How to Choose the Right Fish Tank for Aquaponics

Choosing the right fish tank is a critical step in setting up a successful aquaponics system. The fish tank not only serves as the habitat for your aquatic life but also plays a vital role in maintaining the overall health and efficiency of the system. An appropriately sized and well-designed tank ensures stable water conditions, supports the well-being of your fish, and facilitates efficient nutrient exchange for your plants. The right tank can also make maintenance easier and help prevent common issues, such as water quality problems and fish stress.

In this blog, we will guide you through the process of selecting the right fish tank for your aquaponics setup. Whether you're a beginner or looking to upgrade your current system, understanding the different options available and their specific benefits will help you make an informed decision.

The Role of the Fish Tank in Aquaponics Systems

Choosing the right fish tank is crucial because it affects water quality, fish health, and nutrient availability for plants. Below are the role fish tanks play in aquaponics systems.

  1. Habitat for Fish: Fish tanks provides a controlled environment for the fish to live and grow. 
  2. Source of Nutrients: Fish waste, primarily in the form of ammonia, is broken down by bacteria into nitrites and then nitrates, which are essential nutrients for plant growth.
  3. Water Reservoir: Acts as the main reservoir of water for the entire system which ensures a stable and continuous supply for both the fish and the plants
Aquaponics Fish Tank

Factors to Consider When Choosing An Aquaponics Fish Tank

1. Size and Volume

The size of your fish tank is crucial as it directly influences the health and growth of your fish. Different fish species have varying space requirements. That is why it is important to choose a fish tank that is the right size for the fish species you are planning to raise.

2. Material

  • Pros and Cons of Common Fish Tank Materials:
    • Glass:
      • Pros: Clear visibility, does not scratch easily, long-lasting.
      • Cons: Heavier and more fragile, can crack or shatter upon impact.
    • Acrylic:
      • Pros: Lightweight, strong, less prone to shattering, can be molded into various shapes.
      • Cons: Can scratch more easily than glass, often more expensive.
    • Plastic:
      • Pros: Lightweight, durable, inexpensive, good for smaller setups.
      • Cons: Can become brittle over time, may leach chemicals into the water if not food-grade.
    • Fiberglass:
      • Pros: Extremely durable, resistant to impact, can be custom-made to large sizes.
      • Cons: Generally more expensive, can be less aesthetically pleasing.
  • Durability and Safety Considerations: Ensure the material is non-toxic and safe for aquatic life. Durability is also key to preventing leaks and structural failures. Consider the tank's placement and potential exposure to physical impacts when choosing the material.

3. Shape and Design

The shape of the tank can influence water circulation and the health of the fish. Here are the common shape of fish tanks used in aquaponics systems.

  • Rectangular Tanks: Common and easy to place against walls, providing good water circulation and easier access for maintenance.
  • Round Tanks: Promote better water circulation with fewer dead spots where debris can accumulate. Ideal for larger setups.
  • Custom Shapes: Can be designed to fit specific spaces or aesthetic preferences but might require more complex maintenance and circulation management.

4. Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular maintenance is crucial for a healthy aquaponics system. Evaluate how easy it is to access and clean the tank. Look for tanks with features like drain valves, access hatches, and removable lids to simplify cleaning and maintenance tasks. Additionally, consider the ease of repairing or replacing components should the need arise.

5. Durability

Your fish tank should be built to withstand the test of time. Consider the quality and thickness of the tank's materials and its resistance to corrosion and wear. A durable tank will serve you well for many years, reducing the need for replacements.

6.Cost and Budget

Consider the initial cost of the tank, as well as the long-term costs for maintenance and potential repairs. Quality should not be compromised for cost savings, as this can lead to higher expenses in the long run because of frequent replacements or system failures.

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

Types of Fish Tanks for Aquaponics Systems

1. Repurposed Tanks

One of the most cost-effective ways to set up an aquaponics system is by repurposing existing tanks or containers. These can include anything from large storage bins, old bathtubs, and barrels to livestock watering troughs.

  • Advantages: Repurposing containers is an excellent way to save money, as these items are often cheaper than purchasing new tanks. It also supports sustainability by reducing waste and reusing materials.
  • Considerations: Ensure that any repurposed container is food-grade and has not previously held harmful chemicals. Containers should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before use. Additionally, the container must be structurally sound to hold water and support the weight of the fish and water volume.
  • Cost-Effectiveness and Environmental Benefits: Repurposing tanks minimizes the environmental impact of your aquaponics system by reducing the need for new manufacturing. It also allows for creative solutions and can be particularly advantageous for those on a tight budget or those who enjoy DIY projects.
Repurpose Fish Tank for Aquaponics

2. Commercial Aquaponics Tanks

Commercially available aquaponics tanks are designed with the specific needs of aquaponic systems in mind. These tanks often come with features that enhance their functionality and ease of use.

