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Friendly Aquaponics Newsletter
Number 101
December 11th,  2012
Images from our farmily aquaponics farm
Aloha Friend,

Today w
e'll explain "Part 3" of the technology behind a simple, small-scale commercial tilapia hatchery.

The free information in today's, last week's newsletter and the week before last'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 hatchery manual 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 a 25% survival rate of fry from eggs (this is 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) until December 25th. 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 #101: Backyard Tilapia Hatchery And Breeding, Part 3

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

To use the floating frames, they are put into the water in your fish tank, then the tilapia fry are harvested (more in a bit about this) and gently transferred to an empty floating frame. The easiest way to do this is to have two tanks; when you plan to harvest fry out of one, you will first transfer all the floating frames and their tilapia fry to the other tank, including the empty floating frame you plan to put the harvested fish in. This makes it much easier to perform the harvest operation (it will make a lot more sense in a minute).

If you only have one tank, you will need to transfer the floating frames from one side of the tank to the other halfway through the fry harvesting operation, which is not only a lot of work, but can make for a higher mortality: the fry are small and delicate, and can easily get stressed or bruised during this transfer, leading to additional mortalities, so you want to minimize this as much as possible. It is much easier to have two tanks, and move the frames to the tank you’re not harvesting while you harvest the other tank.

Making Babies And Harvesting Them

A 9-foot diameter tank can comfortably hold around 22-25 mature breeding-size tilapia, or 7-8 males and 15-17 females. A 12-foot diameter tank can comfortably hold around 40-45 mature breeding-size tilapia, or 12-15 males and 26-30 females. Put your breeding fish into the tank, feed them well, and so on.

If the water is warmer than 72 degrees F, they'll make babies; when you see "clouds" of small tilapia at the surface of the water, or even more than ten or twenty in a place, it's time to harvest fry. You’ve got ten to twenty fry underwater that you can’t see for every single one you do see on the surface.

When you harvest fry, you put a long piece of 3" pvc pipe on the rim of the tank, but under the hapa at one side of the tank, then gently pull the hapa over the pipe and move the pipe towards the middle of the tank, until the pipe is located horizontally in the middle at the top of the tank, and there are two "bags" of hapa, with one hanging down on each side of the pipe into the water.


The 3" PVC pipe with the two "bags" on either side; the blue mesh is the hapa. We're moving the pipe to the foreground of the photo, where we will harvest the fry and eggs in just a couple minutes.

Using a large mesh net (2-inch to 3-inch “eye” is perfect!), scoop the breeder tilapia out of one bag, 3 or 4 at a time, and gently transfer them to the other bag until they are all in the other bag. You must use a large mesh net to transfer the breeder fish so that any smaller tilapia fall through the net and are harvested, otherwise you will catch 2-inch long tilapia and transfer them too, and they will eat all the next hatch of fry; you won’t get any!

As you encounter the pieces of 6" diameter PVC pipe with your net, pick them up and put them into the other bag with the big tilapia; don’t let the tilapia thrash around inside the net with a big heavy piece of PVC: they’ll damage themselves. Then keep pulling the hapa over the pipe until you have condensed the "bag" on the side away from the breeders into a small pocket.


Fry and eggs in a bucket; sorting is the next step, then the fry and eggs go to different hatchery equipment.

You will see thousands of fry in this shallow pocket. Scoop the fry gently out of this pocket with small-mesh aquarium scoop nets and transfer them into an empty floating frame. That's all there is to it. You don't even need to feed the fry, as they eat the naturally-occurring algae that live in these green-water tanks.

These are the basics of tilapia hatchery operation, and will get you thousands of baby tilapia a year if done the way we suggest here. There is additional information on all the tricks, shortcuts, and productivity enhancers that a commercial operator knows in our Commercial Tilapia Hatchery Manual.

(We'll have something interesting and useful about aquaponics in next week's "Nugget", thanks for listening!)

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.

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!


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

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", #42: "Hitting The Dock"

For those of you who have ever set foot on a sailboat, you know that one of the the most important things to not do is run it into stuff.


This is because sailboats are built rather lightly compared to steel ships, concrete docks, and breakwater rocks.


Sailboats are designed to only hit water. Sometimes they even have problems with that: I've been in my boat, safely anchored up in port two or three times after major storms at sea and seen other sailboats come limping in with makeshift plywood or canvas patches over their cabin sides, which had gotten bashed in after getting hit by a big wave during the storm. 


One day, a long time ago, I was anchored out off the Santa Barbara wharf in my 37-foot cutter “Spice”, in about 40 feet of water. I’d finished work, and rowed out to my boat from the harbor, which was just the other side of the wharf. It was a little rough in the anchorage, but my trimaran was anchored on a bridle going to the two float bows, so she rode directly into the wind and swell, and I had a good night’s sleep.


