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Circulation-Free Fish Tank is Possible

 
Amit Enventres
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Location: Ohio, USA
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If you've ever considered getting a fish tank and didn't you probably left the idea thinking too much work, too expenvie, and definately not sustainable. Well, sure, if you have to buy an elaborate set-up, clean it and a filter weekly, keep a circulating pump going, get water conditioner, food, and constantly monitor the pH --- and after all that, what do these criters actually do for you anyway I'm posting this to break that myth.

Do wild fish have their streams and ponds' pH measured weekly? Did that goldfish in his little bowl use a pump and filter? What the heck do those pond fish do without a weekly water change and liner scrubbing? Yet, if you go to any fish store to set up an aquarium they'll take you to the tanks, filters, aerators, circulators, food, water purifiers, pH testers, and even with all that equipment advise you to clean the tank atleast once a week. Why? They're not cruel They are selling you a hobby. The fish store environment is set-up for people who love beautiful, expensive, unusual fish and lots of them in one tank. What happens is the fish are over-crowded (leading to a need for circulation, filtering, and water changes) and at the same time, not breed for hardiness. Rare is more beautiful. Rare is hard to keep.

I began experimenting with no circulation and reading up about what works. Below is my attempt to share these experiences with ya'all. Btw, my whole set-up was about $25 and I could have easily gotten it down to $15.

1. Do not over-crowd. The more fish, the more maintenance. Surface area (where the most oxygen exchange happens) = number of fish (not the tank depth). 3 fish per 2 square feet surface area is probably the best.

2. Don't choose difficult fish. Gold fish (a type of carp) are bottom feeders. So are plecostomases (a type of cat fish). Some say guppies are pretty hardy and they will breed in your tank. If your indoor air temp doesn't ever get much below 68 degrees, you can choose from certain tropical fish with lung-like structures (siamese fighting fish, paradise fish, etc. --males are territorial to other males of the same species). These tropical fish can easily gulp air off the surface of the water and are not bothered by low-oxygen environments. Consider mosquito fish as well.

3. Get a janitor. Plecostomuses suck stuff off the bottom. So do mystery snails (Warning - they eat some plant matter too). I'm guessing other criters are out there that will do the same. So, rather than cleaning out the fish poop. The snail or other janitor eats it, uses part of the energy to cruise around the tank, and the remaineder is deposited for your cleaning. Some of this will decompose and help the plants in the tank grow. Some will have to be removed. But, the amount of cleaning you end up doing is MUCH less. I have no algae "problems."

4. Add plants. Certain compounds in fish poop I have been told are toxic to the fish, but desireable to plants. Add plants to the aquarium. If you have a snail, make sure they are ones he or she is not particularly fond of. (I've caught mine scooping duckweed off the surface of the water). Devil's ivy and bamboo can even hang out of your tank. If plants (or algae) photosynthesize in the aquarium, my understanding is that increases the oxygen level during the day. However, when night comes, they stop photosynthesizing and supposedly absorb the oxygen through their roots. So be careful with this. You may think your fish are fine during the day only to find them gasping at the surface at night. Check at night to see if there is any oxygen deficiencies.

5. Remove all dead matter you can. More nutrients to decompose means more organisms competing for oxygen. If they run out of oxygen, they die and even more decomposition occurs anaerobically. Mean while you'll probably find a dead fish or two and your water will stink something horrible. Small amounts of decomposition are basically harmless parts of an ecosystem and shouldn' affect the fish's health.

6. Don't move the tank from a sunny spot to a shady spot. This usually results in a die back of all photosynthetic organisms which causes an increase in dead matter. If you have to do this, change the water at the same time and keep an eye on your system.

6. Consider your new resources as resources. House plants need watering? Starting seeds? Herb Garden a little dry? use your fish water first and replace that rather than going for plain water. This way you clean the fish tank, water the plants, and fertilize the plants all in one go.

...so , now you don't have to balance the pH or temperature. Your fish can withstand the enviornment. You don't have to circulate and filter. Your fish are adapted to this too. You have a pretty well-balanced and not overly crowded tank. Changing your task form tank cleaning to plant watering and fertilizing. All I haven't covered is water cleaner and food. I use these two things, though I'm sure some of you will find ways to feed the fish table scraps and not use a water cleaner.

I'll try to post a pic.

I hope this info proves useful.
Picture0004.jpg
[Thumbnail for Picture0004.jpg]
My In-Door Pond
 
Abe Connally
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now we need to scale this to a no-energy aquaponics setup!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think for aquaponics the key might be a large volume of water and plants to a small volume of fish.....but for many people it might just be easier to have a nice large pond, and not aquaponics. There are a lot of edible plants that grow in and near ponds and marshes.
 
Abe Connally
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yeah, I've been trying to figure out a no-energy aquaponics system for years, but haven't come up with anything. Ponds are the traditional method, and they work in a lot of climates.
 
Julie Helms
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Be aware that not all goldfish are equally cold hardy. I found this out the hard way when we lost power for 3 days. I knew I would lose my tropicals but the goldfish would surely be safe. Nope. Turns out some of the more highly bred ones need temps closer to the tropical range. (Mine were ryukins).