  • Advantages: These tanks are designed for optimal water circulation, ease of cleaning, and durability. They often come with integrated plumbing and filtration systems, which can simplify the setup process. Some may also have built-in features like viewing windows, which can be helpful for monitoring fish health and water conditions.
  • Considerations: Commercial tanks can be more expensive than repurposed or DIY options. However, their specialized design can save time and effort in the long run, potentially making them a worthwhile investment for serious aquaponic gardeners.
Commercial Fish Tank for Aquaponics

3. DIY Fish Tanks

For those with a knack for DIY projects, building a fish tank from scratch can be a rewarding and cost-effective option. Building your own fish tank allows for complete customization to fit specific your space requirements and aesthetic preferences.Additionally, DIY tanks can be constructed from a variety of materials, such as wood framed with waterproof liners, which might not be available in commercial options

  • Advantages: Custom-built tanks can be tailored to your exact specifications, including size, shape, and features. This level of customization is ideal for unique spaces or specialized system requirements..
  • Considerations: Building a tank requires a certain level of skill and understanding of materials and construction techniques. It's essential to ensure that the tank is watertight, durable, and safe for fish. DIY projects can also be time-consuming and may require more frequent maintenance compared to professionally designed tanks.
DIY Fish Tank for Aquaponics

Specific Tank Requirements for Each Fish Species

Different fish species have specific requirements regarding water temperature, pH levels, tank size, and other environmental factors:

1.  Tilapia:

  • Optimal Conditions:Water temperature between 72-86°F (22-30°C), pH range of 6.5-9.0.
  • Tank Features: Requires good aeration and filtration due to their high metabolic rate and waste production.

2.  Catfish:

  • Optimal Conditions: Water temperature between 75-85°F (24-29°C), pH range of 6.5-8.0.
  • Tank Features: Prefer larger, deeper tanks with hiding places; require robust filtration to handle waste.

3. Goldfish:

  • Optimal Conditions:Water temperature between 65-75°F (18-24°C), pH range of 7.0-8.4.
  • Tank Features: Suitable for smaller tanks; need good filtration and regular water changes due to high waste output.

4. Trout:

  • Optimal Conditions: Water temperature between 50-60°F (10-16°C), pH range of 6.5-8.0.
  • Tank Features: Require highly oxygenated water and consistent low temperatures; prefer flowing water conditions.


  • Optimal Conditions: Water temperature between 59-77°F (15-25°C), pH range of 7.0-8.5.
  • Tank Features: Large tanks with strong filtration systems; need space to grow and swim freely.

6. Barramundi:

  • Optimal Conditions: Water temperature between 75-85°F (24-29°C), pH range of 6.5-8.0.
  • Tank Features: Requires larger tanks and good water quality management; sensitive to low oxygen levels.

Fish Stocking Density

Stocking density refers to the number of fish you can keep in a tank without causing stress or health issues. Proper stocking density is crucial for maintaining a healthy aquaponics system:

1. Calculating the Right Number of Fish for Your Tank Size:

  • A general guideline is to stock 1 inch of fish per gallon of water for smaller species. For larger species, such as tilapia, 1 pound of fish per 3-5 gallons of water is recommended.
  • Consider the adult size of the fish when calculating stocking density. Overstocking can lead to poor water quality, increased disease risk, and stunted fish growth.

2. Avoiding Overcrowding to Maintain a Healthy System:

  • Overcrowding can cause stress, aggression, and disease outbreaks among fish. It also puts additional strain on the filtration system which can lead to poor water quality and unhealthy conditions for both fish and plants.
  • Regularly monitor water parameters and fish behavior to ensure the environment remains conducive to their health. Adjust stocking densities if necessary to maintain optimal conditions.
  • Provide adequate space for fish to swim and exhibit natural behaviors. Include hiding spots and shelters to reduce stress and territorial disputes, especially in species like catfish that prefer secluded areas.

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. The 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.


Choosing the right fish tank is not merely a matter of housing your fish; it's a decision that influences the success of your aquaponics system. A well-suited fish tank contributes to water quality, supports fish health, promotes plant growth, and ensures the overall harmony of your ecosystem. So invest in the right fish tank for your aquaponics system and regularly monitor and maintain your system to create a thriving and sustainable environment for your fish and plants. 



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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