To start an aquaponics system going, once it is built and filled up with dechlorinated chloramine-free water, you need to gradually add some fish. This means that you have to find a reputable commercial fish fingerling aquaculture supplier in your area, or one who can supply you live fish fingerlings by post or courier.
Properly packed in the new ‘breather bags’ which allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to pass in the appropriate directions through their walls without letting water molecules out, fish these days can be up to 48 hours in the bags before they begin to suffer, as long as adequate temperature and ventilation is maintained in the fish transportation packaging that surrounds the bags.
You will already have designed your aquaponics system to fit the needs of the species of fish you intend to raise. Each species of fish will have different aquaculture requirements that have to be addressed. For instance, see my article on raising trout in a temperate climate in aquaponics.
Most people start their aquaponics systems by adding a little straight ammonia, about a dessertspoonful, which can be got from your local pharmacy, or from any store that sells ammonia for cleaning purposes. Make sure this is pure ammonia, without any soaps, detergents, etc.
Then you let the system bubble with air from the air blowers and flow round and round with the pumps for around four weeks, adding a dessertspoonful of ammonia every week, and test it using a testing kit or sensor to see whether the ammonia is being turned into nitrate or not. After a couple of weeks, start adding plants until the nitrate starts disappearing from the tests results for your aquaponics system.
Now you need to gradually add fish, so as not to overload the new system with too much ammonia for the still settling in nitrifying bacteria in it to handle. Don’t overload the aquaculture part of the aquaponics system or you will have a disaster on your hands! Make sure you have enough plants in the hydroponic system part of your aquaponics system to soak up the nitrates in the water that the fish are producing.
Finding reliable fish fingerlings suppliers in your vicinity, county, state or country is usually something you should do at the planning stage of your aquaponics system. It would really be silly to have built and filled up your aquaponics system and then found that it was impossible to supply it with fish fingerlings (baby fish). However, breeding fish for aquaculture is actually a booming industry and so it is not as hard as you might think to eventually find a good trout breeder or tilapia breeder who can reliably supply you with your fish fingerlings.
Commercial trout farms, for instance, usually also supply trout fingerlings to trout sport fisheries such as estates with trout streams and trout lakes. But you will need a guarantee that the trout fingerlings you are buying are healthy and free of disease! Finding trout for your aquaponics system is not an easy task, it requires painstaking research on your part. The trout you use should also be made incapable of breeding in the tanks. On a fish farm, breeding should be carried out in a special section under strict biological controls. If you do not want to do this, you have to depend on a reputable supplier of fish fingerlings for aquaculture.
The same applies to suppliers of tilapia fingerlings for aquaculture. In the case of tilapia fingerlings, you should also make sure they are all guaranteed to be male, or your product at the other end of the cycle will be undersized, it will be impossible to work out feed ratio, and you will have all sorts of different sizes of fish in the pipeline, due to breeding in the tanks.
The best way to check your aquaculture suppliers are reputable is to ring around a few other trout fingerling buyers such as sports trout fisheries and find out who they used or have used in the past, and what results they achieved with the fingerlings they received.
As with any other business, an aquaculture supplier’s reputation is only as good as their product. Your aquaponics system product’s reputation is also founded on the fish fingerlings breeder you choose to use. Whether you are raising trout or tilapia, the quality of your fish fingerlings will to a large extent determine the quality of your adult fish product. Aquaponics is an intensive fish farm married to an intensive hydroponic farm, and you need top quality fish fingerlings and top quality seeds to make a profit. This means a reliable aquaculture fish fingerlings supplier is vital.
The rules for getting hold of fish fingerlings for an aquaponics system are really no different from those applying to a straightforward fish farm.
If you liked this necessarily rather general article and would like to have similar or more how-to articles to hand, I have edited the first six months of posts on this website into an over 30 chapter ‘Aquaponics Global Anthology.’ This saves you having to navigate all over this site for information and is printable, since it is a .pdf format file. This is immediately available from here to download now: