10 June 2007

New aquaponics fish

Our aquaponics system is made up of one fish tank and two grow beds.
This is one of the grow beds.

I haven't written about our aquaponics system for a while, mainly because we killed most of the fish. It shames me to say that - to know that we took these creatures into our care and they ended up dead, long before their time. We followed the lead of fellow aquaponics people and turned off our pump for about six hours overnight, but unlike the others, we didn't leave our aerators on and over a period of two days, all but seven of the fish died.
This taught me a very valuable lesson and since that happened, I've been reading as much as I can about aquaponics so that I don't have to rely on advice from others all the time. Oh, I'm still very much a novice, but I now know what I need to provide for my fish to be healthy. That, my friends, is now engraved on my brain, I do not repeat past mistakes.

The best source of information recently was a talk with the woman who bred our fish, Gwen Gilson, over at the Sunland Fish Hatchery. Gwen has been been a leading figure in fish breeding for many years and she's very generous with her knowledge. We spent some time with Gwen at her place yesterday and came home with 100 silver perch fingerlings - given free. They were released into our tank yesterday afternoon and have been happily swimmming around ever since. We will look after these little fellows until it's time to eat them. LOL

The large dark fish heads are the old fish checking out the lighter coloured new fish. The white dotted fish as one of our gold fish we put in the tank to test water quality.

Aquaponics is the fish version of keeping a couple of pigs for slaughter. We look after them, feed them a nourishing diet and when they've reached maturity, we kill them for our table. Silver perch are native to Australia's Murray/Darling river system - they're an excellent table fish. We don't eat meat or chicken and with the dimishing fish stocks in Australia's waters and the fast increasing prices of what is caught in the ocean, we saw aquaponics as a good alternative to eating tinned fish for the rest of our lives. (I've written more about the aquaponics system in the aquaponics section of this blog.)

Celery growing now in the second grow bed.

H is going to rig up a passive solar heating system for the fish water. Gwen told us that the fish will grow at almost twice the rate if we can increase the water temperature. It's winter here now and currently it's between 13 and 15C, it needs to rise about 10 degrees. That will happen next week.

Brandywine tomatoes in the first grow bed.

We are about to harvest the first of our aquaponics tomatoes. I planted them on March 24 and they've grown nice and plump. I think a couple more weeks will see some colour on them and then we'll take them inside to fully develop. They're Pink Brandywine tomatoes - an heirloom type with excellent flavour. Yesterday I planted some Mortgage Lifters, another heirloom, that will give us big fat tasty tomatoes for salads and cooking. If there are enough, I'll also preserve some for eating later in the year. There is nothing better from the garden than homegrown tomatoes.

Cayenne Peppers.
We have also planted silverbeet (swiss chard), herbs, asparagus, celery, chilli peppers and lettuce. It very much a process of experimentation with the vegetables, some grow well, some are better in the soil garden. But between the two gardens we're producing most of the organic vegetables we eat.
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