Monday, January 15, 2007

Home Aquaculture Adventures

If you're a fan of Rube Goldberg, you're gonna love this ...

Yesterday, I spent part of the rebuilding parts of my home recirculating aquaculture system. It's been down for awhile so all the plumbing and setups you see above must be reconstructed. I'm just doing a little here, a little there, as Mrs. FC says we have to pay bills and buy groceries. She's odd that way ...

Later that evening, I was putting in another session of scanning old photos. It's time for Emma's senior page in the yearbook (remember last year?) and so we are selecting photos. The photos were mixed of course, and in the mix were these missing aquaculture shots. Serendipity Baby!!

I thought I had lost them!

I was raising a fish called Tilapia. When I was doing this, they were mostly unknown and unseen in the market place. Today, they are common in any market. They are delicious, but they are also an exotic species and I had to have a permit from the state of Florida to possess and culture live tilapia.

Okay, to make a short story long and almost totally unbearable ...

Here's how this Goldbergian system worked:

The corrugated tank on the left is the main fish culture tank.

The metal tank on the right had some fish, but had contained potted iris and cattails to aid in filtration. It was mostly populated with younger tilapia produced by my original stock.

This was an emergency winter harvest, the plants were dormant and not shown in this photo. A hard freeze the night before had stunned the tropical tilapia and it was time to harvest anyway.

The taller barrel in the foreground is a settling tank. Water flows by siphon effect from the big culture tank to the bottom of this barrel. The barrel is filled with that bird netting you put over berry plants to keep the birds out. Here it is serving to slow the upwelling of water and allow fish wastes to settle to the bottom of the barrel.

From the first barrel, the now cleaner water flows by pipe to the second barrel, where there is even more netting ... and a pump. The pump sends water from the second barrel to the top of the blue barrel sitting on the wooden support.

Are you paying attention?

The blue barrel is full of scallop, oyster, and clam shells. Growing on the shells are beneficial bacteria that feed on the nitrates produced by the fish. As the water trickles and splashes over the shells, the bacteria change the harmful nitrates to harmless nitrites and everyone is happier because of it.

The now cleaner, more oxygenated water flows back into the tanks.

This was the short version with a few details left out. You can thank me later.

You can see from the harvest that the system worked and even though my new system will be a little less complicated, you can't leave out any of the major components above and expect success with recirculating aquaculture.

You also don't have to have a high tech lab setting with expensive equipment to grow enough fish for an entire family.

When the new system is up and running, I'll share it with you.

Even here in Florida, this would ideally be enclosed in a greenhouse or other structure so that temps could be controlled during freezes.
Tilapia are like my big brother, they can't handle temperatures below 70 (F) degrees well.
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Hurricane Teen said...

You know, I was thinking about it the other day..we crackers would not have any trouble surviving if a depression or a food shortage were to his the U.S. We know how to produce our own food, just like you are here.
That being said, I'd rather have catfish or mullet over tilapia any day :-D

Hurricane Teen said...

By the way, is that ice on the ground??

Betsy said...

The Goldberg children are adorable.

Laura said...

I love tilapia and was surprised to read in this post that you were raising them.
I have a few choice tilapia recipes and I make this fish several times a month! Too bad we don't live closer or you'd have a ready client, LOL.

threecollie said...

I was delighted to see you mention Rube Goldberg. My kids always look at me blankly when I say that something they built looks like he was the overseer on the project.
Fish culture looks like fun. They have a course of study in it at the college the girls go to and if I was younger I would take it.

SophieMae said...

What Laura said. In fact, I made my favourite tilapia recipe for supper last night, and had some fried for dinner today. HT has me thinking about catifsh and grits now. Mmmmm-mmmmm!!!!!

Oh, and yes, I'm paying attention. 8-]

pablo said...

Darling little ones.

ImagineMel said...


Floridacracker said...

I grew catfish in there too!
Not snow, good ol'sugar sand.

Thank you. They've turned out to be pretty complicated also :)

I may grow them again with the new system or I may experiment. It's now possible to grow saltwater shrimp in freshwater. That is tempting... and there's always catfish too.
Tilapia are a sweet white meat fish, that's for sure. I can't stand the dark fleshed fish, you'll never see me eating salmon.

I guess up there, you'd be growing trout!

Hey, I'd eat it 2 nights in a row too! It's good stuff.

But ... I left a lot out!

LauraHinNJ said...

Is that Ranger supervising the operation? Good doggie.

My big brother has a few Rube Goldberg inspired creations for his indoor fishtanks. He's always offering to dream something up for a better filtration system for my little pond, but I want something that I can understand!

Deb said...

Looks like tilapia are out for Minnesota aquaculture!

I'd like to do some home scale aquaculture here, but I think I'd have to have a very energy efficient solar greenhouse before it would begin to work. Heat = growth, darn it.

roger said...

that is an impressive setup, and the proof of it is in the fish.

kathy a said...

great photos! also an excellent system. terrific [very cute] helpers!

when we lived in charleston SC back in the '80's, some friends ran a shrimp farm. although they had investors and more equipment, it seemed like they had a lot of rube goldberg solutions, too.

Thunder Dave said...

Pretty sweet system!

Floridacracker said...

Yes, that's Ranger! :)
He was the brains behind the operation.

Well, there's always Sand Creek.

thanks,pvc pipe offers endless possibilities.

Kathy A,
Were they using old rice farms? Thanks for noticing the cuteness of the fish crew :)

Almost as complicated as home brewing!