Friday, June 15, 2018

The Cedar Key School Tilapia Aquaculture/Aquaponics Project

I teach science in beautiful Cedar Key, Florida and pinch myself every workday ...

History lesson ...
I raised Tilapia back in the late 80's and early 90's ... when you actually had to explain what a "Tilapia" was to most folks.
Back then, I had to have a visit by an agent of the FLORIDA FRESHWATER FISH AND GAME COMISSION, now thankfully known as the FWC.

After an inspection to make sure my recirculating system would not allow the escape of this exotic species into the natural waters of Florida, I was granted a "Restricted Species" permit and allowed to proceed.

This process was repeated every time the permit expired... every 2 years I think.
Cumbersome.

Later in the early 2000's, when I wanted to grow Tilapia again, this time at Bronson High School where I taught science, I was told, " We really don't encourage small-scale Tilapia farming." by the FWC agent who came to inspect my INDOOR classroom recirculating system. He was so discouraging that I chose to grow the giant freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii instead.

All of this Tilapia restriction was really, really ticking me off as it was legal to possess them in the county just south of us, but not in our county. On top of that, the state, in the form of the University of Florida, had obviously allowed the release of Tilapia into Lake Alice on the UF campus. Any walk around the shoreline revealed huge Tilapia guarding nests.
Also, there was this fish kill there. 


This rant is almost over.
Recently the law changed and so did the attitude at the Aquaculture permitting offices. You can now legally possess blue tilapia in our region. Also, the state person I talked with on the phone before proceeding with our CKS Tilapia project was as encouraging and helpful as you could ever want.

So, there is some history here and you have just plowed through it.

The Cedar Key Tilapia Project:

Back in September 2017, I received 50 one inch long Tilapia fingerlings at Cedar Key School. They were placed into a 29-gallon aquarium to grow. We measured them as they grew and the kids learned a mix of biology topics and everyday problem-solving skills too.

I loved watching them collaborate, give, take, and finally come to a consensus on problems I tossed out to them.

Tilapia are jumpers and they needed a tank topper.

When I tasked the Marine Science class with building something to contain them, with no other guidance except... "You can use anything here in the Aquaculture lab, now go." ... they went for it. 


After some debate and brainstorming, they built a 3-part tank cover out of PVC, zip-ties, and clam bags that works perfectly. It has hinged sections so different parts can be opened separately, or the whole thing can be opened if needed.
None of that is on the state tests, but I firmly believe that life skills like cooperation and innovation should be part of any school year.

School's out now. 
 I drop in a couple times a week to feed them and check on the filters, etc.
At a feeding last week, I stuck my GoPro Hero 5 into the tank while the Tilapia were feeding.




The picture above shows the young Tilapia in a large nursery aquarium in the classroom. We had them for about a month at this point and they were really starting to grow.



Above, a nervous young Tilapia being weighed by students. 
(We zeroed out the scale with water and beaker on, then added the fish)

An early in the process data set from our measuring length and mass. 


Just before school was out, we moved a few Tilapia to different grow out tanks to distribute our risk. That net is 12 inches across.
In the new school year, these fish will be the nutrient source for our aquaponics system.

The kids grew these "all male" Tilapia from tiny fingerlings to eating size in one school year. Along the way, we lost one Tilapia who jumped out of the classroom tank and landed in the only empty bucket near the tank. Next to it were 3 buckets of tap water that had been set out overnight to dechlorinate. It was not his lucky day.

We also produced a few Tilapia judging by the tiny fry we found as we cleaned out our 250 gallon nursery tank at the end of the school year.

"Life will find a way."


Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Curious Tale Of My YouTube Video, "Pufferfish Puffed".







Six years ago, my good friend and professional fishing guide, Denny Voyles invited me along for a little grouper fishing. 
Denny is a very busy guide and has a nose for where the fish are, so only a fool declines such an offer.

We were a few miles out in about 40 feet of water and it was gorgeous. The weather was perfect, the water was so clear and blue you could just see the shadowy shapes of the rocks on the bottom.

We were catching grouper, mostly just under the limit, but a few keepers and then ... Denny accidentally snagged the side of a large Southern Puffer who had followed his bait up.

It was that simple, everyday fishing event that produced a 36-second video with over a million views ... most of them in the past 4 months.
1,135,727 views, but who's counting ...
 .

For 6 years the video sat slowly gathering views and comments ... then this year something changed.
My email was constantly pinging with comment notices, often followed by subscription notices from people all over the planet. 

Clearly, people love Pufferfish.
To be more clear, they love PUFFED Pufferfish.
They also love fart noises coming from a fish.
Over and over the comments made note of the puffers farty sounding grunt and the time in the video where it happens.

As in this comment:
"00:27 you can thank me later"
or several like this one:
"00:27 did that fish fart?"

There are also countless references to the poor driving instructor, "Mrs. Puff" and "Spongebob".

When Denny expertly and harmlessly removes the hook from the Puffer's thick skin, some viewers see the large chunk of bait on his hook as the guts of the Puffer being ripped out.

As in:
"I hope somebody puts a hook in you and rips your guts out some day!"

I pinned a comment explaining that the flesh on the hook was bait and that the fish was fine when we released it to calm down folks who misinterpreted reality.

Yesterday, I received an email from a large media corporation to use that video on their various media platforms... with credit back to me.

It seems to me that would just allow folks to see Pufferfish Puffed without actually visiting my YouTube channel, so that's a big NO.

Had there been a six figure check involved, well then we could have talked.