5 Essential Tips for Raising Fish in Aquaponics System


Here on the urban farm, we have lots of aquaponic systems and ponds that are essential parts of Lynette’s mantra in Food security. We have fish and plants that we raise in the ponds with water, we also have access to water that can be filtered and drinkable. We created ecosystems so that we can harvest both harvestable things and create beautiful spaces.


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Hi, I’m Lindsey, and I’m here at the Urban Farm. Here on the urban farm, we have lots of aquaponic systems and ponds that are essential parts of Lynette’s mantra in Food security. The fish and plants that we raise in the ponds with water, having access to water that can be filtered and drinkable. And then also just creating ecosystems and places that we can have both harvestable things, but also that create beautiful spaces.

If you think that the world is headed in a direction that makes you a bit concerned for the future, and you’d like to be as self-sufficient and independent as possible, then you’ve come to the right place. My name is Lynette Zang. Now it’s time to go Beyond Gold and Silver.

Today, I’m gonna be sharing with you our five essential things to remember when you’re raising fish or aquatic life, whether you’re doing this in an aquaponic system or a larger pond, or even a tote with water and fish in it, it’s important to remember these five things.

First thing to remember is water quality. Water quality is essential. The fish breathe in and out water, it’s their ecosystem. It’s where they eat, live and everything. Water quality is the most important thing when we’re talking about fish and health. Testing your water is essential about every week we go through to all our ponds and aquaponic systems and test them. Once you have a balanced ecosystem and you’re confident in your aquatic ecosystem, there’s some things that you don’t need to test for as often. Ph, for example, nitrates and nitrites are something that we test for about once a month, whereas ammonia is something that can spike really quickly. So we test that every week just to be on the safe side. We use this really simple two step system. You just fill this up with water to the line and then you would just add the amount of drops it tells you to, and that’ll give you a good indication of the ammonia levels in your pond or aquatic ecosystem. We do this about once a week, and testing your water is the easiest way to see what you can’t see, right? Because you can’t look at water and necessarily tell unless you have an algae bloom or something that your water is unhealthy. So testing your water is a great way to do that.

Another really important thing to remember is water temperature. Oftentimes, we don’t think about the temperature that our fish are being kept at. We think, oh, it’s water, it’s the temperature of the outside, or, you know, we think that it’s not as important, but each fish and aquatic being has a different ideal temperature. And when we get out of this ideal range, we can decrease growth in the fish and we won’t have as much development, and we can even kill our livestock. So for crawdads, which are in this system, they like a cooler temperature ranging from about 65 degrees Fahrenheit to about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Whereas tilapia prefer a much warmer water, usually ranging from about 82 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. So knowing these differences is really essential. And in the summer here, we don’t have much of a problem with regulating. We find that production is normal Here we have shade. It keeps this pond cooler. We make sure that we add water, but in the winter when we need to heat it up, we can use heaters. So our tilapia pond has a built-in heater that’s attached to the filtration system, and if you don’t have that, you can use these really simple heaters. They go directly into the water, they have metal coiling in them, and you can just change the temperature. So you can see the knob up here, and you just change it to the desired temperature, and you just have to monitor this. So we use floating little thermometers in our ponds to monitor the temperature. It’s just a really helpful way to make sure when you have season changes or maybe your first frost that you’re taking the best preventative measures to protect your fish.

The third thing to remember that’s essential for fish health is in creating an ecosystem, we want systems that take care of themselves to the best of their ability. This includes making sure that we have healthy natural bacteria that’s doing essential jobs. We have bacteria that breaks apart waste, and part of this is just having fish in the water for a prolonged period of time. When we add new water, if it’s coming from hose or tap water, a lot of times it has extra chlorine in it and chlorine, the reason we add it to our pools is because it kills bacteria, it kills living cells.

So you can imagine what that does to a fish and it’s slime coat and all the healthy bacteria in the water. So even though we’re adding fresh water and we think that that’s a great thing to do, and it is, we need to make sure that we’re balancing that and correcting any high chlorine levels. So what we like to do is use, this is a powder. It also comes in liquid form. It depends on what’s easier for you. And this removes chlorine and ammonia, and it detoxifies the nitrite and nitrate. So this is a really helpful tool just to have on hand, and you just add however, you have to convert it from your gallons, and then you use a teaspoon. So you have to do the math and figure out how many gallons are in your pond. But this is a really easy, concentrated, money efficient way to balance that ammonia and chlorine when you’re adding new water. So especially if you’re doing a big tank, change a big water change. Really important to balance that out and make sure that that chlorine isn’t gonna overwhelm your fish.

The fourth important thing to remember is having medicine on hand. We don’t often think about fish being animals and livestock that need medicine, but oftentimes medicine can be the difference between having healthy fish and losing your entire stock. So because it’s really hard to see the signs and symptoms of what might be affecting fish, we have to keep a close eye, and this is easiest to do at feeding time. So a lot of times when we feed fish will come up to the surface. This is the easiest and best way to make sure we don’t have things like water lice, little red bumps that can be signs of disease or scrapes other fish picking on them. If we have fish sitting on the bottom or fish with swimming at the top upside down, these can all be signs of disease that can spread to all the other fish in our system. So it’s essential that we have medicine on hand depending on what kind of stock you have. Tilapia and koi fish, we have different medicines for those here at the farm. And just knowing what your fish might need in case of an emergency, because in water systems, things can change like that really fast and unexpectedly. So having those things on hand, especially since they aren’t that easy to find at your local pet store, can mean the difference between life and death for your fish.

The fifth important thing to remember is just know your systems. Know how to fix the common problems that can arise. Here in our tilapia pond, we’ve been battling with spikes in ammonia. This is because we had a huge stock fish in there. They did an amazing job reproducing this year, which is awesome. But until we got the population under control by processing some of them, we were having really bad, fluctuating levels of ammonia. So we used powders like this. We did water changes, we increased the filtration and the aeration, all which can help with ammonia, but we knew that, and going forward, we know how to deal with that.

Other common problems can include overfeeding, underfeeding, not enough aeration, too much aeration, and just general lack of knowledge with your fish. It’s really important that when raising fish, we do a lot of research beforehand because they don’t give the same signs that perhaps a chicken or a house pet would when they’re sick or in trouble. Looking for fish gasping at the water is one sign that they are not happy. That can be because of ammonia, lack of oxygen. There’s something in the water that’s toxic to them. We just need to to know these signs and how to fix the problems in our system. Having a lot of backup supplies is also part of this. So pumps don’t last forever. They pump the water and the flow of water, having extra aerators on hand and extra water heaters, all of these are essential to know that if we had a problem that arose, we could fix it.

These are the five things that we always keep in mind here at the Urban Farm in raising our tilapia, koi fish crawdads. It’s essential that we keep these in mind at all times so we can make sure that we have the healthy, happiest and tastiest aquatic life.

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