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Sustainable Fish Pond

 
Posts: 277
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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I was talking to some people about fish ponds and from what I am hearing, ponds require a lot of intervention to keep fish. I was wondering if anyone here has any experience with having a fish pond sustain itself? I'm wanting a half acre pond with a good supply of fish without having to feed pellets, add fertilizer, restock with fish etc. Is this possible?
 
Brandon Greer
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A quick note: I would not mind some management as long as the requirements can be met using resources from my own 12 acres and without outside inputs.
 
pollinator
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My pond has been here for probably 40 years & I don't do anything to it:



It has a small creek which feeds water into it for 9 months or so. It's not well set up for harvesting fish. Lots of wildlife. I think Paul talks about small fingers to ponds are places where critters grow that fish like to eat.

Low/No maintenance ponds are very doable.

My pic has vanished. Here it is:
DSCN0596.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSCN0596.JPG]
 
Brandon Greer
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That's a beautiful pond! How big is it?
 
Cj Sloane
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Big! Its a figure 8 with an island in the middle. Maybe 450-600 feet on the long end, the shot above is the short end. It has catfish & carp but wasn't set up to drain for easy harvesting. The deepest spot is between those willows, about 15 feet. Most of the pond is 5/6' deep when filled up. 1 year in 5 it gets very low due to drought.
 
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Basically if you want a pond you don't have to take care of, it has to be balanced.

Not too many fish that they overwhelm the natural food supply or the ability of the pond to absorb waste.
Enough plant material to clean the water and provide food and shelter.

I have very small ponds and they are almost maintenance free because they've become balanced
with their environment, their inputs/outputs.

My "method" has basically been let nature follow it's course, and only step in when absolutely necessary.
 
Brandon Greer
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Hi Cris, how small are your ponds and what kind of fish do you have in there?
 
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It is astonishing to compare the productivity of the average American pond with it's Chinese counterpart of the same size. One huge difference is that the Chinese and to some extent Indian aquaculture systems include more filter feeders, mostly various species of carp. These are considered trash fish and invasives in America, whereas they are valued and productive food fish in Asia. If I were you and I had that pond, I'd be off to the nearest large river in the Mississippi drainage and catch some carp to stock it with!
 
Cj Sloane
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Actually, my pond does have carp! I spent about $2 and put comets in there. The biggest ones are probably 8" so I can't imagine they'd be worth eating, but maybe someday...
 
pollinator
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The carp served in China is very, very bony - would not be acceptable to most western pallets. I have not designed a pond but I have done some research into the same idea with aquariums - what does it take to set up a 200 gallon aquarium so that it requires no/minimal intervention. The answer is the same as mentioned - balance with nature. The depth of your pond, the surface area, the average temperature of the water, the type of soil/rocks on the bottom all determine what the bioload of your pond is. You should first answer the two questions: 1. Am I willing to be satisfied with whatever amount of fish I can get from the pond 2. Do I want to be able to harvest x00 pounds of fish each year? If you answer "yes" to #1, then your task will be relatively easy. If you answer "yes" to #2, then your task will take longer, or will take more work. Ponds have many functions, such as aesthetic, storing water, raising fish/food, providing water for animals - whether you are raising or wildlife. Have you consider raising some kinds of shellfish in the pond as well or crabs? They occupy a different niche in the pond so you may be able to get more food from the pond without more work and yet have it be more balanced with the addition of other kinds of creatures. I have never read any info on this, but I am wondering if there are fresh water plants that are edible - and tasty (to the human palate)? Yet another way to make your pond a food source, and probably a very nutritious one at that. Turtles are tasty as well, if the mean is roasted.

If your pond is not very deep - I am guessing less than 3-4 feet deep - you will find it more difficult to keep the environment stable for the fish because the water temperature will change dramatically from day to night

One advantage of feeding your fish - or water animals you put in the pond - is that if there is a designated feeding spot it makes harvesting them easier. After a very short while the fish know that if they go to the southwest corner of the pond at 7 a.m. they can get a free breakfast. And you know that if you take your net down to the southwest corner of the pond at 7 a.m. you can easily have fresh fish for breakfast

If you want the pond to be more productive than the system will naturally handle, you may want to look into setting up the kind of ponds found in fish farms. There are machines that will feed them automatically - all you have to do is top off the hopper. I have seen recipes online for fish food that were not very complicated to make at all. You can also raise duckweed and other plants in these ponds - they literally grow like weeds - and the fish enjoy the veggies....composting? You can start worm composting and raise nice tasty worms for your fish at the same time.

Either way, you are going to have a learning curve. The difference is, with a more natural pond, you are going to have to master more variables. With a fish farm pond, the variables are more limited, but will require a certain amount of ongoing intervention. How much intervention will depend on how mechanized you can make the pond and how much nature you can infuse into it.

Note: I recently read of a family - I think it was in Washington State - that has been asked to remove the pond that they built because of some kind of water rights or code issues. Whatever you do, make sure you are going by the books!!

 
Cris Bessette
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Brandon Greer wrote:Hi Cris, how small are your ponds and what kind of fish do you have in there?




