Aquaponics: Catfish vs Tilapia?

If you decided to set up an aquaponics system, most probably you have heard about catfish and tilapia. They are the fish species that are commonly known, if not the most known, among aquaponic growers worldwide. I have to admit, catfish and tilapia do really live up to the expectations.

However, many beginners tend to fall into a situation where they cannot decide whether to grow catfish or tilapia at the start of their aquaponic setup. In this article, I am going to make a Catfish vs Tilapia comparison.

Which is Fish is Better For Aquaponics?

Before going to discuss the pros and cons of both catfish and tilapia, we need to understand a crucial fact, both Catfish and Tilapia are great species for any beginner to start an aquaponic system. When it comes to finding out which is a better species, there is really no true winner.

Whether you are trying to grow one of them, or both species together, you are not going to encounter a lot of difficulties. However, there are certain facts about them that will help you make a well-informed decision when it comes to choosing which species suits you the best.

Can Catfish And Tilapia Live Together?

Catfish and Tilapia can live together easily without having to encounter any issues. However, you will have to make sure that both are at the same growth stage and have an overall equal size.

Both catfish and tilapia have the same living conditions. So, raising them in the same aquaponic tank will not be a difficult job to do. But in some aquaponic tanks, many incidents of catfish eating tilapia have occurred.

Incidents like this happen when the catfish has reached an excessively large growth stage where it can easily swallow any tilapia with a small enough size. In fact, some fish farms do use small Tilapia fish as high protein feed for the Catfish.

Of course, the last thing you would want to do is for half of your aquaponic tank’s population to feed on the other half. So, you must make sure

Of course, an aquaponic system where half of the fish population is feeding on the other half is the last thing you would want to have. So, you must make sure that both species are of the same size and growth stage. You might find several catfish growing at an excessive growth rate more than the rest of the population; these fish should be moved into a separate tank immediately to protect your precious Tilapia from getting eaten.

Now, let’s jump into the pros and cons of each one.

Catfish Pros In Aquaponics

Can Live In A Variety Of Temperatures

One of the many reasons that beginners love growing catfish is their ability to live under different temperatures easily. As a beginner, maintaining a steady temperature in your aquaponic tank might be intimidating in the first few months. It is common that the tank’s temperature will fluctuate several times during the day. Catfish will not be affected by these fluctuations. In fact, they can live at a temperature as low as 75°F.

Catfish Live Easily With Other Species

I know that you might get confused about the ability of catfish to live with other species, especially after what I have said about growing catfish and tilapia together. But in fact, Catfish are considered one of the most common fish species that can live easily with other fish. As long as both species are of the same size, there is nothing to worry about.

Provide Excellent Nutrition For Hydroponics

Catfish are known to be heavy waste producers and by heavy waste, I mean more nutrients are coming up to our hydroponic plants. However, this might be a double-ended sword, because it means that you will have to keep a close eye on the water quality.

Catfish Cons In Aquaponics

I don’t like name of this heading due to the fact that there are no critical cons when growing catfish in an aquaponics system. However, there are some issues that any grower must take into consideration.

Catfish Are Bottom Feeders

Most probably you are not surprised by this fact. Almost all growers know that catfish are bottom feeders. But they tend to turn a blind eye to what it actually means for a fish to be a bottom feeder. Raising a bottom feeders like catfish require an aquaponics tank that has more dimensions horizontally than vertically. The horizontally wide floor is crucial for the actual feeding process of catfish. This might raise some concerns for growers who only has limited area available.

Fastly Degraded Water Quality

As I have mentioned before, catfish are considered a heavy waste producing species. Although they can withstand a lot of hard living conditions, and water quality is among these conditions, you will have to do more frequent water changes and monitor the water pH on regular basis.

Tilapia Pros In Aquaponics

Tilapia has been used worldwide by countries to produce high protein food at relatively low cost.

Withstand Temperature Fluctuations

Just as Catfish species, Tilapia can easily withstand temperature fluctuations. They can live in a temperature as low as 55°F.

Surface Feeders

Unlike Catfish, Tilapia is a surface feeder. This means that we do not need a wide floor like the that needed by Catfish. You can throw the feeding pellets in the water and they will happily pick it either from the surface, or when the pellets submerge.

Heavy Algae Feeders

Of course, Tilapia and Catfish are well known to feed on algae. But, the appetite of Tilapia towards algae is beyond explanation. For decades, Tilapia has been used as an algae control method in many fish farms. If you have an aquaponic system that will be exposed to sunlight on daily basis, algae would be a huge headache, and there will be no more perfect solution other than Tilapia.

Tilapia Cons In Aquaponics

There are not really that much of disadvantage when growing Tilapia in aquaponics. However, I feel like every grower must be informed on the following topic.


Tilapia tends to reach the maturation stage earlier than other fish. Moreover, they have a relatively high rate of reproduction. When growing Tilapia at a small scale like aquaponics, this might be a huge concern. The overreprodution can critically stunt the fish growth in the system and will heavily affect the water quality.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Catfish a Dirty Fish? No, Catfsih is used as a clean and healthy protein source worldwide. However, there are many untrue myths about Catfish feeding on other fish waste products . This has led many people to believe that Catfish is a dirty fish which is completely false.

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