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Best Fish For Cold Water Aquaponics

Best Fish For Cold Water Aquaponics

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Winter season can be a problem for many aquaponic growers, especially those who have outdoor setups. And if you live in an area that experiences multi-seasonal frigid temperatures, pursuing an outdoor aquaponics project may be problematic if you don’t plan ahead. Thus, selecting the best fish – particularly those that can thrive in the cold – can help you have a successful system. So what are some of the best fish for cold water aquaponics?

Coldwater fish do well in low temperatures and can live even without heaters. The best ones you can add to your aquaponics system are species belonging to the following fish families:

  1. Trout Family (Rainbow, brook, brown)
  2. Carp Family (common carp, goldfish, koi)
  3. Salmon varieties

This article will discuss the different fish species suitable for cold water aquaponics.

Aquaponics In Cold Temperatures

Most fish thrive in a tropical environment, making warm water fish a more convenient choice for aquaponics. But that’s not to say that people who live in cold regions cannot practice this sustainable farming method. 

Aquaponics can be done even in low temperatures, and the key to its success is choosing the right fish and crops to grow. Ideally, you would want ones that enjoy cold water as they cannot tolerate environments that most fish tend to survive in. Depending on the species, these fish can do well in less than 50 deg F.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cold Water Aquaponics

The best thing about having cold water-loving fish in your tanks is that there is no need for extra equipment such as heaters when you move your system indoors. After all, the fish will be happy in the cold. When there is no need for a heater, you can significantly save money on your electricity.

However, the real concern is when the weather is freezing. Once that happens, your fish will not only become sluggish, but your plants are also expected to experience stunted or failed growth. Not to mention, your pipes could freeze. You may need heaters to bump up the temperature a bit to an acceptable range and install pipe insulation.

You may also have limited options of plants to cultivate or fish to raise. But it will be a bonus if you cultivate leafy greens, such as  Swiss chard, Kale, Sage, and Lettuce ( particularly the winter-hardy varieties) since they love the cold.

Despite the downsides, aquaponics in cold water has been done successfully. It may not be recommended for you to farm one of the easiest and most common fish – tilapia when in cold climates. However, if you go for the fish that are suitable for your climate (discussed in the next section), you can reap the benefits of growing fresh crops all year.

Best Fish For Cold Water Temperatures

Raising cold water fish in aquaponics systems

Below are some of the fish you can keep in a cold water aquaponics system, even without heaters. Coldwater fish may not die if there’s a slight increase in the temperature, but it won’t be good for them once they are exposed to above 75 deg F for longer periods.

Keep in mind that cold water refers to temperatures 68 and below, and some of the best fish species that survive in that range, include:

  • Trout
  • Carp Family
  • Salmon 


Trout is the most talked-about fish when it comes to cold water systems. That is because they need an ideal temperature range of 56 deg to 62 deg F for optimum growth. But if you’re on the lower side, they can still do well around 38 deg F.

Not only are they perfect for cold climates, but they are also prized for their delicious meat. Furthermore, they tend to grow fast and are generally not fussy. If you have to add trout to your system, experts recommend choosing rainbow trout.

For more information on caring for trout, click here.


The carp family of fish includes the common carp, and the popular ornamental fish, koi and goldfish. These fish may do well in really cold temperatures such as early or below 60s, but they go in hibernation. At this time, it’s best not to overfeed them and make sure your tank waters don’t get frozen


Salmon is the most popular farmed fish for cold waters. Naturally, they love fresh waters that are between 55 and 65 deg F. Keeping salmon lets you harvest fish meat valued for its taste. They are a favorite since there are just so many healthy and tasty dishes you can prepare with their meat.

To raise salmon aquaponically, check out this guide.

Tips To Help Your Aquaponics System In Winter

Setting up an aquaponics system in cold climates and in winter can be intimidating for many. But it doesn’t have to be. Below are some tips you can consider:

  • Shut down your aquaponics system – When harsh temperatures set in, you may want to stop your system altogether and wait once the season or weather permits. You may not get to harvest plants and fish, but you do get to save on your utility bill and eliminate any worries. 
  • Do the fish switch – During summer or warm days, opt to raise warm water-loving fish like tilapia and harvest all of them once temperatures start to dip. In the fall, you may need to purchase a more expensive, more mature stock that loves the cold water, which you will also eventually harvest once temperatures start to rise.
  • Take your system inside – If it gets too cold outside, you may want to move your setup indoors. With the room temperature, your fish will still get to enjoy the water, even without heaters.

Conclusion: The Best Fish For Cold Water Aquaponics

Aquaponics can be challenging when temperatures reach extremes. However, if you choose the right components for your system, you should have minimal issues. One of the components to consider is the type of fish to raise.

In a cold environment, it’s recommended to raise fish that tolerate the cold. Paying attention to their needs, particularly the optimum temperature requirement, helps them perform their roles as nutrient producers for plants efficiently. Otherwise, you can choose aquaponic fish that can survive both cold and warm environments, but with the need for equipment such as heaters.

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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