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5 Best Fish For Desktop Aquaponics (Ultimate Guide)

The Best Fish For Desktop Aquaponics

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Limited space shouldn’t prevent you from building an aquaponics system. In fact, aquaponics is even versatile enough that if you are looking to simply grow a small and easily manageable edible plant such as an herb, you can find a small system that can fit perfectly on a desk or table. Desktop aquaponics is the perfect solution for people who want to practice this method of growing plants and raising fish but lack the room for a bigger backyard system. If you want to go this route, you need to know some of the best fish for desktop aquaponics.

Unlike standard aquaponics, desktop aquaponics doesn’t use edible fish since there’s no room for growth. In this particular system, the best fish species are rather small even when they reach maturity. Therefore, the following species of fish are best for a desktop system:

  1. Fancy Guppy
  2. Betta
  3. Tetras
  4. Dwarf Gourami
  5. Pencilfish

In this article, we will discuss the reasons desktop aquaponics might be the best choice for you. We will also cover the different species of fish you can keep using this system and recommendations for desktop aquariums.

Why You Should Have Desktop Aquaponics System

Why You Should Have Desktop Aquaponics System

Having an aquarium adds beauty to a living space. But when you have a desktop aquaponics system, you’re doing more than just adding to a room’s aesthetics. You’re also growing plants you can use in your kitchen. 

Besides beautification and plant growing, here are some reasons you should have a desktop aquaponics system:

  • Ethical Reasons
  • Educational Purposes
  • Minimal monetary investment
  • Perfect For Beginners

Ethical Reasons

If you don’t like to raise food fish because you’re vegan or vegetarian but still want to grow your own food sustainably, a desktop aquaponics system will suffice. You may have limited options when it comes to the type of plants to grow, but herbs will do best in this kind of setup.


A small aquaponics setup can easily be placed on a tabletop, which can be very educational when used in a classroom setting. If you have kids, they will be fascinated by the sight of fish swimming around and plants growing above them. It lets them see how the natural environment works.

Minimal Monetary Investment

Unlike the standard aquaponics system, you don’t need to invest a lot of money on desktop aquaponics since you’ll only have small tanks. A recommended tank size for small fish is a 5-gallon tank. 

You also get to keep gorgeous-looking fish that are generally inexpensive. In addition, since you only have a mini system, maintenance of the whole setup won’t be costly. 

Perfect For Beginners

If you are a beginner who wants to try a hand at aquaponics but is cautious about a bigger setup, then a desktop system will be perfect. Fish used in these systems are generally not fussy, and you don’t need much extra equipment to run your system.

In the case of bettas, they can easily be housed in mason jars, giving you lovely decor as well as a functional mason jar aquaponics system. To read more about this method, click here.

The Best Tank Size For Desktop Aquaponics

Just because a desktop aquaponics system fits on a desktop doesn’t mean you need to have a small tank size. Depending on how many fish you want to keep, note that a decent tank should be at least 5 gallons. 

For bettas, a single fish should have at least 3 gallons all to itself, although 5 gallons is still better. Many hobbyists have used betta in mason jar aquaponics. If you want to try this system, read more about it here.

For a fancier setup, you would want to go for an aquaponics kit ideal for a desktop. Check out the following recommendations:



ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Indoor Garden System with LED Light Upgrade

AquaSprouts Garden

Back to the Roots Water Garden, Self-Cleaning Fish Tank That Grows Food, Mini Aquaponic Ecosystem

Springworks Microfarm Aquaponic Garden

Choosing The Best Fish For Desktop Aquaponics

As with any kind of system, choosing the right fish will determine the success of your aquaponics setup. For desktop aquaponics, fish are small, with a maximum size of around 3.5 inches when they reach maturity. 

You can choose from schooling fish or a solitary fish. Below is a list of the best fish for desktop aquaponics:

  • Fancy Guppy
  • Betta
  • Tetras
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Pencilfish

Fancy Guppy

The gorgeous, colorful fancy guppies are popular choices for small tanks. And it will definitely be perfect for your desktop aquaponics. These fish come in a variety of bright colors and can grow to two inches long. They are also adaptable and can tolerate different environmental conditions.


Bettas are also among the most popular fish choices for small tanks, which also do well in a mason jar aquaponics system. They are the great beginner fish since they’re not fussy and don’t require heavy maintenance. 

If you want to grow simple herbs like basil, then a betta – which is better off living alone in its own tank – will be an excellent choice.


Tetras come in different varieties, and they can thrive well in a smaller tank of at least 5 gallons. They are schooling fish, so it’s fun to see them swimming around while helping your plants grow. The most popular tetra species for aquariums are neon tetras.

Neons particularly like their waters clean since they can be sensitive to water quality. You can have a freshwater test kit ready to monitor your water conditions regularly.



Got good pH?

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gouramis should be placed in a tank size that’s five gallons or more – and nothing less. These fish can breathe the air above the water, making them more tolerable of your tank if the oxygen levels decrease. Still, they do need to have clean, warm water.

While dwarf gouramis can have tankmates, be sure to choose ones that won’t trigger its aggressiveness. Examples are brightly colored fish, which could threaten the male and make it aggressive.


Pencilfish is another fun fish to have in your desktop aquaponics system. They’re a no-fuss fish since you can easily meet their tank requirements. They love hiding, so tank decor, such as driftwood or other live plants should be provided.

Pencilfish are also sensitive to the nitrate levels in the tank. For this reason, you may want to change your water frequently.

Overview of Fish Requirements

The table below summarizes the requirements of each fish in order to thrive in your aquaponics setup:

Fish Type pH Temperature  Diet/Feed
Fancy Guppy 5.5-8.0  64-82° F Omnivores ( flakes, micro-pellets, brine shrimp, or freeze-dried bloodworms
Betta 6.0 to 8.0 Between 75° and 86°F Carnivores (pellets,brine shrimp, freeze dried bloodworms)
Tetras 6.8 to 7.8 Between 75° and 80° F Omnivorous (flakes, freeze dried bloodworms, brine shrimp)
Dwarf Gourami 6.0 to 7.5 72 to 82 F Omnivore, but prefers algae and insects
Pencilfish Between 5.5 and 7.0 72°F to 82°F Omnivore (a variety of fresh and frozen foods)


Desktop aquaponics is the best solution for anyone who has limited space but still wants to grow plants and raise fish together. Besides having a functional food-growing system, you also get to have decor that will liven up a room.

When selecting the best fish for desktop aquaponics, keep in mind that smaller, ornamental fish, rather than edible fish will suit this type of system. Regardless of the fish size, it is still essential to meet their individual needs so you can have a thriving mini aquaponics system.

The Campbells love finding sustainable and fun ways to increase their independence from traditional brick and motor supermarkets. Aquaponics provides a full lifecycle food source for families and a great hobby. #aquaponicslifestyle

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