Also, consider an algae eater other than a pleco. They are really easy to raise but they are supposed to grow to 2-4 FEET long. So the whole tank system really stunts these guys.


http://www.oscarfish.com/article-home/fish/92-giants-part1.html
 
Nicola Marchi
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I myself have an aquarium with only a timed light. Unfortunately I had to give away my fish, it became a shrimp only aquarium, when I left the country for a month, but the aquarium did fine by itself.

You really should go with a fully planted aquarium. When I still had half a dozen fish and a dozen shrimp, my 30 gallon tall planted aquarium could easily oxygenate the water enough. Note: I planned on not using a pump for oxygenation and thus chose a few small hardy species that I introduced only after cycling the tank with the ammonia method.

Don't ever introduce fish to a planted aquarium without having cycled it and the plants themselves have started to grow again after having first introduced it, otherwise you'll be doing many water changes just to keep up (even when my aquarium was fully populated I only did a water change a month and my water quality was fantastic)

There's a really good book that can help you out called "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" by Diana L Walstad if you do decide to try out a fully planted aquarium.

Check out "http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/" to see what people are doing with a planted aquarium.
 
Nina Jay
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Is it a completely crazy idea to hope to get some food from the tank as well? That would of course mean propagating the fish. I'm thinking of Tilapia... Now spawning fish is not that easy, having tried that with quite a few fish species and succeeded only with three (guppies, swordtails and Corydoras panda, a small catfish). Guppies and swordtails are live-bearers and easy to breed but... what is the point? I have no experience with Tilapias or any bigger fish for that matter. Just small ornamental fishes.

Algae is something that I've always had too much no matter how big a tank and how few fish and what kind of "algae-eaters" there were. Most algae eaters only really eat significant amounts of algae when they are young. My plants always ended up covered in green algae... not harmful but not very beautiful either.
 
Tyler Ludens
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There are lots of edible plants that can grow in large tanks, but it would be hard to raise enough edible fish without circulation.
 
P Thickens
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The system described here is a basic form of a Planted Tank. Planted Tanks (AKA "Water Forests") are complete ecosystems. Just like other forms of Permaculture, the more effort one puts into their setup, the more one gets out of evenutal lower maintenance costs and total yields.

Here is more information:

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/
http://www.adana-usa.com/

Some gorgeous Planted Tanks:

http://www.ratemyfishtank.com/photo-main.php/31810
http://www.ratemyfishtank.com/photo-main.php/31721
 
Amit Enventres
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fish food preservation forest garden
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A couple of things. I'm glad this topic has proven of interest

From what I read about tilapia, most of the ones (if not all) that you buy at the grocery store are hybrids of two types that produce all male off-spring. I guess they are the mules of the fish world. When you go to buy tilapia fingerlings, you may end up with this hybrid, that cannot breed. Otherwise, I guess tilapia readily breed.

For growing big fish for food - you'll need more than a tank just because most fish only grow according to their environment and often get stunted in tanks. Thus, a carp remains small enough to fit in the palm of your hands after several years of life (i.e. the family gold fish). He's really not worth frying up. You may be able to get guppies or some small edible fish to breed enough to make some sort of seasoning...like sardines. As long as they breed, it may work. Carp don't breed until they get full size...so, you need to have a full-sized pond.

As for shrimp - never thought of that! My hubby and I don't eat them, so I haven't considered them or crawfish etc. . . but that's cool! What are some edible aquatic plants out there that are easy to grow? Anyone? I know cattails...

Thanks!
 
Abe Connally
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It depends on the tank. Carp will grow full size in 100 gallons
 
Tyler Ludens
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Amit Enventres wrote: What are some edible aquatic plants out there that are easy to grow?


Can't say how easy to grow they are, but here are some plants which grow in water at different depths:

Sacred Lotus http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?...lumbo+nucifera

Duck potato http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?...aria+latifolia

Canna http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?...e=Canna+edulis

Taro http://www.ethnoleaflets.com/leaflets/taro.htm

Water chestnut http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?...ocharis+dulcis

Watercress http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?...ium+officinale

Tiger nut http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?...rus+esculentus

http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.aspx?pageid=79
 
Abe Connally
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So, how can we apply this to aquaponics?
Super low stocked with lots of plants?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Abe Connally wrote:
Super low stocked with lots of plants?


That's what I think. I think the fish component would need to be quite small compared to the plant component....
 
Abe Connally
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Well, that's ok if we can do it without energy. I wonder how many fish in how many gallons or square feet of water?
 
Devon Olsen
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the disadvantage i see to using this method for aquaponics is my suspiscion that you would only be able to grow aquatic plants, whereas aquaponics with a grow bed and everything allows one to grow a large variety of plants
 
Abe Connally
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Maybe some other plants on a gravel/sand island
 
Abe Connally
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So, you're saying one fish per square foot? Does that depend on the size of the fish? What is the suggested depth of water?
 
Nina Jay
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Amit Enventres wrote:

From what I read about tilapia, most of the ones (if not all) that you buy at the grocery store are hybrids of two types that produce all male off-spring. I guess they are the mules of the fish world. When you go to buy tilapia fingerlings, you may end up with this hybrid, that cannot breed. Otherwise, I guess tilapia readily breed.

For growing big fish for food - you'll need more than a tank just because most fish only grow according to their environment and often get stunted in tanks. Thus, a carp remains small enough to fit in the palm of your hands after several years of life (i.e. the family gold fish). He's really not worth frying up. You may be able to get guppies or some small edible fish to breed enough to make some sort of seasoning...like sardines. As long as they breed, it may work. Carp don't breed until they get full size...so, you need to have a full-sized pond.

As for shrimp - never thought of that! My hubby and I don't eat them, so I haven't considered them or crawfish etc. . . but that's cool! What are some edible aquatic plants out there that are easy to grow? Anyone? I know cattails...


Good to know aobut the hybrid Tilapia. I was thinking that, having read somewhere that tilapia need a very high temperature for breeding and we rarely get that in our ponds in Finland, that I could "spawn" them in a large tank in the spring and then raise them in a pond during the summer months (whole three of them). And then get the breeding pair (supposing I could still tell them apart from the rest of the fish) back in the tank to overwinter....

I have also thought about shrimp, but I know nothing about them and how difficult they are to breed. Don't you need salt water for shrimp? Marine aquarium is something I've always thought just too difficult, maintaining the right salt concentration and hardness and whatnot. But I guess there are fresh water species as well. Now where to get them in Finland is an interesting question in itself. Tilapia you can find in some pet shops.

I personally wouldn't want to eat anything from my aquarium without boiling it first... So I would not want eat aquatic plants from my tank... I know my water is never that clean


 
Abe Connally
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could we grow some tilapia in one of these?
Edible Pond

or maybe some lungfish or something that wouldn't need aeration... frogs? snails? crayfish? all of the above?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think one could include some fish in an edible pond, but not a lot. I don't know what the ratio of water to fish should be, one might need to experiment. Using a low-oxygen-requiring fish would be a good idea. No trout! The problem I've read with trying to raise crayfish is they tend to eat each other in confinement. Freshwater clams/mussels might be something to try, and they help move and filter the water. I tried to get native clams going in my little backyard pond but they all died. Apparently they are difficult to transport and need to be acclimated to the new location gradually. No sudden temperature or pH changes....
 
duane hennon
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a few thoughts on circulation-free
in nature a pond has circulation that is free, it is provided by the wind and the movement of the fish, ducks, etc
but circulation is necessary to prevent stagnation and dead spaces.
oxygen can get used up in an area faster than it can difuse through the the water.

also a tank isn't a very good analog for a pond because a tank has very little "edge" to volume as compared to a pond or lake.
this edge is shoreline and combined with the wave action from the wind is where a good deal of air exchange occurs



so with a system that is inside and set up for production, rather than display, a replacement for the wind, wave & edge is needed


also, if using plants for oxygenation, a good light source is required , so supplimental lighting, especially for the submerged plants, would be required.
unless you lived where it is always sunny and always the same length of day

but go for it and how much can be done
 
Devon Olsen
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so, how might one produce a decent amount of food from four fairly small shallow containers?
i haven't measured em in a while but they are approximately 2'x3'x8", black towing tub things, fish wouldn't likely get big enough to make a decent meal but what about crawdads? how many of them per sqft of surface area?
and are they considered janitors or simply scavengers?
other fish that would go well with crawdads?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I was looking into raising crawdads but turns out they have a tendency to eat each other in a small space so don't make much sense to raise in an aquaponics system. So you can really only have a few and if you have too many they'll eat each other...

So far for me the Channel Catfish have done well, though initially some of them jumped from the tank! But I'm using circulation.

 
Devon Olsen
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ideally, i would use the containers for grow beds in an aquaponics system... but atm that isn't a realistic possibility...
so crawdads a no go, would fresh water mussels do well in a circulation-free tank? especially one as shallow as mine?
what are some good fish to raise with the mussels?
i am looking for balances in critters that will help at the least do a lot to clean the tank for me...
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think mussels would be a good thing to have in the tanks, because they circulate water through their feeding action. I tried to establish freshwater mussels in my little garden pond, but they all died. They were transported a long distance and I think the water might have gotten too hot and the change to the new environment was too drastic.
 
Cal Burns
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Here in central Texas, I have an old 6 foot galvanized round stock tank that has a half dozen goldfish, a few minnows and crawdads. Will be replacing with new one as the tank is literally falling apart. The goldfish have been living in there for probably 8 years previous owners say. Only maintenance has been to feed the goldfish once a week, and add some river water if the water level gets low. The tank is in semi shaded area on a slope, with occasional wind. Has no pumps to circulate the water. Have been thinking of getting bluegill or catfish when I get a new water tank and put in edible plants and mussels to help oxygenate the water. Have a cover cage to keep critters out. Would like to do without putting in a pump if possible unless it's a solar one. Is this even feasible?
 
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