They are only about 8ft across, 18 inches to 3 feet deep.
I dug two directly in front of my house to make use of the water from roof run-off.

I actually never intended to put fish in them, just use them as ornamental pools/plant watering source/emergency fire use.

One of my neighbors came over and put about 5-6 gold fish in one a few years ago, and well, they've been fruitful and multiplied to a few hundred I guess.

I put a bass in one of the ponds last year and haven't seen it since- maybe it's still down there somewhere?

Lots of frogs. Specifically Rana Sylvatica (wood frog) mate in the ponds every Winter and I have lots of froglets.


I've also been working on digging much larger ponds on other parts of my property, but digging by hand with a pick and shovel is very slow.
 
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Location: VT, USA Zone 4/5
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Hi Brandon - if you want a pond for fish production, read up on Sepp Holzer, particularly the book "Desert or Paradise". Also, Geoff Lawton recently released a video that had some cool fish pond tricks - like floating an island with a solar light on the pond. In the evening mosquitoes and other bugs are attracted to the light and come to feed. I don't have a link for you, but I think Geoff released it in the beginning of February.
 
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Not an expert but wanting to do the same thing so I may be a bit farther in my research.

I have found a few specific methods like keyline design, observation of your watershed and planning based on your natural factors, high density stocking in the area of your pond to naturally compact the soil, dam building..and many more.

One the pond is filled, sustainable principles still apply. Biodiversity would be the main thing you really want. Build an ecological system, look at what's native to your area .

Good luck
 
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Location: NE Tennessee
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I would echo the comments about Sepp. His ponds are completely self-sustaining. He has trout, pike and carp if I recall correctly. I know the first two where correct, not sure about the third. He has a lot of wetlands area between ponds that serve as nursery areas for tadpoles. Then the grown frogs naturally move into the ponds and provide meals for the fish. He has a huge number of amphibians on his property. Sells the fish to local restaurants and such. It's a nice system.

The mosquito attractant is a great idea as well.

Keith
 
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People always talk about how aquaculture is (arbitrary number) times more productive than land-based ag. But we rarely see this in action.

Who has seen (or better can point us to an example on the web) someone getting major caloric production from fish and aquatic plants in a regenerative or at least sustainable system? I'm looking for deep in the ground ponds, not tanks. I want to create this and I need to be able to dive into it or drop in from a zipline. I guess Sepp is going to be the first example thrown at me. But he's doing other stuff. I'm looking for an example of someone making their primary living off of this. My real question is, how many acre-feet of pond might this require (in the U.S.) and what's the most efficient way to harvest the fish?
 
Cj Sloane
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Jeremy Watts wrote: I want to create this and I need to be able to dive into it or drop in from a zipline.



I suggest 2 separate ponds. If you want a pond to swim in - deep enough to drop in from a zipline - then that's a totally different pond then one that will be all about intensive aquaculture. Intensive aquaculture pond should be no more than 6 feet deep and be able to drain it down so there's only a small channel left for harvesting the fish.
 
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I built a small wildlife pond on my farm. There was no water source on my property...I had dug a couple pot hole with a friend's tractor bucket. And decided I wanted to go bigger. I had a friend come over with a track hoe and about 5 hours later a nice wildlife pond. We took my friend 4x4 Kubota with bucket & box blade ( my tractor is 2 wheel drive and would have never come out of the pond) and spend about 4 hours "dressing" it up. It is about 1/4 acre and 7 foot deep at the dam. I was surprised how quick it filled up with natural run off. But that being said ~~I located it where 2 small ditches came from my farm to the bottom. I planted rye grass around it. And last Dec. I bought 100 5"to 7' catfish to put in it. Last week I bought a pound of fathead minnows for it. * to be used as a food source for the catfish
Also--I took a deer feeder and converted it to put pellets and floating food in there. As I do not live on my farm. In all I spent around $700 for the pond and well worth ~~ the deer/wild turkey and small game and birds use it for a water source now.
 
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Jeremy Watts wrote:People always talk about how aquaculture is (arbitrary number) times more productive than land-based ag. But we rarely see this in action.

Who has seen (or better can point us to an example on the web) someone getting major caloric production from fish and aquatic plants in a regenerative or at least sustainable system? I'm looking for deep in the ground ponds, not tanks. I want to create this and I need to be able to dive into it or drop in from a zipline. I guess Sepp is going to be the first example thrown at me. But he's doing other stuff. I'm looking for an example of someone making their primary living off of this. My real question is, how many acre-feet of pond might this require (in the U.S.) and what's the most efficient way to harvest the fish?



Hi Jeremy!

I believe we share a similar dream of creating a system of ponds that can provide an income from fish with system of ponds. I haven't found too many examples of this other than Sepp. In fact, Sepp is the only one who I've seen do it. In two weeks I am moving to my 40 acre farm near Athens, GA to attempt a system similar to Sepp's. I'll be posting my progress after I get started. Wish me luck!

I'd be glad to share all my success and failures with everyone online.

gift
 
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