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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 149
December 3rd,  2013
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend

Today's "Nugget" is Part 4 of "Starting Your Aquaponic System Is Easy And Fast!". Today's bit is about how to haul your fish simply, economically, and safely.

Watch out for the announcement of our new book: "Aquaponics The EASY Way!" within the next two days. It's done, and Tim's putting together the Index now. (Tim) "I never had any idea Adobe InDesign CS6 was so glitchy (I mean "sophisticated" and "complex"!). It's like cutting firewood with a pocket knife!

Finishing "The Book" has taken longer than we expected and promised; we want it to be perfect for you. We thought it was complete a week ago, and then ran into a technological tangle at the goal line. It's still available at a presale discount of 33% now, for only $19.95 by clicking here. It will be $29.95 when finished; you'll save ten bucks and get it emailed directly to you when it's finished if you buy it now!

Our side column today
is one of the "Fishing Chronicles", when Tim was operating his 24-foot fuel-efficient fishing vessel "Jada" off the island of Hawaii. Dumb dolphin!

Friendly 2014 Commercial Aquaponics and Greenhouse Trainings:

Texas Training from January 13th to the 17th at Ben Godfrey's farm in Milam County, Texas (Click here for more information!).

One-day CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) Course given by Ben and Alysha Godfrey at their farm on January 18th, Saturday (click here for more information!).

Tennessee Training from January 27th to the 31st at Randy Campbell's farm in Elora, Tennessee (Click here for more information!).

(Below) One of Ben and Alysha Godfrey's aquaponics systems in a greenhouse in Milam County, Texas. I can't wait to taste their system water! lettuce2-385px

(Below) Another of Ben and Alysha's aquaponic greenhouses.

(Below) Tim drinking water from one of Randy and Katie's aquaponics systems at a Tennessee training. "I've been doing this for six years; I'm certain the food from these systems is safe and healthy" (Tim).  TimWaterDrinkingNugget

These five-day trainings allow you to travel during the weekend so that you only need to take a week off your busy life to attend, and include our $999 DIY Commercial Aquaponics package, $998 DIY Farmer's Market Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse package, and new $295 DIY Commercial Tilapia Hatchery manual as course materials, plus our Plywood/Epoxy/ Tank manual, CAD construction drawings for all greenhouses and aquaponics systems, and much more!

(Below) Randy and Tim showing attendees at a Tennessee training how easy it is to use a DO (dissolved oxygen) meter to measure oxygen levels in the vegetable troughs.


In Tennessee: Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

In Texas: Call Ben at 254-697-2927 or email Ben to find out when their next "Family Day" farm tour is scheduled ($15 fee per family is charged).

More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

(Below) Randy and Katie's Chinese-style Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in Tennessee in the February snow, 2013. 70 degrees inside and you had to take your coat off when working with the vegetables!

GreenhouseSnow3Small 2

An Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse with the participants in our second June 2013 course in Tennessee!

June2013Class1-385px 2

For smaller home backyard and apartment systems, please read on:
Purchase Construction Plans and Operating Info for 4 Different Sizes of Table Top Aquaponics Systems $49.95

Our TableTop System package includes easy-to-understand building instructions and operating information for 4 different sizes of small aquaponic systems based on our years of experience. Anyone can build a system out of plastic barrels or IBC totes, but operating one successfully without good and easily-understood information can be frustrating. You simply use the "Daily Operations Checklist" in the manual and follow the step-by-step instructions on your way to success. We also cover how to make aquaponics systems out of weird things like old refrigerators and door frames; this makes aquaponics much more economical to get started in, and fun too!

We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and built our first commercial aquaponics systems with FAR less information than this manual contains. We included all the information learned from that experience in this manual so you don't need to make any of the same mistakes we did.

Learn about our TableTop Systems!


Aquaponics Nugget #149, Startup Reloaded, Part 4: (Starting Up Your Aquaponic System Is Easy And Fast!)

How To Get "Started":

We do not include the "Clean Water" section of startup here, because we covered it in these recent back newsletters of ours: #125, #126, and #127.  Check them out if you want to learn all about water to fill your aquaponics with, and how to avoid difficulties with your source water. Also, you may want to read Part 1, Part 2 , and Part 3 of this newsletter series before you read today's article, which is Part 4.

Hauling fish stresses them and even on the best and most careful fish hauls we’ve done (and we have a great haul tank with lots of aeration that has good oxygen levels even with 300 lbs of fish in it), we still lose about half a percent of them. If you have a bad haul that stresses your fish, OR your fish supplier stresses them without your knowledge before you pick them up, you can lose 20% or more!


Here’s how this looks: your supplier has pumped his fish tank down so there’s only about 10 inches of water in it and the fish are less work for him to catch. The problem is, he did this last night, and the fish have been stressed in this too-shallow water for 12 hours now.


The next day, when they are transferred to your haul tank, they are already stressed, have lost a lot of their slime coats (this affects fish in the same way that losing skin affects a person), and some are already dying. It just won’t become obvious for another day or two. You have to get them out of the haul tank with a net when you get home, which stresses them further.


Then they’re introduced to completely different water than they came from, which may stress them further. Unless you’re really observant (and know to look for this), and check the bottom of the fish tank with a long-handled net two or three times a day, the first time you may notice a problem is two or three days after the haul, when the first dead fish floats to the top of the fish tank, and you remove it.


The problem is that this fish has been dead for a day or two before it floats to the top, and has been pouring ammonia (a product of decomposition of decaying organic material) into the tank the whole time. If you had a bad haul with fish that were stressed before you even loaded them, and lose 20%, this can show up as fish dying for the next two weeks or so, with an attendant HUGE ammonia problem that can hugely slow down your system startup.


How you reduce or eliminate this problem BEFORE you ever transport your fish, is do as many of the following as you can:


A.  Make sure your supplier handles the fish gently before they are loaded into your haul tank, and load them with as little and as gentle handling as possible. Hard handling will stress the fish and increase your loss.


B.  Haul with a tank that is filled TO THE TOP with water and has a solid cover battened down on top of the water. This will ensure that the tank water doesn’t SLOSH, as it will in a partially-full haul tank or one with NO TOP! Sloshing inside the tank will stress the fish and increase your loss.


C.  Make sure your haul tank has plenty of airstones and enough air pump capacity to drive them. You can get cheap air pumps (Aquatic EcoSystems catalog number DW9622) which only use 8 watts; you can run up to 6 of these off a $15 AC inverter that plugs into your cigarette lighter. One of these air pumps will keep about 30 lbs of fish alive for a two- to three-hour haul.


If you don’t have a haul tank with a tight lid, putting the fish in those sturdy grey 42-gallon garbage cans and lashing the lids down with bungee cords works just fine, and will keep 30 pounds of fish alive. Make certain to lash the cans tightly into the back of your truck! If they topple over going through a curve, you’ve lost all your water and your fish. You can drill a hole in the middle of each lid and run the airstone tubing down through this hole, then put the airstone at the bottom of the garbage can. FILL EACH CAN TO THE TOP SO IT DOESN’T SLOSH!


D.  Handle the fish as little as necessary and as gently as possible when you transfer them from the haul tank to the fish tank at home.


E.   Check the bottom of the fish tank with a big net the next morning and about two to three times daily for the first few days to get dead fish out of the tank before they add a lot of ammonia to  your system and cause a problem. If you have dead fish, get them out of the tank as soon as possible after they die. If you see a fish acting strangely, or swimming crookedly at the surface, get it out of the tank. It WON’T recover, and you might as well get it out before it adds ammonia to the tank.


F.   DON’T feed the fish until they stop dying; even if you have a good haul and no mortalities, don’t feed the fish for the first few days to a week. They won't LIKE it, but it won't hurt them, and it will ensure that your ammonia levels stay low.


Now you've got your fish home, they've been in the tank for about a week, your ammonia level is nice and low (under 2 ppm), the fish are accepting food, and your mortalities have ceased. Another week goes by, and you notice a couple of dead fish one morning. What's this?


You may see two separate periods of mortality coming from a bad haul. The first one is usually over in the first three or four days after the haul; and consists of the fish that were so badly damaged in the haul that they died relatively soon afterwards from their injuries and trauma.


This second batch of mortalities that sometimes occurs from ten days to two weeks after the haul are (we believe) fish that were lightly damaged during the haul, not enough to kill them outright, but enough to compromise their immune systems. These fish basically caught colds and died from them because they were so weak. We've never been able to identify a true "fish disease" incident in either the first or second batch of post-haul mortalities. Get the dead fish out of the system as fast as possible to avoid adding unnecessary ammonia.

The following is an opportunity for you, if you read this far:

(Our next newsletter will cover a subject that you, the readers, suggest. What are you interested in hearing more about? Please email Tim and make your request for a subject, either for a single newsletter, or for a series. Thanks for listening!).

The Friendly  Aquaponics Way Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Trough Liner Distributors:
West Coast USA
East Coast USA

Click here for Trout fry and fingerlings directly from the hatchery to you!

Spanish Language Micro System package now available!
Free Farm Tours

Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free Farm Tour on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  focused on growing food with aquaponics.  Click here for information. See you there!

If you are a school, a non-profit organization, an organization working with the poor, Native Hawaiians, or ex-inmates, or if you are a church, we will hold a free farm tour for you anytime. You DO need to email us first to schedule, or we might be out on errands!


Thousands of inch-long "fifty-cent" baby tilapia from our "backyard" hatchery.


What they turn into about a year later: a beautiful 2-pound white tilapia grown in the fish tanks of our aquaponics systems.



Sign yourself up for the Texas January 2014 (13th-17th)

Or sign yourself up for the Tennessee January 2014 (27th-31st)

Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
NOW, and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics, as soon as you register! ($99.95 value)


Micro System Classes!

Our four affiliates are now offering Micro System courses.

Click here
for a listing of affiliates and course locations!


