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goldfish aquaculture for an apartment?

 
                          
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Location: Bremerton, Washington
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This may seem silly to some people, but...

I live in a small apartment with no space for a garden.  It doesn't even ever get any direct sunlight on the porch for a decent container garden.  But I do have a goldfish.

My fish lives in a 1.5 gallon tank, with no filter or bubbler.  I just clean the tank and change the water weekly.  I also have a couple of live plants in the water for beauty and to help with oxygen and nitrogen balance.  But I was wondering if I could do more.

I've seen some aquaponics setups where people raised tilapia and salad greens in massive tanks with pumps and filters and all kinds of stuff involved, and the lettuce cleaned the water and the fish fertilized the lettuce.  I was just wondering if anyone could help me figure out how to scale something like that down to where it would work with my little 3" goldfish.  Maybe on top I could grow a few herbs or spinach, or something that doesn't require much direct sunlight? 

My main concern is I want to keep the setup small.  I'm not trying to produce mass outputs, I just would like to not have to clean the tank as often.

Or... maybe someone knows some sort of plant that might grow well in my fishtank?  Something edible or beautiful might be nice, like water chestnuts or something... if it could work on this small scale.
 
Neal McSpadden
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This is exactly what I do. Check out a video of my spring update:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKrPgq6Rfuk
 
                          
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Fantastic!  Your porch setup looks very interesting.

I'm interested in something a bit more decorative, though, to display my fish indoors.  Could you give me a clue where to find the information I'll need to figure out what I need (and how to put it together)?
 
Burra Maluca
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I thought the size they grew to was determined by the conditions they were kept it, so that if you kept them in a small tank, then they'd only grow to an appropriate size.  I may be wrong though. 

Horses are different - they grow substantially bigger than 16" and require several miles exercise daily.  They keep on growing regardless of how small an apartment people try to keep them in. 
 
                          
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Emerson, that is ridiculous.  My goldfish is barely 3" long, and seems entirely happy in its 1.5 gallon tank on my kitchen windowsill.  It is several years old, and has bright eyes and bright scales and no signs of stress.

Even if it is possible for it to grow 10" long someday, the rule of thumb is "a gallon of water for every inch of fish".  I'm beating that now by always keeping the water clean manually, because I don't have room for a 3 gallon tank. 
 
                    
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I believe if one wants to grow the fish to be large enough to make eating them feasible/worthwhile a larger tank would be called for.
 
Brenda Groth
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i would like to find out more about raising the tilapia here on our  property, as we eat them several times a week boughten from the store, I'm sure IF I could raise them here ..I have a groundwater/rainwater pond that freezes on top in the winter, goldfish breed well in it but I'm just not sure about the tilapia
 
                          
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mtnDon Miller wrote:
I believe if one wants to grow the fish to be large enough to make eating them feasible/worthwhile a larger tank would be called for.


That is true.  I was a bit snippy in my reply to Emerson above, and I hadn't thought of it this way.  My goal is not to raise fish to eat.   My fish is a pet.  I just want a way to filter my fish's water, ideally without increasing the size of the system beyond what will fit on my kitchen windowsill.

Also, I keep my fish because I think it's beautiful.  I would want any system to be beautiful as well.
 
Burra Maluca
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I think maybe if you only have one pet goldfish, the easiest thing to do would be to do 'partial water changes' by just taking a jug of water out every now and then to water your houseplants with and then topping the water level up again with fresh water. 

Why make it any more complicated than it has to be?

 
                          
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I do water plants with my fish's water.  But I was hoping for an aquaponics setup that could free me from having to change the water weekly.  If the plants cleaned the water, it would free me from that chore.  I just don't know how to design a small system like that, or where to go to get educated in aquaponics.
 
Neal McSpadden
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CrunchyBread wrote:
I do water plants with my fish's water.  But I was hoping for an aquaponics setup that could free me from having to change the water weekly.  If the plants cleaned the water, it would free me from that chore.  I just don't know how to design a small system like that, or where to go to get educated in aquaponics.


The best place is the forum at backyardaquaponics.com. Be warned though, just like this forum you might get lost in all the information and realize a week has passed!

As for a more decorative setup, it's only limited by your creativity. Personally I just want to grow stuff and don't care how it looks .
 
Emerson White
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Burra Maluca wrote:
I thought the size they grew to was determined by the conditions they were kept it, so that if you kept them in a small tank, then they'd only grow to an appropriate size.  I may be wrong though. 

Horses are different - they grow substantially bigger than 16" and require several miles exercise daily.  They keep on growing regardless of how small an apartment people try to keep them in. 


Goldfish live for 40 years, in a tiny tank they tend to last about 6 months. The outside of the fish stops growing but internal organs do not, and you get what is called compaction, a painful condition that is eventually fatal. I watched the video and if they are being eaten at that size then it's okay to keep them in a barrel, but a 1.5 gallon tank only has 11" of travel typically; I did put some thought into my metaphore, and kept fish for years, even breeding coral for income on the side.
 
Burra Maluca
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Emerson White wrote:
The outside of the fish stops growing but internal organs do not, and you get what is called compaction, a painful condition that is eventually fatal. I


Urgh - I hadn't realised that...
 
                                              
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Emerson White wrote:
Goldfish live for 40 years, in a tiny tank they tend to last about 6 months. The outside of the fish stops growing but internal organs do not, and you get what is called compaction, a painful condition that is eventually fatal. I watched the video and if they are being eaten at that size then it's okay to keep them in a barrel, but a 1.5 gallon tank only has 11" of travel typically; I did put some thought into my metaphore, and kept fish for years, even breeding coral for income on the side.


I wonder if the common carp for aqua culture were bred out of that? Mine are continually growing and the biggest are around 8 inches now. although mine arent in 1.5gallons they are in 60, well probably 50-55 gallons of water at a time..... Lots of folks grow them out to good eating size in tanks such as this. Koi as well, even living a LONG time.... Carp have been farmed for food for a long time, so Im guessing perhaps without realizing it, it was bred out of that.... I never heard of it in the field so far.... will have to look into it I guess.
 
Emerson White
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nope, and if they are that big it's time to move them into a bigger tank or into the freezer. They will probably make it for many years in a 55 gallon tank, but it's still not enough room for a 10" fish (that in the wild would swim over a fairly large area) to get enough exercise. Think about draining the tank and keeping bantam chickens in it. Would that seem fair to them?
 
                                              
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  they sure dont seem to upset at all actually. they swim and play with eachother constantly. they know me now and will eat out of my hand at times. (a few of them anyway)

   People have kept koi and other carp like this for a few thousand years. Even in as close of quarters, especially their select breeders, who in many set ups were 2-3 feet long and breeding in tiny areas. they can outlive me in such conditions, and get much larger then 10 inches. Mine show no letting up of growth, in fact they are growing much faster as its warming up now.

    as i move outside this summer i will be adding 18o gallon tanks, but they will also have more fish in each eventually. Carp are a schooling fish it suits them just fine if the water is clean. especially with live foods. they werent happy with the flakes and pellets at all. Since Ive given them live foods, they are always playful and swimming around.....

     
 
Emerson White
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SILVERSEEDS wrote:
  they sure dont seem to upset at all actually. they swim and play with eachother constantly. they know me now and will eat out of my hand at times.


Have you ever seen chickens kept in too small a cage?
 
                                              
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Emerson White wrote:
Have you ever seen chickens kept in too small a cage?


yes actually. Ive seen them on these trucks in cages they couldnt stand or move at all. I was working next to them for the three days it took the processing plant to unload the trucks. It was rather sad looking...

I dont think this applies in this case though. this carp can grow and be happy in such conditions. Atleast with live foods and good water. as happy as in a lake? surely not. but im sure the ox would rather be roaming some grasslands, with some cows and goats would rather be climbing some mountains somewhere etc.

thinking about my brothers goldfish as a kid though and how it sat in the corner half the time, I can see what you may be thinking. the carp arent like that though, atleast not mine. they swim all day long, in different patterns, and rub on eachother like schooling fish do. Ive never seen goldfish nearly as active.



 
                                              
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for the record Im keeping my carp at about 1/3 of the possible density. Well actually not even close to that now, but that is the intention later when my fish are breeding.....  commercial operations of tilapia for instance would have triple the densities per amount of water. carp can handle those densities and there are cases of them at even higher densities then triple where I intend to go, in third world nations. the density i settled on I might lower but that seems to be one where you dont have greatly intensified disease issues, so I figured that was a good place to be.... If they dont grow well and stay happy, I will keep them at lower densities....
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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Emerson White wrote:
Um, Goldfish need about 200 gallons of water. Would you keep a horse in your apartment? Goldfish get to be 10-16" long depending on strain, so to scale a horse in your apartment is more fitting.


