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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 100
December 4th,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

Today w
e'll explain the technology behind a simple, small-scale commercial tilapia hatchery, in our historical Aquaponic "Nugget" number 100 (yes, today's is the hundredth, not counting "Specials", and "Commercials"!).

The free information in today's and next week's newsletter and last week's newsletter will meet most people's needs for tilapia breeding. However, if you want the complete story in 72 pages, with highly descriptive photos of the process and equipment we use, our new commercial tilapia hatchery manual is finished and ready for you. There's even a "micro-video" that my gorgeous biologist wife Susanne shot with her treasured Leica Microscope that explains why the techniques we use work so well.

Why is this a big deal? We had an attendee at one of our 2011 Commercial Aquaponics Trainings who was a partner in a large tilapia hatchery in an East Asian country. He said that, although they hatched and sold millions of tilapia fry a year, the standard hatchery technology they used resulted in only a 25% survival rate of fry from tilapia eggs (which also means they had a 75% mortality rate).

When he saw our simple system and heard about our 95% survival rate on eggs, his request was: “Don’t teach this to any of our country's hatchery operators until we get it working first”. We said "sorry", we were honor bound to teach it to anyone who comes to one of our courses; because we don’t hold things back to make more money off them later as consultants.
This is the commercial level technology that's included in the new hatchery manual.

Tennessee Training In January 2013:

Special Offer Until December 25th: we're going to extend our $1,000 off offer on the new 7-day complete training in Tennessee until December 25th to give you a chance to affordably send a loved one to the best commercial aquaponics and integrated greenhouse course in the world.

Our next mainland training is scheduled from January 20th to the 26th in 2013, at Randy and Katie Campbell's "Today's Green Acres", in Elora, Tennessee.

If you're located near Tennessee, Randy and Katie give regular free farm tours of their aquaponics systems and greenhouses to introduce the public to the benefits of aquaponics and energy-efficient greenhouse growing. Call Randy and Katie at 256-679-9488 or email Randy to find out when the next farm tour is scheduled.

1. The four days of the Aquaponics Technology training is everything we know about the techniques and methods of growing with aquaponics. Each day has hands-on segments. In addition, you will spend all of Day Four building several 12-square-foot TableTop Systems from scratch (under our expert eyes, of course). More details of the Aquaponics Technology course here.

2. You can take one of these 12-square-foot TableTop systems home, assemble it there, and begin growing with aquaponics immediately, even in the middle of winter! The cost of this kit is only $450; much smaller "kits" from others start at $1,295 and go up from there, not including shipping.

3. The two-day Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course is everything we know about energy-efficient greenhouses, including information and complete CAD plans showing how to build a Chinese-style aquaponic solar greenhouse; along how to convert existing greenhouses to be as energy-efficient as possible. We even show you how to purchase and erect a good used greenhouse for ten cents on the dollar! More details of the Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse course here.

4. The one-day Commercial Aquaponics Training is everything we know about the various ways of making money with aquaponics, from CSA's to Costco, from wholesale to retail, from selling simple produce to producing value-added products, including Food Safety Certification and Organic Certification. More details of the Commercial Aquaponics course here.

To introduce this expanded training, we're making a "super-saver" offer of $1,000 off the regular cost of the Tennessee Training (this is only $1,495 for all 7 days instead of $2,495). Watch this three minute video and you will be able to sign up at the super-saver rate.

Click Here To Find Out More About The January 2013 Tennessee Training, And Get A $1,000 Discount!

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 #100: Backyard Tilapia Hatchery And Breeding, Part 2

This is part two of a three-part series; understanding today's may be easier if you read last week's newsletter first. So, we'll assume you started there, what's next after the backyard, single-tank system?

The Family-Scale Hatchery

We spent almost $22,000 on our first hatchery, and got 10% survival rates (with a LOT of labor). This means we killed 90% of the baby fish we hatched out. When we called the people who had taught us, a graduate student told me that we were doing well, as they usually had around 95% mortality with their system. 

We were motivated to do better, so we tried a new way of caring for newly-hatched tilapia fry. Three years later, it is a resounding success, and seems likely to put us out of the hatchery business because it is so simple and cheap to implement. It consists of rearing fry in small-mesh cages inside a hapa inside a large greenwater tank, until they are large enough to be transferred to a larger tank in an aquaponics system.

To start your own hatchery, get one or two nine-foot to twelve-foot diameter round tanks and put a hapa inside each tank (you also need two 0.5 cubic foot airstones in each tank). The tanks can be plastic, vinyl-lined corrugated metal, or fiberglass.

Hapas are large sewn nets that fit inside the tank and over the top rim of the tank, going completely down to the bottom; they’re like a second “mesh” liner for the tank. They have a flexible mesh about the size of window screen that neither the tilapia fry (babies) nor eggs can fit through; some of our students have successfully made them at home from surplus army mosquito netting. They are available from Thailand by contacting Angus MacNiven at

If you are unable to find hapas this way, you can have them sewn up by a local sewing shop or sew them yourself from surplus mosquito netting. Sew a pocket into the top edge, and put a piece of quarter-inch rope into this pocket, then you'll have something to attach the top of your hapa to the rim of your tank with.

To install a hapa, you fill your tank with water, dechlorinate, put the hapa in, then put six or seven 12" long pieces of 6" diameter PVC pipe into the bottom of the hapa to both hold it down (because it floats) and provide breeding habitats for your tilapia.

The Floating Frames

Next, build eight or ten 1-1/2" floating PVC pipe frames 2 feet square by gluing the PVC and corner fittings (90-degree elbows) together with PVC pipe glue. Sew up a 3-foot deep bag for each frame from the same hapa or mosquito mesh netting (the bag should fit around the rim of these floating frames), then use nylon monofilament fishing line to lash each bag to each PVC frame.

Next, glue together smaller PVC frames of 1” PVC that will fit inside the first frames, and drill holes in the second smaller PVC frames so they will sink and hold the bottom of the bag down. This whole assembly is what we call a “floating frame”, and is also known as “cage culture” in the aquaculture world.

The bag in the floating frame completely contains the fry and excludes any other larger tilapia (that might eat them) so it is easy to see what the mortality rate is because the dead fish float.

We have seen almost ZERO mortality with forty-five cycles of fry going through this system. The mortality rate is 85 to 90 percent lower than what we experienced in our inside hatchery tanks with several different types of water quality management schemes.

You can easily fit six to twelve frames in a tank (depending on tank size) and hold 2-3,000 fry in each frame. Depending on how many fry you want to hatch per month, you may need additional tanks. The fry will start to get crowded in these frames after a month or so when they grow to ¾ inch to 1 inch long, and will need to be divided into more frames or put in additional separate tanks until you decide to sell them or stock them into your systems.

Fingerlings need to be grown to about 2-3" long minimum size to stock with larger fish, or they will not be able to compete well for food, and may get eaten.

(We'll conclude "The Family Scale Hatchery" in next week's "Nugget")

The photo below is our Solar Greenhouse. It's cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold (hope that makes sense to you, it's the best greenhouse we've ever seen!).

GrownOut1medium 2

Friendly Aquaponic's FIRST Aquaponic Solar Greenhouse in full bloom, Honoka'a, Hawaii, March 2012, (on a grey rainy day) showing PV panels and growing plants.

Next week: Something else interesting and valuable to know about aquaponics. Thanks for listening!

Click Here To See Our New Aquaponics Video!
Back Issues Of Newsletters Now Available, Click Here!
Purchase Trough Liner Directly From Manufacturer!

Free Farm Tours
Aquaponics tour at the Friendly farm!

We hold a free workshop on our farm the FIRST Saturday of every month at 10:00,  focused on growing food with aquaponics and permaculture.  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!


3-1/2 pound kalo (taro root) grown in a 2" net pot (little bump at bottom)


4-month old prawn (macrobrachium rosenbergii) grown in hydroponics troughs of our aquaponics systems

Special Offers!

Sign up for our TENNESSEE January 20th-26th Commercial Aquaponics and Solar Greenhouse Training
and receive a free Micro System DIY package so you can begin studying aquaponics! ($99.95 value)

The "Tropic Bird Chronicles", #49: "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls"

For those of you who have read Robert Heinlein's "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls", that cat lives with us.

His name is Stinger. Purebred Siamese, about twelve pounds, chunky around the head and neck; he's full of testosterone and "don't mess with me" attitude.

He appears, without any announcement, inside the house at random intervals, and immediately walks over to rub and purr against my leg.

I affectionately refer to him as "my dog", because he then rolls over, just like a dog, exposing his belly for me to scratch.

Here's why this is a mystery: this has happened many times when I had just thrown him out, when no one else was at home but myself, and I had previously checked ALL the doors and windows inside our huge house to make sure they were closed. There is simply no other plausible explanation.

The fact that my cat can walk through walls proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only are all the possible universes connected, but that pieces and chunks of them may appear (according to some as-yet-undiscovered universal chunk theory) at certain times and places in yet other universes (and vice-versa).

Here's how it works: my cat can see when a piece of wall from another universe appears for a minute or two in the middle of a wall that exists in our universe, and then he simply walks right through that patch of wall into the house.

This is possible because the molecules that comprise the patch of wall from the other universe are vibrating at a different rate than the matter he's made from; it's effectively transparent to his solidity and doesn't provide any bar to his passing through. He sees it just like we see a door in a wall, but his "door" just looks like a homogeneous wall to us.

(loud applause!) Thank you, thank you. However, given my lack of higher education, this is probably destined to be my total contribution to the debate regarding the possible existence of alternate universes and realities.

And frankly, as far as David Deutsch is concerned, if he had ever brought back a single thing from any other universe than the one we have all more or less agreed we exist in, that would surely be a proof that the other stuff he's claiming could at least be possible.

Somebody introduce me to Santa Claus, OK?

(Something fun next week!)
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This email, our manuals and construction plans are all copyrighted by  Friendly Aquaponics, Inc, Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, 2008-2012

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