"Fish Bites: Food-Grade Liners and Fish Tanks"

Corrugated steel round fish tanks come from Scafco Grain Systems,

Tell them you need an open-top tank, not one with a conical steel roof, which you don't need or want for a fish tank.

For Liner, order standard sizes AND custom-sized round and rectangular food-grade vinyl liners from DLM Plastics, 1530 Harvard Avenue, Findlay, OH, 45840, 419-424-5250. Get "White NSF-61 PVC", it is FOOD-GRADE vinyl (the "NSF" on the label means "National Sanitation Foundation").

"The Fishing Chronicles: Dumb Dolphin"

It was 1980, and I was on the Kona side of the island, picking up flagline with Jada, a little 24-foot fuel-efficient commercial fishing boat I’d designed and built to sell. It was a beautiful sunny day: blue skies, the ocean was blue and visibility was about 100 feet underwater.

I was fishing solo, which is not always a smart thing to do, but on a little boat such as this, splitting the income from a catch with a crewman can make the difference between economic success and failure for the skipper.


The volcano fire pit of Halema'uma'u at Kilauea had been erupting for two years now, and the air on the Kona side of the island on this day was like the air in the LA basin during a big inversion. Thick. We were only about a mile offshore from the Kona Coast of the Big Island, and even with a 13,000 foot mountain behind it, couldn’t even see the land or the mountain.


I'd set my two miles of flagline just at the break of dawn, and had let it soak for a couple of hours. I'd moseyed back up the line after a nice nap hanging on the far end of the line. I noticed one float a little lower than the rest, and picked it up to investigate. I got a hell of a pull immediately on the line to my right, so started working my way down the line in that direction.


It was pretty calm, so I could pull the little boat right down the line without even running the engine, or putting much strain on the fish. You see, when a fish is hooked, that doesn’t mean “in the fish hold”; for there’s a lot that can happen between getting one on the hook and getting it into the hold.

Hooking a fish is just the start of an uncertain and risky process; the fisherman tries to tip the scales in his favor whenever possible, because his mortgage (and maybe his happy family life too) is on the line.


So I was careful as I worked my way down the line. As I got a little closer I saw the size of the thing on the hook, deep down in the dark blue, and thought “Oh my!”.

I’m a fisherman, so I used some stronger words than that, but you get the idea. It was large, and it was moving against the line like an ahi (yellowfin tuna), one of the most valuable fish to catch. And it wasn’t just the size of the fish, but the fact that I was going to have to deal with it alone that caused me to go “oh my!”.


A guy I knew, who traditionally fished solo, had pulled a 180-pound ahi into his boat once. He was a big guy, six feet two and 240 pounds plus himself, so he just gaffed it and yanked it into the boat. However, once in the boat, the fish’s frantically flailing tail connected solidly with his shin bone and broke it.


He fell onto the fish with a broken leg, pulled himself off, realized what had happened, freaked out, then got himself calmed down. He did all the right things: got on the radio and told friends what happened, drank a bunch of water, and cut his chute rather than try and pull it in.

Then he motored back to the dock, and had an ambulance already there for him, and his friends to deal with the ahi; he hadn’t been able to lift the fish, open the fish hold hatch, and put the fish onto the ice; so he’d just left it on deck. Hey, it was still an $800 fish!


A little explanation may be in order here: this kind of fishing is done anchored to a sea-anchor parachute, that “locks” the boat into the drifting current. The whole assembly costs a few hundred bucks, but can be some work to get back out of the water after a night’s fishing. This fisherman was smart, and cut his chute, and his losses, rather than risk passing out or falling off the boat just because he was trying to save a little money.


After this, he always went out with a crewman, or used his .45 and shot the fish dead before gaffing it into the boat. Smart.


So, with this happy little tale in my mind, I pulled the fish slowly up towards Jada. But something didn’t look quite right; and what wasn’t right crystallized when the fish (instead of trying to dive deeper the way an ahi would), went for the surface about a hundred feet from the boat and blew! It spouted; it was an air-breather, and I realized at that point that I’d caught a dolphin!


As I worked it closer to the boat I could see that it was exhausted, and my worries about getting clobbered by a big ahi disappeared. I started talking to it, like you’d talk to an injured puppy or cat, when it was about 20 feet away, and grabbed my pair of wire cutters from behind the steering console.

I was wearing heavy gloves for handling the line, of course, and when I got to the wire leader, I could see the flagline hook lodged in the corner of the dolphin’s mouth. I worked him (her?) closer to the boat, worked the wire cutters down the line to about six inches away from the hook, and cut!


The dolphin slipped down, then started hurrying away; I saw him/her blow about 200 feet away from the evil thing that had hurt him and almost eaten him. And started thinking about it.


I’d always thought that dolphins were like humans, but with the ability to “see” things far away underwater and in murky conditions, because of their sonar. I thought that a big wire flagline leader with a big hook and a stinky piece of dead bait on it was the last thing a dolphin would touch.

But I was wrong; it was either a starving and not very attentive dolphin, or just a dumb one. It’s a good thing we don’t eat dolphins in Hawaii!

Aloha, Tim....

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