Wow, this is actually very very wrong.


Goldfish, and other fresh water fish release a chemical into the water of aquariums that help with the growth rate.  It can actually slow growth tremendously.  I cite the living beautiful gift from China that resides at the NY Aquarium in Coney Island as the proof.  As such, not doing water changes will inhibit growth.  I have never heard anything about the internal organs of these fish growing and the outside not, and I am still in touch with ichthyologists & cetacean biologists working there.  Please send me a link so I can read up on this.

Depending on the sub species of goldfish it can be true that a goldfish gets that large or larger given proper aquarium size & food...  ..which is actually part of the problem with this discussion. 

A goldfish isn't just a goldfish when you know about subspecies like Sarassa's, Pom-pom's, Oranda's and other genetic anomalies breed to be subspecies.




A 1.5 gallon aquarium is not recommended for growing food other then water chestnuts. 
 
                                              
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Mekka Pakanohida wrote:


Goldfish, and other fresh water fish release a chemical into the water of aquariums that help with the growth rate.  It can actually slow growth tremendously. 


this is the info Ive always encountered as well. not saying emerson is wrong i just never came across that myself.
 
                          
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Emerson White wrote:
Goldfish ...
... if they are being eaten at that size ...


Do some people breed goldfish for the plate?  I always thought of them just as pets, or as feeder fish for other fish.  Are we talking filet-o-goldfish sandwiches here?
 
                                              
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Emerson White wrote:
Care to tell me what chemical goldfish release? There are water chemistry changes with an overstocked aquarium, but I wouldn't call it a healthy or pleasant experience.

One of us has years of experience with aquariums, and a degree in biology, and the other has got old wives tales.


Well you may be right, i dunno. (links?) but ive read a lot on common carp culture (related to goldfish but are a bit different) People for thousands of years have grown them in various ways that make it rather clear that they can be grown well as i am planning. so im not convinced you are right on those, the proof is in the pudding as they say....
 
Emerson White
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Economically you can keep them at very high densities, but not in really small tanks. Either way that doesn't make it kind or humane or sanitary to do so.
 
                                              
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Emerson White wrote:
Economically you can keep them at very high densities, but not in really small tanks. Either way that doesn't make it kind or humane or sanitary to do so.


Its sanitary otherwise id have disease. Im using a level that is below where major disease issues are a concern. 

as far as kind or humane? well that is all the matter of opinion. keeping any animal in any form could be argued as inhumane. If you DO keep them anyway, and they are healthy and happy.... then Id personally argue it is as humane as owning animals can be. Could they be happier and healthier? sure... the wild ones could as well.

By that definition is composting worms wrong? sure they CAN live happy and healthy as the carp at those densities, but they wouldnt normally choose to do this constantly. nor at quite as high of densities as a compost bin would have. It relates very well to carp actually as theyve also evolved able to live in the conditions I have, well well above the densities im using them at actually.

It will probably be an endless debate, but for me if the animals are happy and healthy then im doing right by them.....

what other meat animal can i raise it and all its food in my front yard?
 
                          
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Mekka Pakanohida wrote:
A 1.5 gallon aquarium is not recommended for growing food other then water chestnuts. 


Aha!  So I can grow water chestnuts in with my goldfish?  Cool.  I'd seen water chestnuts growing on a porch in a tank in a Bill Mollison video, but I have no idea what the properties of this plant are, or where to purchase one.  Lil' help, please?

Any other suggestions of plants I could grow in Fishy's tank?
Would duckweed be useful to introduce, as fish food or as a water cleaner?
Plants that clean the water are my number one priority.  If Fishy can eat them too, that's a bonus.
 
                                              
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CrunchyBread wrote:
Aha!  So I can grow water chestnuts in with my goldfish?  Cool.  I'd seen water chestnuts growing on a porch in a tank in a Bill Mollison video, but I have no idea what the properties of this plant are, or where to purchase one.  Lil' help, please?

Any other suggestions of plants I could grow in Fishy's tank?
Would duckweed be useful to introduce, as fish food or as a water cleaner?
Plants that clean the water are my number one priority.  If Fishy can eat them too, that's a bonus.


