Monday, June 10, 2013

Something Pretty Fishy Going On!

Here is that long-promised  aquaponics update. Things are happening fast now.

Here is how the pond (built in the old silo foundation) looks this spring. Last November Rog built this  greenhouse surround and we wrapped it in plastic to help conserve the heat and add heat with the greenhouse effect. It was a really cold winter, however, and  the water froze very deep - we were delightfully surprised when it melted and we discovered the hundred or two goldfish (and  a bunch of leopard frogs) had survived. A few weeks ago I unwrapped the plastic from the sides.
We have embarked upon an aquaponics partnership. For the past several years, Chris Luckenbill has been studying  aquaponics with an eye toward launching a business.  He has been unable to find land yet, but found us and our dabbling with aquaponics.  He inquired about partnering with us and renting space in our high tunnel to do a year-long project.  This is a win-win opportunity -- Chris can gain a year's worth of hands-on experience for relatively little investment and work out the kinks in the system, and we can learn from him.  We are too busy with other projects to devote enough time to really build the aquaponics system this year, so we are thrilled to have someone run with it. After a couple months of researching alternatives, discussing options, drawing plans, Chris  and his father Jim started installing the system last weekend. On Saturday, Chris picked up the fish stock - 100 pounds of fish, 43 tilapia and 27 channel catfish. He hauled them in his pickup in 55 gallon drums with an aerator running.
After combining water from the pond and the barrels in several batches to ease the transition,  Chris caught the fish and put into  buckets to release into the pond. Most of the channel catfish are albino, which is apparently the fish-farming standard.  I prefer the natural dark-colored ones, but the albino fish will be much easier to see in the dark pond.
It was  a regular bucket brigade  - Chris's dad Jim and Rog  carried the fish to the pond.
A dark gray catfish enters its new home.
A pink tilapia leaps into the pond.
The pond is aerated with this system that Chris built. It causes a  circular current that the fish tend to face into.
Admiring the new livestock.
The new fish stayed pretty much  in the lower level of the pond when we first added them, but the goldfish  swam at the top. They may have been a bit freaked out by their new, huge pondmates.
A tilapia surfaces.
Reflecting on the aquaponics system.
Zinnie moves in for a scratch from Chris.
Chris and Jim are now constructing the vegetable-growing  portion of the system, which will have vertical towers in the high tunnel. I will post another progress report as soon as it is set up.

You can read more details about the technical aspects of this project on Chris's  "Fresh With Edge" website and blog.


Mary Ann said...

Wow, this is really interesting to me. I don't know that we would do it here, but what a great idea! And using the base of the silo was a good one, too. Please keep us updated.

Gardeningbren said...

This is awesome to read about. Do keep us updated. Will the small goldfish get eaten by the large fish I wonder?

Susan said...

We'll see, but we don't expect problems with this combo of fish. The catfish are primarily bottom feeders and the tilapia live in the upper part of the pond and are vegetarian. The goldfish are hanging out at the very top with the vegetarians.