If you are serious about learning aquaponics, you had better know something about tropical fish keeping. The most commonly used aquaponics fish, the tilapia fish, is a freshwater tropical fish.
Tropical fish keeping is best learned in advance of building your aquaponics system.
Learn Tropical Fish Keeping Using An Aquarium
You would be best learning tropical fish keeping using a small aquarium indoors, and it will take you some months to really get the hang of it.
The devil in tropical fish keeping is in the details. You cannot just purchase the required tank, filter, heater, lights, gravel, and plants, assemble the lot, and dump your chosen tropical fish in there. That fish will die an agonizing death, usually because of the tap-water you have used, if not from shock at the wrong temperature or a temperature different from the fish bagful of water in which you brought the fish home from your local aquarium fish store.
A Brief Tropical Fish Keeping Points List
So here is a brief points list to consider when buying an aquarium suitable for tropical fish keeping:
a) Is the aquarium big enough for the tropical fish you are considering keeping? The rule of thumb is a gallon of water per inch of fish in the aquarium (lengthwise). Think of all your proposed fish lined up and measure their length inches. That number of inches equals the number of gallons of water your will need to keep those fish healthy. Keep in mind that they will grow, and find out their maximum size to calculate that calculation by.
b) Only get an aquarium (and number of fish as calculated, for maximum size) that you have room for.
c) Never, ever use plain tapwater in an aquarium. Tapwater must always be treated, as per the instructions on the bottle, with an aquarium water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine added usually to all tapwater. Chlorine and chloramine will burn your fish’s gills so it cannot breathe and dies horribly.
d) Get an aquarium filter of the right size to suit your tank. This removes fish poo and waste from the water. If you do not have a filter, the fish poo and waste will build up and cause ammonia and nitrite levle spikes, which will kill your fish, again through suffocation.
e) Get an aquarium vacuum, usually the air-driven kind, to regularly once a week clean the bottom gravel of the tank of fish solids and uneaten food.
f) Don’t overstock your aquarium with more fish than its filter can handle in terms of waste. If you want more than that inch per gallon of fish, consider getting a larger aquarium or having more than one.
This will, of course, increase the amount of aquarium maintenance you will regularly have to carry out. Tropical fish keeping is not a just-add-water discipline. Nor is aquaponics, which is usually tropical fish keeping on a very much larger scale for half of all operations. The other half concerns the plant crops, which we are not concerned with here.
g) Make sure that your heater is the right size and wattage to properly heat your fish tank. Temperature can make or break your tropical fish keeping efforts. Fish are very sensistive to water temperature. You will need a reliable waterproof thermometer to regularly check this. You will also need to know what is the ideal temperature at which to keep your aquarium water so that your tropical fish keeping efforts will be successful.
h) Next, you will need to know what kind of food your fish prefer to eat. This is dependent on the species. Tilapia, for instance, are omnivorous (eat anything, but need a balanced diet), but some fish are carnivores (eat meat) and some are vegetarian only, and will turn their noses up at anything except vegetable matter.
i) Next, what are your fish going to breathe? If you reply “water,” you’ve got it SO wrong. Fish breathe AIR dissolved in water. So you are going to need air pumps and air stones for your aquarium. An air pump pumps air via a tube called an ‘air line’ that is attached to a bubble diffuser called an ‘air stone’ that you place at the bottom of your fish tank. It constantly bubbles air through the water which ‘ventilates’ the tank like an open window would for you in a stuffy room. The fish and plants in your tank all need oxygen from this to survive and thrive.
j) Yes, it’s best to have a gravel substrate planted with plants in your tank. The plants breathe in the carbon dioxide that the fish exhale, and also help absorb some of the nitrate fertilizer produced by your filter. There are hundreds of different ornamental aquarium plants available. They also provide a miniature forest in which your fish can hide if they are feeling shy, which happens quite often.
k) However, they will not cope with it all, so you will have to change the water in the aquarium once a week on average. To do this you will need to use a siphon made from PVC tubing. You can just use the tubing, but you may not like sucking up aquarium water to make this work, so for this, siphon pumps are sold that mean you do not have to share the experience of dirty aquarium water with your fish.More Points To con
More Points To Consider
These are just some of the less subtle points about tropical fish keeping at home. But you need to know in detail what it takes to keep tropical fish alive, and also coldwater fish (a little less demanding, but not much) if you are to have a chance at larger-scale fish farming and aquaponics.
For further details, and a good read as well, try out this book for size as an answer to your overall tropical fish keeping beginner’s needs: