Backyard Aquaponics

Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)
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Author:  bcotton [ Mar 8th, '14, 20:28 ]
Post subject:  Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

I am a perennial experimenter and one of the two fish related spring projects for my aquaponics system is to feed train crappie.

Crappie in Aquaponics
1) They are temperature hardy for all of north america,
2) They are one of the best tasting freshwater fish (some argue best in north america)
3) I expect them to be more active/feed for a longer portion of the year than say bluegill and channel catfish.

1) potential obstacle in getting them to eat commercial feed
2) slower growing fish? The growth charts I have seen online put them at good/great conditions to grow about 1/2 lb a year (which is comparable to a bluegill and considered slow as it would take 2 full years to produce a filletable-able fish). Does this increase if the crappie are eating commercial/balanced feed and not forced to expend additional energy on hunting?

Pond lake con's that dont apply to aquaponics.
1) in my 800 gallon ferrocement tank , I will not have a problem with overpopulation, even if they decide to breed i dont expect young to be able to survive predation in the close quarters.

I have attempted to feed train red ear sunfish for about 3 years and last year thanks to posts on a pond related forum i was successful. Over the last year i have read a lot of information about crappie and I have accumulated a lot of encouraging information that this is indeed possible. It is just not often attempted.

a) Friday 3/7, I purchased 50 black and 50 hybrid (1-3")(ended up with about 60 black and 70 hybrid). I was hoping for more middle or smaller fish in that range because i feel like 2" or smaller is a better (best?) time to try to feed train fish as they seem more open to try new things and not so set in their choices of cuisine.

I was surprised at how difficult it is to tell these guys apart at this age. I know roughly half of the hybrids will look like black but i expect roughly half to look like white... Counting spines right now seems like it's maybe more of a challenge than it would be worth..There's some small chance that i swapped the bags and mislabeled them but they are in different tanks and until they get older and i know for sure we will call the first image black crappie and the second image hybrid crappie.

Black Crappie

Hybrid Crappie

b) I put the crappie into two 100 gallon stock tanks. This is a temporary home for a month or two while i feed train them. once it warms up and my second outdoor aquaponics ferro tank is complete , they will go outside.


I am using a makeshift filter out of an air stone, a strainer and some substrate from my aquaponics grow beds . The gravel should already have plentiful nitrifying bacteria already living on it. I should avoid the ammonia and nitrite spike that happens during a new aquarium "cycling". However, if there is a mini-cycle I have the ability to do frequent partial water changes with the outdoor aquaponics system which is over 1000 gallons and fully stabilized, same PH, etc. I would have to consider temperature differences when determining the amount of water i can change at a time.


c) in addition to the crappie, in each tank i have 1 pleco and 3 of the "runt" feed trained red ears from last year. Some of my feed trained red ears are 5-6" now but some are still 2-4". I picked out some of the small ones to help "teach" to eat pellets. I dont know if it's really teaching. The behavior observed is more of creating competition and I know the red ears will be aggressive feeders because i have trained them to be so...They will help with the "frenzy" that will i need to get crappie to try the commercial feed. keep in mind, I use some soaked and sinking pellets in the early stages so the pleco and red ears will help keep uneaten food from rotting in the tank.

All references to live food such as blood worms, brine shrimp or krill are frozen kinds not really "live".

The Plan:
1) I will feed twice a day as close to 11am and 11pm as possible.
2) The light in the room with the tanks stays off but I will turn it on when it is feeding time to help trigger feeding response.
3) I will start feeding them small amounts of blood worms until i notice most or all of the fish participating in feeding time. Sometimes it takes a few days to a week for fish to settle into their new home and get with the feeding schedule.
4) I will start soften up small high protein ciclid pellets (floating and sinking) by soaking them in water (with the blood worms) and increasing the pellet portion a little at a time until it's obvious that the fish are eating both indiscriminately
5) Then I will feed only soaked/soft pellets.
6) then I will switch to the same pellets not soaked

Some other thoughts that i consider and sometimes tinker with.
-Crappie feed by sight and can easily distinguish a blood worm from a pellet. Sometimes i find that it helps if i mix other food sources of different shapes in because it seems to help them be less strict about the way something looks before they taste it.

Author:  LJohnSaw [ Mar 8th, '14, 23:41 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

Nice experiment - I will watch and learn. I'm thinking blue gill and/or catfish but crappie would be nice!

Author:  jhooker [ Mar 9th, '14, 00:28 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

Im very interested in how it works out on rearing crappie in tanks. Im with you , I enjoy eating crappie. You could also breed tilapia to help feed the crappie since they reproduce some much.

Author:  Ronmaggi [ Mar 9th, '14, 01:24 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

It will be interesting to see how this progresses.

Author:  scotty435 [ Mar 9th, '14, 01:46 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)


Author:  bcotton [ Mar 9th, '14, 02:15 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

jhooker wrote:
Im very interested in how it works out on rearing crappie in tanks. Im with you , I enjoy eating crappie. You could also breed tilapia to help feed the crappie since they reproduce some much.

this is an option but your best food conversion of fish food to tilapia is about 2 lbs of food to 1 lb of fish... then it takes about 10 lbs of live food for a predator to gain 1 lb... see where i am going here?

also, i cannot keep tilpaia alive outdoors year round where i live which is the main reason i use native fish.

Author:  Stonewall [ Mar 9th, '14, 08:03 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

You could try increasing growth rate by using a single sex of fish.

Author:  bcotton [ Mar 9th, '14, 18:54 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

Slow, growth isnt a serious problem for me, just a general drawback for aquaponics.

If people are doing aquaponics for mostly the plants and the fish are secondary they may not mind the long growth times. As for me, I will have 3 or 4 tanks so i can stagger years and harvests.

In sunfish usually the females grow faster than the males but I dont think it is as drastic with crappie as say large mouth bass... hybrid crappie supposedly grow considerably faster and larger than either white or black, so that is a corollary experiment growing them side by side like this... I dont plan on going mono sex because assuming a successful feed training this year, next year's project will be breeding crappie...

people dont know this but crappie (and bluegill, all sunfishes) are every bit the prolific breeder that tilapia are. CRappie spawn less frequently but 60,000+ eggs per spawn is not uncommon...

Author:  bcotton [ Mar 10th, '14, 09:46 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

Already had a bit of an obstacle. I did water tests this morning and Ammonia was at 2ppm and nitrites at 1ppm in the hybrid tank... the black crappie tank was .25 and .25 which is expected as the bacteria adjusts to the new bioload. I attribute the high reading son the hyrbid tank to the fact i took that substrate from the top areas of the grow beds and i guess it didnt have as much bacteria as i thought. I have added more substrate from under the water line and done a couple of partial water changes today... the ammonia and nitrites are about half what they were before.. i will skip feeding tonight and recheck water in the morning.

I had already salted both tanks with 20 tablespoons of salt... since the water change i added additional 20 tablespoons of salt to the hybrid tank only.

Author:  bcotton [ Mar 10th, '14, 21:57 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

today the hybrid tank is at .5 ammonia and 0 nitrites, the black crappie tank is at .5 and .25.

Since i dont work today, it's 70 degrees outside and the outside tank is getting good sun, i decided to resume feeding and just recheck this afternoon and do partial water changes if necessary since the temp shouldnt be too big of a swing.

Author:  keith [ Mar 14th, '14, 03:37 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

since you have airlines already, i'd recommend getting a couple of "sponge" filters, or fabbing your own..but they're pretty cheap

Author:  bcotton [ Mar 22nd, '14, 19:35 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

I was doing water changes every other day and the water kept steady at about .5-1 Ammonia and nitrites. I was limiting feeding and all but that's counter productive to my task.

I decided i probably just dont have enough filtration, so i setup two ibc's inline to my quadraphonic system and i moved them outside.

Being inside was necessary because of the cold but it's warmed up considerably and temperature ranges on most days is 70-45 degrees F.

I will try to remember to take a picture of the outdoor system as it stands now and update the ferro thread.( i just get busy when it' slight outside and forget.)

I did have one loss so far but he was probably damaged in transportation. This kind of disease is usually present in water, the fish just become susceptible to it when they are hurt, malnourished, too cold or stressed. When i moved them outside no other fish showed signs of this, so i think it was isolated incident. at least for now, the fish are all very skinny because blood worms just isnt a balanced diet by itself.

I have resumed feeding twice (sometimes 3 times) a day outside. It's only a couple of blood worm cubes each time.. With the constant water changes and the move outside, i havent really let them settle into a rhythm so it's like i am just starting again.

on the other hand my water reading today was ammonia-0, nitrite-0, so there's that.


Author:  bcotton [ Mar 22nd, '14, 19:37 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

forgot to add the picture of the dead fishy.. noone will read a post that has no picture.

finrott-first-loss.jpg [ 89.62 KiB | Viewed 25678 times ]

Author:  qrprat77 [ Mar 30th, '14, 03:40 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

I know crappie occassionally hybridize in the wild, are these you have fertile? will they breed "hybrid crappie"?
Thanks, and I'll be following along!

Author:  bcotton [ Mar 30th, '14, 21:54 ]
Post subject:  Re: Crappie in Aquaponics (feed training experiment)

as i mentioned above i have both black crappie and hybrid crappie. If feed training is successful i will probably only try to breed black crappie unless i am able to source white crappie and make F1 hybrids.

a hybrid is a cross between a black and a white crappie. The first generation F1 has hybrid vigor. They should grow larger and faster than either parent. The F1's are fertile but the second generation F2 will most likely not have hybrid vigor and may even grow slower than the originals.

Crappie are sunfish and have very specific spawning requirements. I dont think they will do it in an IBC or my ferro tank like tilapia will. However, i think I could get them to spawn in breeding tanks. If you search for my my bluegill spawning thread it will work something like that. Also, I am not sure the larva will be able to start on commercial feed from the beginning like tilapia and trout. I will most likely have to have green water with zooplankton for the early feeding.

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