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stocking fish in your homestead pond?  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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We have been working for many years on our homestead pond, and we have deepend and enlarged it, planted it with lots of plants and put in a waterfall for some air in summer and a bubbler for air in winter..have had goldfish breeding in it for about 8 years now and they are doing well so we are hoping to move on to edible protein fish.

We have no "freshwater" going in other than from groundwater springs and it does get warm so trout are out..checking with a local fish hatchery they suggest rock bass, large mouth bass, perch and sunfish, but also I guess there are some catfish that might do OK? (don't know anything about catfish).

was also curious about talipia..any suggestions would be helpful...the pond is 10 years old and about 1/2 acres with some areas 10 feet deep and some areas shallowish
 
Posts: 7
Location: Delton, Michigan, USA
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Sounds like you have a fun project coming together! I am also located in MI and thinking of stocking the several acre farm pond on our property so I have thought quite a bit about the overall design for a northern setting. My experience is in freshwater aquaculture with Nile tilapia in a recirculating aquaponics system in a much warmer southern location.

First off, most of the fish your local hatchery suggested are carnivorous, or another way to think of them is that they feed high on the food chain. This is not surprising since most people's preferences go toward the better tasting carnivorous fish. Rock Bass, Large Mouth Bass, and Perch are all high feeders. Sunfish is an herbivore/omnivore and you could also throw bluegill in there too. Catfish is a bottom feeder that feeds on benthic organisms and deadfall from above. What you will probably want to do to achieve a balanced system in your pond is to simulate a natural ecosystem with each trophic level providing some benefit for yourself, i.e. edible.

So the basic layout would be three to four different species, each chosen for their what benefit they give the whole system and what level they feed on. You will want a filter feeder, herbivore, predator, and detritavore. This will provide a basic functioning ecosystem. Now which fish you chose for each of those rolls is up to personal preference for what tastes good to you, what is available, how hardy it is (does it get sick easily and tolerate the water conditions in your pond?), how fast does it grow, etc. The classic Chinese carp polyculture works in exactly this way and they have been successfully raising lots and lots of food for centuries in this fashion. They use the Black, Grass, Silver, and Big Head carp together to produce incredible amounts of edible biomass per acre. Beginning research can start here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaculture_in_China

I would also suggest adding an abundant amount of nutrients into a system like this once it is established since our cold northern inland ponds are a little low on primary production. For my pond it is already provided by the runoff from a neighbors farm unfortunately. If you don't have anything charging your pond with fertilizer then adding ducks on the pond or some kind of farm animal on the slopes near the pond can boost productivity quite a bit. Basically you want the pond to go eutrophic so that there is lots of primary production (plankton and algae). Your filter feeders will consume the algae and plankton stimulated by this fertilization, your herbivores will eat the grasses and plants stimulated by the nutrient rich water, the carnivore will feast on the young offspring of the others to keep their populations in check (overpopulation leads to food scarcity and smaller fish all around), and the detritavore will clean up the bottom and feast on the waste of the others. Ducks provide the input and help keep duckweed and shore plants down.

A note on tilapia: they can become incredibly invasive if they get out into natural waterways (carp too for that matter). If you go this rout be sure you have protective measures in place to prevent the accidental escape of your fish.

I hope some of this helped. I know I didn't give any specifics on species but every situation is different and the overall design and balance is what you are striving for. Personally I am leaning toward seasonal Nile tilapia, crappie, green or pumpkinseed sunfish, and catfish/bullhead (not sure how they taste in a farmed pond) with muskovy ducks and wild geese (already have plenty of these). Let me know if you have any other questions and I will be happy to help!

 
Posts: 1124
Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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chicken dog hugelkultur
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Joshua seems to be on the right track suggesting fish from different trophic levels.
Depending on the size of your pond you may want a variety in each trophic but i would suggest you have at least some diversity in the lowest trophic levels to make up for predation and other natural losses that may cause destruction of a single species
Also,i have heard that tilapia can survive so long as they dont freeze but dont quote me on that because they do seem native to warmer places
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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yes there is a chance that it might get too cold here for tilapia..right now the bubbler keeps open water MOST of the time but we dropped well below 0 this week and even some creeks froze over.

our neighbors have bullheads and had a huge bullhead loss 2 years ago, not really sure why..but that was a concern to us.

neighbors the other way have pike, bluebills, perch, large mouth bass and put in some baby fish last year..not sure what all..they tried to get out all the pike first..not sure how successful they were on that.

also i have a gob of baby goldfish..i'm sure they are being eaten by some critters..but in the spring it is amazing how many babies i see..and some are as big as 4" or so..by now..

this pond has cattails, iris, lotus, lily, arum and lots of water plants as well as the native water plants (i put in babies from a bunch from a water garden supply store 2 years ago)..oh it also has sterile lythrum in it which hasn't spread ..at least so far.
 
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