Tilapia is often the first fish that comes to mind when you first consider setting up an aquaponics system. However, if you live in Australia then you should be thinking about jade perch aquaponics.
In short, jade perch is an easy fish to grow that feeds on vegetables and is extremely beneficial to your aquaponics system. If you’re using Jade Perch with the intent of eating them you will be interested to note they reach plate size within 12 months and are full of omega-3 fatty acids; which are exceptionally good for you!
Of course, the basic aquaponics system remains the same for jade perch as for any other type of fish, but you should be aware that this is actually a freshwater fish which is happiest in warmer waters. The jade perch originates from Australia and is a surprisingly hardy fish as well as a great choice for your aquaponics system.
Jade perch vs. tilapia
The biggest decision you’ll make regarding the fish in your aquaponics system is which type to add. As mentioned tilapia is a common choice but, if you’re living in Australia you’ll probably find that the jade perch is a better option.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing between jade perch & tilapia:
Ease Of Growth
Both jade perch and Tilapia are easy to look after as they are very tolerant of changes in the water and even higher than normal ammonia levels. However, while tilapia can survive in temperatures between 60° and 80°F they prefer the water to be at the top of this scale.
This means they actually prefer warmer water than the jade perch, which could make Tilapia harder and more costly to maintain; especially in colder climes.
Tilapia breed very easily, this is a plus if you are looking to harvest the fish and eat them. However, if not you are likely to be overrun with fish in a surprisingly short space of time. In contrast, the jade perch does not usually breed in captivity. If you’re intending to eat them you’ll need to buy more fingerlings to replace them with.
Using jade perch is likely to increase the cost of your fish although you are less likely to have an overcrowded tank.
The jade perch is native to northern Australia and easy to purchase there. Unfortunately, it is much harder to locate if you are in the US or other parts of the world. In contrast, the tilapia can be purchased virtually anywhere.
If you live outside Australia you may find that the Tilapia is the only viable option but in Australia, the jade perch is your cheaper option.
We’ve already mentioned that jade perch is full of healthy fatty acids. This is something that is usually associated with cold water sea fish but the Jade Perch potentially has more beneficial fatty acids than any other fish. If you’re intending to eat the fish in your jade perchaquaponics system then this is the fish to choose.
It is also worth being aware that the Jade Perch is generally considered to taste better and is not full of omega 6 oils; these are in Tilapia and are considered to be unhealthy. However, the exact level of omega 6 oils will depend on what the fish are fed; it usually isn’t significant to give concern over eating Tilapia.
The Jade Perch is still the winner in this category. In fact, if you have access to the Jade Perch this is likely to be the better choice; whether you’re a beginner or have plenty of experience with aquaponic systems.
Jade perch growth rate chart
A Jade perch should reach 1 pound within the space of a year. If you are using a re-circulating system which your Jade Perch aquaponics system should be, then you can expect the following growth rates:
- Spawning in done in the summer but only happens in a natural environment.
- Larvae are just 5mm long but within 4 weeks, they will be 15mm long and classified as fingerlings.
- By 12 weeks your fingerlings should have grown to between 30 and 50mm. This is when they should be added to your aquaponics system.
- They will grow at a steady pace throughout the following 9 months to reach approximately 15cm; this is the best time to harvest them.
Jade perch temperature
Jade Perch do best in water that is between 75° – 80°F; if the temperature drops below 65° then they will stop eating and can die. They are accustomed to warmer climes; this is perhaps the most important thing to consider before you start using a Jade perch aquaponics system.
If you are going to keep this system inside you may be able to control the temperature effectively. However, if you are going for a larger tank that needs to be outside it is easier to be living somewhere that already enjoys warm weather. If you don’t you’re going to need to keep the water heated which will increase your running costs and the number of things that can go wrong.
If you keep them between 75° and 80° they will grow quickly. Of course, you also need to monitor the nitrate levels and keep the pH between 6 and 9; that’s an impressive range!
You should also note that the higher the temperature the lower the amount of oxygen in the water. The Jade Perch will also need to consume more oxygen in higher temperatures, therefore the higher the temperature the fewer the number of fish you can keep. It is best to keep the temperature at the bottom end of their comfortable range (approx 75°F). This will help to ensure the dissolved oxygen levels are at least 4mg per liter.
Water quality and ammonia
Jade Perch need an ammonia range between 0 and 0.6 mg/l (0.6ppm) and the nitrites should be between 0 and 1mg/l (1ppm); this will help to ensure they remain healthy in good quality water while your grow beds have enough nutrients to supply all the plants you are growing.
Jade perch FAQ
What does Jade Perch eat?
Jade Perch are actually vegetarians, that’s part of why they are so well suited to Jade Perch aquaponics! The Jade Perch natural diet is algae and river bed weeds but they are equally happy ripping into the vegetables you are growing.
Keeping jade perch means that your tank will stay clean as they suck the algae growth off the walls. However, it is worth noting that if you simply feed them commercially available fish pellets they are likely to get lazy, this will stop them eating a lettuce head or even cleaning the algae off your tank.
Your best bet is to use pellets but to mix up the feeding sometimes by adding riverbed weeds or even duckweed and a lettuce head or similar. Ideally, you should do this for a couple of days every week.
Ideally, your jade perch should be fed approximately 3% of their body weight each day, you may not be able to be exact but this is a good guideline.
How big do jade perch get?
A jade perch will be plate size within 12 months; this means they will weigh approximately 1 pound. However, if you leave them to grow it is possible for a jade perch to reach 4 pounds!
How does jade perch taste?
If you harvest the jade perch when it’s about 1 pound it will be silky soft and the flesh will simply fall off their bones. Because they are a very oily fish it’s a good idea to smoke them or steam them as this will give you the best benefits and ensure they taste fantastic.
However, it is worth noting that if you let the fish grow too large, such as large as 2 pounds become tougher and will lose some of their delicate flavors.
Can they be kept with other fish?
In general you only stock one type of fish in an aquaponics system but if you are thinking of stocking two varieties it is good to know that the jade perch is a gentle fish. Because it is a vegetarian it has no interest in eating other fish, no matter how small they are.
How many jade perch do I put in my tank?
As usual, you should be looking to have 1 pound of fish per 10 gallons of water. You need to base your calculations on the size of the grown fish. For example, if you’re committing to jade perch aquaponics you will need a 100-gallon water tank in order to have 10 Jade Perch.
But, you will also need to decide if you are going to remove the fish when they reach plate size. If you don’t you will probably find you have too many fish for the water you have available and this will negatively affect your vegetable growth.
Of course, if you’re removing the full-grown fish you’ll need to consider adding fingerlings to your jade perch aquaponics set up or you won’t have enough fish for your grow beds.