But as day dawned, and I stuck my head out of the hatch at first light, I realized that there was no chance I was going to work that day. The wind had picked up during the night to about 50 knots, and the swells to about 18 to 25 feet. It was a real roller-coaster ride: the boat surging violently back as the swells swished underneath, and up and down by the height of the swells. I was barely able to hanging, and I was a real deck monkey in those days.


Things got even more interesting when I turned my head and looked behind at the beach: of the seven boats that had been anchored in the roadstead the night before, mine was the only one still anchored. All the rest were up on the beach, having dragged their anchors and gone through the breakers. Luckily they were high and dry and salvageable, for they could have sunk in the process, in the break zone.


The sun rose a little more, but I couldn’t see it because of the driving rain and clouds. This was what the marine community called “a Souther” back then, and the local Spanish community referred to as “el chubasco”. What the Los Angeles Times says about them is this: “These storms will contain large hail, damaging winds, and even tornadoes.” That’s comforting, yes?


I spent most of the next hour up on the bow, trying to keep the chafing gear on the two anchor lines, which were zinging back and forth through the chocks, which were trying to saw them in two and put my boat on the beach with the others. I looked up, and saw a stolid, chunky, steel tugboat about a hundred and fifty feet away: this was the Santa Barbara dredger’s tug, which was normally inside the harbor, but their skipper had decided to take a little outing and see if he could offer assistance.


At about 55 feet long, big diesel engines, and watertight steel hatches, it was the only boat in the harbor that could make it out and back in without worrying about taking on water and sinking. I couldn’t hear a word they were saying, but it was obvious they wanted to throw me a line for a tow. I caught their first throw, made it fast around the biggest, strongest thing on the bow, which was a large round aluminum bitt that you could lift my boat out of the water with.


Then I dropped the anchor lines. This is a little more involved than it sounds, for one second an anchor line would have no strain on it, the next it would have a little over 2,000 pounds as my four-ton boat surged back against the line as a 20-foot wave swept by underneath. By now the waves were breaking regularly about fifty feet behind my boat; they were mountains of water with huge faces around 30 feet tall. I managed to release both the anchor lines without removing any of my fingers, then I hung on as the tug jerked me off at a ninety degree angle with its 950 horsepower.


I hurried back to the helm (steering wheel for those of you non-boaties), and tried to keep the bow of my boat pointed after the tug. This was kind of difficult, for my boat was a lot lighter than the tug, and when we went downwind through the breaking waves at the harbor entrance, my boat tried to surf up the tug’s behind, and my only recourse was to steer off to the side, which kind of made the tug pilot go wild and white-eyed.


Although the tug pilot was a good driver, by now the conditions were so chaotic that maneuvering was difficult to impossible; he deposited me near a dock by dropping the end of his tow line, and barely got himself out of the way before the wind blew his boat into another boat and dock. The harbor was crowded!


As the dock was downwind from me, I couldn’t avoid going to it, like one of those little “Scottie” magnetized dogs goes to the other. The only question was whether or not I would be able to get a line onto the dock to avoid sliding past the dock into something else, something that no doubt would cost more than I could afford to pay for repairs on. I secured a large line to a bow cleat, and as my treasured little ship hit the dock, so did I, with the other end of the line in my hot little hand.


It took me about two-sevenths of a second to get the line around a solid cleat on the solid concrete dock, just about the time my float bow also kissed the solid concrete. If this had been a human kiss, they both would have had bloody noses and chipped teeth. As it was, my little plywood and fiberglass trimaran was the only one with damage. But the cleat held, and the line held, and I hurried to get more lines on more cleats. I put out fenders and warped my treasure in to the dock, to safety. After everything was settled, I took stock: there was a single, deep ding about ten inches above the water line in the float bow; and no other damage at all. Sigh of relief!


It was late in the day, and I had been on the boat for the last twenty-four hours straight by now, so I jumped off onto the dock to look around. Jumped was a misnomer, for I had been carefully going from handhold to secure handhold on the boat. I had foul-weather gear on, so although soaking wet, I was warm. But when I went for the dock, I felt a certain amount of “lift”, and realized that moving around without a handhold might be a mistake. I got blown sideways by the wind, hunched down, and recovered by grabbing one of my dock lines to steady myself. This is when I looked around and realized that not only were there no people walking anywhere in sight, there were also no vehicles on the roads; for this was the kind of weather that could blow your car across a couple of lanes of wet road in nothing flat.


I climbed back aboard, got myself dried off and some dry clothes on, and cooked something hot for dinner, listening to the shriek and scream of wind in the rigging of the boats in the harbor. And the next day I went and found the tug captain, thanked him, and started paying off the $100 he’d charged me for the tow into the harbor. Pretty cheap for saving my life’s dreams, and all the work I’d done the last two years of my life. I will always think kindly of that man of the sea, who didn’t have to, but did. He risked his boat to save mine.

(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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Honoka'a, Hawaii 96727

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