How to Choose the Right Fish Tank for Aquaponics

One crucial component of an aquaponics system is the fish tank. It's not just a container for fish; it's the heart of the entire operation. The choice of your fish tank can significantly impact the success of your system and the health of your fish and plants. The right fish tank offers the proper environment for your fish and ensures the effectiveness of nutrient cycling within the ecosystem.

Selecting the right aquaponics fish tank is more than just picking a container to house your fish; it's about creating a stable and thriving ecosystem. A well-suited fish tank will help maintain water quality, support fish health, and facilitate plant growth. At the same time, a poorly chosen tank can lead to water quality issues, stressed fish, and sluggish plant growth. In short, the choice of your fish tank can make or break your aquaponics venture.

In this article, we will walk you through the essential factors to consider when selecting a fish tank for your aquaponics system. We'll delve into the size, material, and shape of the tank, as each of these factors plays a vital role in the success of your setup.

The Role of the Fish Tank in Aquaponics Systems

Understanding the critical role of your aquaponics tank in your aquaponics system is the first step in appreciating why selecting the right tank is so vital. The size, material, and design of the tank directly affect the health of your fish and the success of your plant growth, making it a decision that should be made with care and consideration.

  1. Nutrient Source: The fish tank is where the nutrient cycle begins. Fish excrete waste, which contains ammonia and other compounds. These waste products serve as the primary nutrient source for the plants. Therefore, the size, health, and number of fish you can maintain depends on the capacity and quality of your fish tank.
  2. Water Quality Control: The fish tank's water quality is important. It must be maintained within specific parameters to ensure the well-being of the fish. The fish tank's design, filtration, and water volume directly influence the entire system's stability.
  3. Ecosystem Anchor: The fish tank anchors the aquaponics ecosystem. It is where the fish thrive, and their presence is not just for food production but also to maintain the balance of nutrients. If the fish tank is compromised in any way, it can disrupt the delicate harmony of the entire system.
Aquaponics Fish Tank

Factors to Consider When Choosing An Aquaponics Fish Tank

1.Size of the Fish Tank

The size of your aquaponic tank directly influences the amount of nutrients available to your plants. A larger tank can support more fish, leading to increased nutrient production. This can result in faster and more abundant plant growth. On the other hand, a smaller tank may limit nutrient availability, potentially slowing down plant growth. Consider the size of your grow bed and the types of plants you wish to cultivate when determining the appropriate tank size.

The size of your fish tank also dictates how many fish you can raise comfortably. Overcrowding can lead to stressed fish, poor water quality, and reduced growth rates. Adequate space ensures that fish have room to swim, grow, and thrive. Research the specific fish species you plan to raise to determine their space requirements and stocking densities.

2. Shape and Design

  • Space Considerations: The shape and dimensions of your fish tank should fit within the available space for your aquaponics system. Consider the layout of your grow bed, filtration equipment, and the overall footprint of your system. Rectangular or square tanks are often more space-efficient than round ones.
  • Design: Your fish tank's design can also impact your aquaponics system's aesthetics. Some aquaponics enthusiasts prefer tanks with clean lines and minimalistic designs, while others may opt for more ornate or custom-designed tanks that add to the visual appeal of their setup. Balance aesthetics with practicality to create a system that pleases both the eye and the plants.

3. Material of The Fish Tank

Fish tanks come in various materials, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here's a brief overview:

  • Glass: Glass tanks are durable and provide excellent clarity, allowing you to observe your fish easily. However, they are relatively heavy and can be prone to cracking or shattering if mishandled.
  • Acrylic: Acrylic tanks are lightweight and less prone to breakage than glass. They also offer good clarity but may scratch more easily. Be cautious with cleaning to avoid damaging the surface.
  • Plastic: Plastic tanks are lightweight and often more affordable. They are less fragile than glass or acrylic but may not provide the same optical clarity. Ensure that the plastic used is safe for aquatic life.
  • Fiberglass: Fiberglass tanks are durable and resistant to corrosion. They are commonly used for larger commercial aquaponics systems. However, they can be costly and may require professional installation.
  • Wood or Custom: Some aquaponics enthusiasts opt for custom-built wooden tanks. While these can be aesthetically pleasing, they are less common and require careful sealing to prevent water damage.

4. 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.

5. 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.

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 Location and Placement

A.Where to Place Your Fish Tank

1. Indoor vs. Outdoor Setups:

  • Indoor Setup: Placing your aquaponic tank indoors offers several advantages, including protection from extreme weather conditions and pests. It also allows for better climate control, making it easier to maintain stable water temperatures. However, indoor setups may require supplemental lighting for plant growth, and space constraints can limit the size of your system.
  • Outdoor Setup: Outdoor aquaponics systems benefit from natural sunlight, reducing the need for artificial lighting. They also offer the potential for larger systems due to the abundance of space. However, outdoor setups are susceptible to temperature fluctuations, pests, and the need for protection from harsh weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold. Choose the location wisely to maximize sunlight exposure and minimize potential risks.

2. Sunlight and Temperature Considerations:

  • Sunlight: If you opt for an outdoor setup, choose a location that receives adequate sunlight throughout the day. Consider the orientation and shading to prevent excessive heat buildup in the summer. Additionally, be mindful of seasonal changes in sunlight angles and adjust your setup as needed.
  • Temperature: Both indoor and outdoor systems require attention to temperature control. You can use heaters and fans to maintain the desired temperature range indoors. In outdoor setups, consider insulation for colder climates or shade structures for hotter climates. Greenhouse enclosures can provide a controlled environment for outdoor systems.

B.Structural Support and Stability

  • Structural Support: Your fish tank must be placed on a stable and level surface. The weight of water and equipment can be heavy, so ensure that the chosen location can support this load. Consider using concrete slabs, reinforced flooring, or sturdy outdoor foundations to provide adequate support.
  • Stability: Stability is crucial to prevent accidents and system failures. Check that the platform or surface is level in all directions to avoid tilting or stress on the tank. If your system is indoors, assess the floor's load-bearing capacity to avoid structural damage.
  • Access and Maintenance: Position your fish tank for easy access. You'll need to reach the tank for feeding, monitoring, and maintenance tasks. Ensure you have enough space around the tank to work comfortably without restrictions.
  • Proximity to Utilities: Consider the proximity to water and electrical sources. You'll need access to water for topping up the system and for potential emergency situations. If necessary, electrical outlets will be required for water pumps, aeration systems, and lighting.
  • Protection from Extreme Conditions: Plan for protection against extreme weather conditions in outdoor setups. Consider adding shade structures, windbreaks, or insulation to shield your system from excessive heat, cold, wind, or heavy rainfall.
  • Consider Aesthetics: While functionality is a priority, also consider the aesthetics of your setup. An attractive and well-designed aquaponics system can enhance the visual appeal of your indoor or outdoor space.

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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