bullhead catfish and friends


Here is the picture I was promising of the yellow bullhead catfish we added to the aquaponics system. We’ve had them for 4 weeks now and they have been growing well so far. About 20 fish, average size of 6 inches. The picture above is a 5 gallon bucket from the day we purchased them. More about why we picked bullhead catfish as the fish for our aquaponics system:

Yellow bullhead are native to Eastern North America, but have been introduced around the world:


They’re adapted to many types of water conditions, from clean to murky. One reason we went with these fish rather then say tilapia is that they can survive in poor water quality for long periods of time, and can gulp air from the surface if oxygen is low. An omnivorous fish, bullhead aren’t picky eaters, taking pellets, zooplankton, small fish, insects, even clams and crayfish. Most important for us is that they will easily survive through our 40 degree temperature winters (tilapia cannot), and have the highest chance of reproducing in captivity, thus providing a potential self replicating edible protein source.

As for garden produced live foods we have a small batch of black soldier fly larvae growing now. In a week or so we will be able to see how the catfish take to live, cultured food! Let’s hope they like em’ (UPDATE… the catfish love the fly larvae!)


Another fish we are considering for our small home system is mirror carp. Cultured around the world for its hardiness and fast growth, its a favorite for anglers in Britain and other countries. Of course I’ve never tasted it but hope to if we can grow one big enough. It is also winter hardy and takes mostly vegetable material as food, so we could feed it garden weeds and trimmings:


4 thoughts on “bullhead catfish and friends

  1. I think tilapia would be easier to clean but understand you need a fish that can survive your winters. Check on-line for any number of video instructions on cleaning those tough buggers.

  2. Have you considered the native bluegill as an aquaponics fish? A friend who is working on his PhD and works exclusively with fish suggested this species to me for aquaponics application.

    • Thanks! Yes, I have considered the bluegill. We may go in that direction if we can grow enough on site food. One consideration is that bluegill will mostly only eat live food (or pellet), whereas the carp will eat easily grown vegetables/weeds. The carp fit better into our low energy, laid back system.

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