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This really deals with multiple areas so not sure if it's better off in substrate, fish, or plants, or someplace else... I'm working on building a greenhouse currently that I will be running an aquaponics system in. I am trying to decide what kind of fish (edible) will work well in the AP system that I can breed myself so I'm not relying on outside sources to supply my fish stock after the first year or two... I plan to have two IBC totes in the greenhouse for fish tanks, one I believe is the larger (330 gal?) which has not been cut, so I plan to just cut a large flap in the top for access, the other is the smaller 275 gal and the top 10 inches or so has already been cut off so I will need to add some type of top to it.

In addition to the IBC tanks that will be part of the AP system I also have a 240 gallon display aquarium built into the wall of my family room in the house. It is currently saltwater but I am going to convert it to freshwater to use it as a breeding tank. I will keep some breeding fish in it year round and anything I am able to raise from the breeders I will move out to the AP system.

So my question is first, what should I raise? I am debating between the blue gill/sunfish family, yellow perch, tilapia or trout. I am not sure if trout will breed in an aquarium? The rest seem like they will breed given the right setup, so the next question is how should I aquascape? I want the 240 breeder tank to be a nice display, so I'm thinking plants, rocks, driftwood etc... I have read most fish like gravel bottoms to lay eggs in, but I want a substrate that will also grow plants nicely to help keep the display clean (these plants won't be for human consumption, whereas the greenhouse plants will be...) my best planted aquariums I had used miracle grow potting soil then capped it with gravel, but if the fish are digging in the gravel for bedding then the potting soil would not work well. I've seen some really awesome aquariums using Amazonian aqua soil for plants, but not sure if it will work well for the breeder tank... What would you suggest as a media for growing aquarium plants that the fish aren't going to make a huge mess of?
 

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I really doubt that you can get trout to breed in a home set up.

The others, maybe.

What temperature is the set up? This may play the biggest part in selecting your fish.

Once you have chosen the fish, ask: Will these fish destroy the plants? If yes, then do not plant the display/breeding tank.
If they will not destroy plants, then I would look into some plants that are native to the same area as the fish.

If the first goal is breeding, then select substrate to suit that purpose. Most aquatic plants will grow just fine in a wide range of substrates. You could even divide the tank, with a band of planting soil for the plants in the back 1/3 and gravel in the front.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I can set the aquarium at whatever temperature I need, although I would prefer not to heat it as much as I have to for my saltwater setup currently. I keep my thermostat in the house between 65 to 75 depending on the season, so ideally will be someplace in that range.

I'm wanting it to look as natural as possible... I'm debating if my best bet isn't to just start collecting 5 gal buckets full of dirt/gravel from local lakes while scuba diving... I'm not sure the legality of it though... But I can't think of an easier way to make it look natural than to collect it from a local lake... I'm not really looking for ornamental plants, just natural lake looking plants so might be best to collect them while diving too.

The tilapia and trout I'm not sure about, but I would think the gills and perch would not destroy plants... Thinking tall weedy plants.... I like the idea of dirt in the back of the tank to grow plants and gravel in the front... I don't think it needs to be anything special, a couple pieces of driftwood and some background plants... But it does need to look decent being a focal point of our family room.
 

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You'll also want to plan the breeder tank along with the greenhouse tanks. Think about the temperature your greenhouse tanks will be at and match fish to that since the breeder tank temp. can be modified.

From my experience both tilapia and perch nibble at roots of plants floating in the aquaponic system. Tilapia more then perch. So if this translate to a breeder aquarium maybe they will eat more of the plant since they would have access to it.

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If you're doing aquaponics, temperature is a very important factor in selecting your fish. If you're raising tilapia in Michigan, you are going to have to spend a lot of money heating water in the winter. Recall that this isn't just like heating an aquarium - your stock tank is sending water all over your greenhouse, giving it lots of surface area to adjust to the ambient temperature.

Sunfish family, as you suggested, would be a better choice. You might also consider channel cats, which have the added benefit of accepting vegetable-based feeds, making them much cheaper to maintain as well as better for the environment.

Both sunfish and catfish will spend a lot of time destroying anything you put in your substrate. If you want a planted breeder tank, you will have to attach plants directly to hardscape. Even that might get ripped off. Perhaps a java moss wall? Still...

Maybe you want to save the planted tank component of this project for your breeder sump?
 
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