How to Choose the Right Fish Tank for Aquaponics

The fish tank is one of the most crucial components of an aquaponic system, as it provides the home for the fish to thrive and contribute to their overall health. This is why choosing the right fish tank is crucial for your aquaponics systems, as fish tanks affect the growth and health of the fish, the quality of the water, and the performance of the entire system.  This article will discuss the essential factors to consider when choosing the right fish tank for your aquaponics system and the maintenance required to keep your fish and plants healthy.

Aquaponics Fish Tank

Things to Consider in Choosing an Aquaponics Fish Tank Size

Choosing the right fish tank for an aquaponic system requires careful consideration of these important factors. 

1. Size and capacity of the tank: Your fish tank's size and capacity will depend on the number and species of fish you plan to keep. Some fish speciesgrow to large sizes. As a rule, select a tank that can hold at least 40 gallons of water. This fish tank's size will provide enough space for them to swim and grow without overcrowding the tank.

2. Tank Material: Ensure that your fish tank is made of durable material that is strong enough to withstand the weight of the water and the pressure of the fish. A sturdy and durable tank is crucial to avoid leaks or cracks that can damage the fish and the aquaponic system.

Material requirement for choosing your fish tank:

  • Waterproof- The fish tank should be waterproof. If you're opting for a used tank, check the leaks by filling up the tank with water, and use marine-grade silicone or rubber to seal if there are leaks.

  • Sturdy- Your fish tank must be strong enough to withstand the total weight of the water. It must also withstand the fish movement and the constant stress of water as it contracts and expands, depending on the environment's temperature.

  • Toxic-Free- It is essential that your fish tank does not comprise toxic material that could harm your fish or plants. Your fish tank should be manufactured with food-grade materials. If you use a used tank for your fish tank, ensure it is clean of toxic substances and does not contain any toxic substances before.

3. The shape of the tank: You can use any fish tank shape, but the most common shapes of fish tanks used in aquaponics systems are round or oval tanks and square or rectangular tanks. Round tanks with flat bottoms are preferred because they are more effective than rectangular-shaped fish tanks. 

Square-shaped tanks are acceptable, but they require regular solid waste removal. Rectangular fish tanks are commonly found in aquarium outlets but can also be built. IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container), or high-quality food-safe bulk shipping containers, are widely used square fish tanks.

Benefits of Using a Round or Oval Fish Tank:

  • A round tank allows the water to circulate evenly and transport solid wastes into the tank's center by centripetal force. 

  • It provides excellent water flow, providing fish with a current to swim against, increasing their health. 

  • Good water movement in the fish tank increases the surface area of the tank. The constant change in the surface water increases the rate of oxygen exchange. 

  • A round fish tank increases the fish's oxygen benefits and the nitrifying bacteria in your system and inhibits harmful bacteria that thrive in an anaerobic environment.

  • Fish can circulate easily in a round fish tank.

  • Solid wastes are suspended in the water and will not stick to the corners of the fish tank.

4. Location and space for the tank: Select a location that is convenient for maintenance, provides proper access to electricity and water, and is away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations.

Types of Fish Tanks for Aquaponics

The most common types of fish tanks used in aquaponics are the following:

1. Glass Tanks

Glass tanks are popular for small-scale or indoor aquaponic systems. They are transparent, allowing you to quickly monitor the fish and plants, and they don't scratch easily. The downside of glass fish tanks is they are fragile and can break if mishandled.

Glass tanks

2. Plastic Tanks

Plastic tanks are a cost-effective and durable option for aquaponic systems. Plastic fish tanks are lightweight, easy to clean, and resistant to scratches and cracks. However, they may not be as clear as glass tanks and may discolor over time due to sunlight exposure.

3. Rubbermaid Stock Tanks

Rubbermaid stock tanks are made of heavy-duty plastic and are designed for livestock watering. Rubbermaid fish tanks are sturdy, durable, and can hold a large volume of water, making them an excellent choice for larger aquaponic systems. However, they are not transparent, making monitoring the fish and plants challenging.

Rubbermaid stock tanks

4. IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) Totes

IBC totes are large, industrial-grade plastic containers commonly used for storing and transporting liquids. They are sturdy, durable, and can hold water. They are usually available at a lower cost than other types of fish tanks. However, like rubbermaid stock tanks, they are not transparent and can be difficult to clean.

IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) totes

Fish Tank Maintenance and Cleaning

Regular maintenance and cleaning are essential for the success of your aquaponic system. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when maintaining and cleaning your fish tank:

  1. Importance of regular maintenance: Regular maintenance is essential because it helps ensure that your fish and plants are healthy and thriving. This includes feeding your fish regularly, monitoring water temperature and quality, checking equipment for signs of wear or damage, and replacing or repairing equipment as needed.

  2. Cleaning the tank and equipment: Regular cleaning is necessary to maintain water quality in your fish tank. This includes removing any accumulated debris or waste, scrubbing the walls and bottom of the tank, and cleaning equipment, such as filters, pumps, and aeration systems.

  3. Water quality testing and monitoring: Testing the water quality regularly is essential to ensure that your fish and plants are healthy. Monitoring includes making sure that ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels are within their ideal range. There are several test kits available that can help you monitor water quality and make necessary adjustments.

Fish in Aquaponics Fish Tank

Fish Tank Cover and Shading

Fish do not need much light. That is why it is essential to have a cover on your fish tanks. The covers will also prevent fish from jumping out of the tank and prevent leaves or other materials from entering. The cover will also prevent predators such as cats and birds from attacking the fish. A fishing net will make a great cover, while agricultural shading nets work well in shading your fish tank. Shading your fish tank will prevent algal growth.

Over-cleaning can also be harmful to your aquaponic system. So clean your system when needed and avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaning agents that can harm the fish or plants. Also, avoid disturbing the biological balance of the system by cleaning or replacing equipment too frequently.


Whether you're an aquaponics beginner or an experienced grower, take the time to evaluate your fish tank and other equipment and make any necessary adjustments. By investing in the right equipment and regularly maintaining and cleaning your system, you can create a thriving and sustainable environment for your fish and plants. Start by researching and selecting the right fish tank for your needs and taking the necessary steps to maintain a thriving aquaponic system.

3 Responses

Dylan Walt

Dylan Walt

August 19, 2023

In a fish tank of 1000 gallons – I can grow up to 250 tilapia fish. How many vegetables do I need to grow in a raft type system in order to filter the water effectively. The tank is round with flat bottom. What vegetables are best for growing in these tanks (lettuce, basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers) ? Some systems have a pump although if I have a raft system with a round tank do I need a pump and if I do where it will be placed ?

Ken Wyatt

Ken Wyatt

April 29, 2023

Will tilapia reproduce in a fish tank or do I need to continue to purchase new stalk of tilapia?



July 27, 2021

Dear Sir.
Thanks for this excellent and easy to understand article; with a lot of technical information that are professionally simplified to be helpful for anyone with little or no previous knowledge about aquaponics.

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