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Caring for Bluegill in Aquaponics Systems

Caring For Bluegill In Aquaponics Systems

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When it comes to hardy fish for aquaponics, bluegill top the list of favorites to use. The bluegill’s ability to tolerate a wide range of temperatures and their delicious meat make them an excellent choice for home aquaponics gardeners who want to grow crops and raise fish sustainably. What’s even better is that caring for bluegill in aquaponics systems can be inexpensive and a great starter fish for beginners.

In this article, you will learn some valuable tips on how to raise bluegill in an aquaponics setup.

Why Raise Bluegill in Aquaponics Systems?

Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus ) belongs to a family of fish called the sunfish (Centrarchidae), which also includes largemouth bass and crappie, among others. They reside in the lakes, streams, and rivers of North America. 

Bluegill are generally considered among the easiest fish to raise in an aquaponics system, mostly because of their hardiness. They don’t require heaters to thrive, and they can grow well in either summer or winter. Another popular reason aquaponics gardeners prefer to raise bluegill is that they’re meaty or they have firmer meat. When you provide optimal environmental conditions, bluegill can thrive.

Different Bluegill Subspecies

There are three bluegill subspecies that are recognized, and they are the northern bluegill, coppernose, and a Southwest subspecies. The northern bluegill can be found in various freshwater bodies in all of North America, making it the most common subspecies. The coppernose bluegill can be found in Florida, but have also been distributed in private ponds. A subspecies found in the Southwest bears the same appearance as the northern subspecies, but only smaller in size.

Requirements for Caring for Bluegill in Aquaponics Systems

Below are some of the factors to consider when keeping bluegill in your aquaponics garden.

Stocking density 

A general rule of thumb, to prevent overstocking is to maintain a ratio of 1lb of bluegill per 10 gallons of water.

Tank size

Given the stocking density, it is acceptable to keep five fish in a 55-gallon tank for a simple home aquaponics system. Note that bluegill can reach nearly 12 inches and have an average weight of 1lb, so a bigger tank is ideal. Check out Amazon for some different tank options.

Water temperature

One advantage of keeping bluegill in an aquaponics system is the species’ adaptability to varying water temperatures. An ideal water temperature to maintain is between 65°F and 80°F, but the fish can also tolerate temperatures outside of this range. Despite their flexibility, bluegill should not be placed in hot water.


Bluegill usually enjoy the heat, but they won’t like it when exposed to direct sunlight.

pH Level

The optimum pH range for bluegill is 6.5 to 8.5.

Oxygen requirements

Bluegill require a minimum dissolved oxygen concentration of 5mg/L, but anything higher than that is ideal.

Fish diet/nutrient requirements

Bluegill are omnivorous with a normal diet consisting of plant seeds, aquatic vegetation, algae, insects, and insect larvae. Store-bought floating pellets, mainly containing fishmeal, are also an acceptable feed for bluegill.

Feeding frequency 

Ideally, you should feed bluegill a few times a day, allowing the fish to consume as much as they can in 10 seconds. Any leftover feed should be scooped up. You also need to take into consideration the time at which to feed. Most species in the sunfish family do not eat well on a hot day, so feeding is best done early in the morning or evening.

How to clean the tank 

Clean the sides of your tank with an algae scraper when you observe an increase in algae growth. When you need to change the water, only remove approximately 25% of it at a time. 

Common diseases 

Red sore disease is one of the most common diseases found in bluegill caused by Aeromonas hydrophila. When the disease is mild, you will observe red raised lesions on the tip of the dorsal fins. If it progresses, you will observe ulcers on their sides. Isolating the infected fish in a temporary tank and applying a three percent salt bath has been seen to be effective in treating this disease.

Aquaponics plants best suited for 

Bluegill are a great match for different kinds of aquaponic crops, which include grapes, raspberries, and spinach.

When to rotate fish in and out of the tank 

When your bluegill are ready for harvest, usually in approximately 12-16 months, make sure to restock the tank with 50-gram fingerlings.

Water filters 

Invest in a good and strong filtration system for your tank as bluegills tend to produce a lot of waste.

Can they be mixed with other breeds?

Bluegill can live with other types of fish without issues. It is a known fact that they can be mixed with catfish and goldfish. When placed together with Koi, bluegill will act as cleaners that help control algae growth.


Depending on where you live, bluegill spawning season occurs between April and September. Bluegill reach sexual maturity when they are a year-old and three inches long. A small female is able to lay about 12,000 eggs; larger ones can lay as many as 60,000. Substrates of sand or gravel in your tank will help the male build nests. 

Once the colorful male attracts the female by dancing around, the female then deposits the eggs into the nest. The male fertilizes it and guards it for up to a week. Once the eggs hatch into fry, they should be separated from the adults as bluegill tend to be cannibalistic toward their young.

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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