Do You Have To Feed The Fish In An Aquaponics System?

Do you have to feed the fish in an aquaponics system?

An aquaponics system is a sustainable, highly efficient form of food production. Combining aquaculture—the raising of fish in a contained environment—with hydroponic gardening, the system produces both edible fish and vegetables in one closed circuit. Unlike traditional aquaculture systems, fish are not hand-fed on a regular basis in an aquaponics system; instead, the fish’s waste provides nutrients for the plants.

The question of whether or not you have to feed the fish in an aquaponics system is not so easily answered since it depends on several factors such as what type of fish you have and how large your system is. This guide will explain in detail how to determine if you should be feeding your fish, and what types and amounts of food they need.

What is an Aquaponics System?

An aquaponics system is a form of aquaculture where fish, plants, and bacteria are housed in an integrated environment. The system uses the fish waste to provide nutrients for the plants and in turn, the plants filter and clean the water for the fish. This is a self-sustaining system, meaning the fish don’t need to be fed.

Let’s take a closer look at how an aquaponics system works:


An aquaponics system is an innovative method of food production using an integrated two-part closed-loop ecosystem. It utilizes aquaculture, or fish farming, with hydroponics— a method of growing vegetables and/or herbs without soil. The relationship between the two parts is a symbiotic one in which fish, or other aquatic animals, provide nutrients and nitrogen for hydroponically grown plants which in turn clean the water for the fish.

The basic components of an aquaponics system are:

  • A tank for rearing the fish;
  • Growing medium for the plants (which may or may not include soil) and growing beds that hold both the water and nutrient solution;
  • An aeration/filtration system;
  • Water pumps and tubing to transport the nutrient-rich wastewater from the tank to each grow bed; and
  • Drains to return clean filtered water back to the tank.

Each part works together in harmony to create an environment that can sustain healthy vegetables, herbs and aquatic animals simultaneously – making it unnecessary to feed them separately. Find more on Aquaponics Information.

Components of an Aquaponics System

An aquaponics system is a closed ecosystem that combines elements of traditional aquaculture and hydroponics to create a unique space for growing plants and fish together. In its simplest form, an aquaponics system includes the combination of a fish tank, growbeds, and water pumps.

The fish tank is typically filled with fish such as tilapia or trout which produce nitrogen-laden waste in their excretion. This waste is relatively harmless to the fish but can be damaging to aquatic plants if it accumulates in concentrations too high; therefore, the water from the Fish tank—known as nutrient-rich water—must first be treated to reduce extremely high levels of ammonia, nitrogen, and other compounds before it can be sent through the remainder of the Aquaponic system.

The growbeds are typically filled with an inert media for mechanical filtration such as gravel or clay pebbles. The nutrient-rich water from the Fish Tank then passes through this media where bacteria promote the conversion of Ammonia into nitrite then into nitrate – this process is known as Nitrification. The bacteria responsible for nitrification thrive brilliantly under optimal conditions within these inert media filter beds, creating nutrient solution that is perfect for plant uptake where essential nutrients are already present in balanced numbers at levels conveniently close to what terrestrial plants need for healthy growth!

The Nutrient Rich Water finally passes back out of Growbeds via gravity feed into a sump prior to being cycled up again with pumps returning clean nitrate rich water back up through the Fish Tank where it will start it’s cycle all over again – completing your Aquaponic loop!

Do you have to feed the fish in an aquaponics system?

Do Fish Need to be Fed in an Aquaponics System?

An Aquaponics system is a unique and efficient method of gardening that combines aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) together in one symbiotic environment. This system provides a mutually beneficial environment for both plants and fish, while also conserving resources and water.

While an aquaponics system is self-sustaining, one important question to consider is whether or not the fish must be fed. In this article, we will answer this question in detail.

Advantages of Not Feeding Fish

There may be advantages to not feeding the fish in an aquaponics system. The most important factor to consider is that because aquaponics is a system where fish, bacteria, and plants coexist, feed affects all three components of the system differently.

The first benefit of not feeding fish in an aquaponics system is that it can reduce the amount of waste produced. Feeding fish requires the adding of external nutrient sources which can lead to an accumulation of organic by-products like ammonia and uneaten particles on the bottom. Not feeding them can reduce this accumulation and unwanted buildup in the tank as well as decrease associated maintenance costs and labor.

Another advantage is improved water quality due to reduced nutrients in the water column. Unfed or insufficiently fed fish have a naturally low nitrogen output, which results in lower levels of nitrates and phosphates entering the water column from their wastes. This improved water quality means less frequent water changes are necessary which further reduces labor costs for maintaining systems over time.

Finally, not feeding allows for more control over nutrient concentration for plants since all nutrient inputs come from tank effluent rather than added feed sources. This allows farmers to customize nutrient content according to plant needs while ensuring consistent levels which are necessary for optimum growth rates and maximum yields.

Disadvantages of Not Feeding Fish

One of the benefits of an aquaponics system is that you don’t have to feed your fish. However, there are some disadvantages to not feeding your fish:

  • If you do not feed your fish, they will be deprived of essential nutrients and in turn produce lower quality waste which can result in poor plant growth.
  • If the fish are not regularly fed their digestive system will become sluggish and unable to properly process food or feed on their own. This can lead to an over-accumulation of waste in the water, leading to increased levels of nitrates and ammonia which are harmful for water temperature as well as reducing oxygen levels which is necessary for both plants and fish.
  • By not feeding your fish you won’t be able to monitor their health or detect any diseases or parasites because when a fish eats food it provides an opportunity for the aquarist to inspect its body for signs of ill health such as lesions or discolorations.
  • If a tank is overstocked with certain species due to insufficient dietary requirements they may start fighting with each other resulting destructive behaviors and injury which could decrease their lifespan permanently even after removing them from the tank.

In conclusion, it is important in an aquaponics system that you either feed your fish regularly or find alternative ways to provide them with essential nutrients such as cultivating edible microorganisms in media beds. As a result this will ensure that optimal conditions are maintained in the system leading to healthy growth of both plants and fish.


In conclusion, it is not a requirement to feed the fish in an aquaponics system. While fish certainly provide a great source of nutrients for plants, there are several other methods of providing necessary nutrients for plants that can be used in an aquaponics system. Nutrients can be found in the water itself, from bacterial breakdown of organic matter and from other sources such as compost or commercially-available nutrient solutions.

Depending on the type of aquaponics setup you have, and the plants chosen, any number of aquaponics systems can be maintained without having to feed the fish at all. Also checkout How Many Hours Of Light Do You Need For Aquaponics.

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