky Eaters
Finally, tilapias are not very picky when it comes to feed. In fact, in many tropical countries, tilapias are often viewed as “water pigs.” Just like pigs, they would eat trash, garbage and, yes, even human excrement dumped in water.
That’s how tolerant they are of different types of feed. This is why a lot of aquaponics operators located near industrial plants with a lot of biological byproducts like brewer’s grains love tilapia.
The 5 reasons mentioned in this article will show you why tilapias are ideal for an aquaponics system. This especially holds true if you’re just starting out with aquaponics because this breed of fish is highly adaptable. You can’t go wrong with it.