Fish Food in Aquaponics Systems

Fish food is essential to proper nutrition not only for the fish but also for the plants. It is because fish food becomes fish waste, which is converted by the beneficial bacteria into nutrients that feed the plants.

Fish feed needs to fulfill both the fish and plants' nutritional requirements. Hence, feeding fish with the right food in appropriate amounts is essential to have a balanced and successful aquaponics system.

This article discusses the different fish food available for aquaponics systems, the factors to consider when choosing fish food, and provides tips on feeding your aquaponics fish. 

Guide to the Best Fish Food in Aquaponics

The Importance of Selecting the Right Fish Food for Aquaponics

Healthy fish produce waste that is converted by the beneficial bacteria into nutrients for the plants to grow. Therefore, the right fish food ensures the health of the fish and plants and contributes to the aquaponics system's overall success.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Fish Food

Here are the important factors to consider when choosing fish food:

1. Fish species: Different fish species have different nutritional requirements. Feeding your fish with fish food that meets their specific nutritional requirements is essential, as it can affect both fish and plants and the success of your aquaponics system.

2. Nutritional requirements: Fish requires a diet that is balanced and contains the necessary nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. When selecting fish food, consider the nutritional content and ensure that it meets the dietary needs of your fish species.

3. Size and shape of pellets: The size and shape of pellets matter as it affects the way fish consume the food. For instance, small fish may not eat large pellets, and some require sinking pellets to feed at the bottom of the tank.

4. Protein and fat content: Protein and fat are crucial for the growth and maintenance of fish. The protein and fat content of fish food should be appropriate for the fish species in your aquaponics system. For example, carnivorous fish require a higher protein diet than herbivorous fish.

5. Organic vs. Synthetic: Fish food is available in organic and synthetic options. Organic fish food is made from natural ingredients, while synthetic fish food is made from artificial ingredients. Some people prefer organic fish food for their aquaponics system as they believe it is more natural and healthier for the fish and plants. However, organic and synthetic options can provide the necessary nutrients for fish in an aquaponics system.

The Basic Components and Nutrition of Aquaponics Fish Food

In aquaponics, proper fish nutrition and care is essential because the fish feed has to fulfill both the fish and plants' nutritional needs. Your fish will have slower growth, reduced breeding success, and low disease resistance without adequate nutrition.

Fish require a balanced diet and should regularly be fed healthy foods that meet their nutritional needs to produce enough waste for the plants and keep the overall health of the tank at a high level.

1. Protein: Protein is an essential component of building fish mass. Younger fish require a rich protein diet to grow at an optimal level during their grow-out stage. 

2. Fish Oil: Fish oil is a common component of fish feeds. There are two types of fish oil omega-3, and omega-6 and both of these fish oil are beneficial to fish.

3. Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the source of energy for fish. Carbohydrates consist mainly of starch and sugar, which help bind the feed together to make a pellet. 

4. Lipids: Lipids provide energy and essential fatty acids necessary for the fish's growth and other biological functions. Fats also play a crucial role in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and securing the production of hormones. Fatty acid deficiency in fish can cause reduced growth and limited reproductive efficiency.

5. Vitamins and minerals: These are necessary for fish health and growth. Vitamins are the organic molecules synthesized by plants that are important for the development and immune system functions. Minerals are required for the fish to synthesize their body components and cellular structures.




Aquaponics Fish Food

Types of Fish Food for Aquaponics

Below are the most common types of fish food for aquaponics that are available in the market.

1. Pellets

Pellets are the most commonly used fish food in aquaponics. They are easy to store, transport, and distribute to fish, making them convenient. Pellets usually sink in the water and come in different sizes and shapes, and some are specially formulated for specific fish species. They are also available in different protein and fat content, which makes them a versatile option for feeding fish.

2. Flakes

Fish flakes are another popular option for feeding fish. They are made by crushing and drying fish food ingredients into small, thin flakes. Flakes are easy to digest, making them suitable for fish with small mouths. However, they can quickly disintegrate in water, leading to uneaten food particles accumulating in the aquaponics system.

3. Live Food

The common source of live food for aquaponics systems are worms, brine shrimp, and insects. Live food is an excellent source of nutrition for fish as they are rich in protein and other essential nutrients, which makes them an ideal supplement to fish diets. However, live food can be challenging to store, transport, and distribute, making them less convenient than other fish food options.

4. Alternative Fish Food

Alternative fish food is ideal if you have a small aquaponic system. If you choose to feed your aquaponics fish with alternative food, ensure you give the right amount of nutrients needed for fish growth. The alternative fish food for aquaponics systems is worms, insects, moringa, duckweed, Azolla, aquatic plants, and vegetables such as lettuce, peas, and other leftover vegetables. 

Duckweed in Aquaponics

How Much to Feed Your Fish

When determining how much to feed your fish, start with a small amount and observe their behavior. If they consume their food quickly, you can increase the amount slightly, but make sure not to overfeed them. If you notice leftover food in the tank, you may feed them too much. Adjust the amount of food based on the behavior and appetite of your fish.

Tips for Feeding Your Aquaponics Fish 

  1. Your fish food should be adapted to the size and mouth of your fish. Fingerlings have smaller mouths, so feed them with small pellets or flakes. Big fish will eat bigger fish food. 
  2. Feeding fish two or three times a day. 
  3. Ensure not to overfeed your fish by feeding them what they can consume for five minutes. 
  4. After feeding, wait for another five minutes and remove any leftover fish food immediately, as this can affect the water quality. 
  5. Fish usually eat 1-2% of their body weight per day.
  6. Do not feed your fish when they are stressed or sick.
  7. Regularly check the quality of the water.
  8. Observe your fish behavior while feeding to see if there are changes in the fish behavior. 
  9. Keep in mind the fish to plant ratio to ensure your plants receive the right amount of nutrients.


Feeding your fish with high-quality food benefits the fish and the plants, especially if you plan to harvest your fish for consumption. This is why providing your fish with the right food suitable for their species is essential. 

You can feed your fish with commercial fish food, alternative food, or live food. Your choice will depend on your budget and the availability of the fish food in your location. Just ensure that your choice of fish food meets the nutritional requirements required by the fish and plants for healthy growth. Thank you for reading our article; read our complete guide to fish feeding for more information on fish health in aquaponics.

1 Response

Erik Van Der Wielen

Erik Van Der Wielen

March 16, 2022

We are setting up an aquaponics system for a handicapped school in Vietnam. Someone designed it but left the country. We have now set up the system with the help of Google and sites like this. We are looking into stocking the fish tanks with Telapia, how many fish could we put into a IBC ? We have 3 of them. The growbeds are 4 X 1.5x 0.5 and there are 3 of them. We are using clay pellets as grow medium with a syphon system. We have 2 IBCs as a sump with a pump with an automatic cut out system when water level is low. I would like to know more about pH monitors and other tests that must be done on the water before we can add the fish. Thanks regards Erik

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