If you have enough light duckweed should keep your fish happier. a nice fresh salad for him. but its possible the fish might eat it faster then it grows so many will have separate grow beds.

from what Ive read duckweed can pull out 90 plus percent of the nitrogen and such out of the water. So it will certainly help keeping the tank clean.
 
                          
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SILVERSEEDS wrote:
If you have enough light duckweed should keep your fish happier. a nice fresh salad for him. but its possible the fish might eat it faster then it grows so many will have separate grow beds.

from what Ive read duckweed can pull out 90 plus percent of the nitrogen and such out of the water. So it will certainly help keeping the tank clean.


COO-UL! 

Now I've gotta go find a pond with duckweed in it.  I know I've seen it growing around here somewhere, but I don't think it's just everywhere.  All I can think of are runoff catchments... but I think they are usually fenced.  Gotta see if I can find a way into one somehow.

BTW, I liked what you said about seeing your fish acting friendly towards each other, and swimming happily around, and seeming to know you.  I'm convinced Fishy knows me too, and always swims excitedly when I enter the kitchen.  Always goes straight into the feeding corner, and practically yaps for attention and food like a puppy.  Fishy is about three years old, I guess.  I raised him from a little feeder fry.  (Actually, he could be a HER.  I have no idea how to tell.)
 
                    
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Emerson White wrote:
Have you ever seen chickens kept in too small a cage?


I thought that one of the problems with many fish farms was overcrowding the fish, too many for the volume of water available. Then disease breaks out and kills them; or they dump antibiotics in there (with the feed maybe) to 'solve' that problem.
 
                                              
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mtnDon Miller wrote:
I thought that one of the problems with many fish farms was overcrowding the fish, too many for the volume of water available. Then disease breaks out and kills them; or they dump antibiotics in there (with the feed maybe) to 'solve' that problem.



It certainly is. which is why im going with densities that are easy to manage without any drugs or anything other then keeping the water clean.

 
Emerson White
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I think that it becomes miserable long before antibiotics are needed.
 
                                              
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Im sure your right which is why Im intending to stock at 1/3 of those densities the commercial guys use, which is roughly what some people used for thousands of years from what i can tell. If the fish dont seem happy or do not grow well like that, I will give them more space. Its pretty easy to tell that they are happy compared to back when i had them on store bought feeds only. (of course im still at low density)
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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SILVERSEEDS wrote:
Well you may be right, i dunno. (links?) but ive read a lot on common carp culture (related to goldfish but are a bit different) People for thousands of years have grown them in various ways that make it rather clear that they can be grown well as i am planning. so im not convinced you are right on those, the proof is in the pudding as they say....


The chemical & problem in question I believe is exocrine, in addition to other ammonia, & nitrate problems... ..it's been known since roughly 1930's when they realized fish communicate via pheromones.

Hence the shark tests in WW2 of various useless chemicals to put in the water to repel sharks.. and other various tests thanks to the work.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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SILVERSEEDS wrote:
Im sure your right which is why Im intending to stock at 1/3 of those densities the commercial guys use, which is roughly what some people used for thousands of years from what i can tell. If the fish dont seem happy or do not grow well like that, I will give them more space. Its pretty easy to tell that they are happy compared to back when i had them on store bought feeds only. (of course im still at low density)


Even that density could be too much depending on the species.  Fish stress out just like humans do.  They want shelter & food just like humans do.  Fish farms deprive them of shelter / comfort for short sighted greed.

You could build a giant wet /dry system with uv, protien skimmers, algae filters, sand filters, nitrate filters, calcium and CO2 / O2 reaction chambers and flowforms to deal with the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates in order to make free oxygen and free nitrogen but to what end?  Does a person need to stock that much... blah blah.. ethics at this point.
 
Emerson White
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If such a chemical existed it would be an exocrine hormone by definition.

I would say that nitrogenous wastes and DOC's and the like have a lots to do with stunting. Kind of like keeping a horse ankle deep in shit to keep it from getting overweight.

Here is a quiz for you, is a goldfish more closely related to you or to a shark?
 
Steven Baxter
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Emerson White wrote:


Here is a quiz for you, is a goldfish more closely related to you or to a shark?


humans
 
Emerson White
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Ding ding ding ding ding
 
                          
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Thank you, Oracle!  Great information to help me get started!
 
Steven Baxter
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Your welcome 
 
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