So you’ve ordered your fingerlings or picked them up from a local supplier. Here are some steps to receiving, acclimating and caring for your new little aquaponic fin-friends.
- Be ready to receive your fish shipment – Fingerlings that are shipped are
packed with an oxygen supply. This only lasts for a short time (maximum 18 – 24 hours often less), so it’s important that you are available to receive your fish and get them acclimated into your system within a few hours of arrival. This is just as important if you pick up fish from a local supplier as they often don’t use pure oxygen when bagging fish for local transport.
- Take a picture of your new fish – As proud new parents, we can’t help but to enjoy seeing their cute little fins and faces. Really this picture is to get a good count of your fish. It also helps to look back and remember how tiny they were and how fast they have grown.
- Float the bag – Your fish need a chance to acclimate to your water temperature. Floating the bag in your fish tank will help adjust the temperature. Check the temperature of the fish tank water and bag water to ensure that the fish aren’t shifting more than 2-3 degrees. Don’t let the oxygen out of the bag or it won’t float.
- Checking pH – Once you feel that the temperature between the fish tank water and the shipping water are similar, it’s time to open the bag (secure it to the fish tank with a clamp so it won’t sink or let shipping water into your tank). Check pH in each container, using an API test kit, digital pH pen or dip strips. pH shouldn’t be more than .2 – .4 different between to the two. If pH is dramatically different, add some fish tank water into the shipping bag. Let the fish acclimate to the change in pH for 30 minutes or more depending upon the amount of change. Add a small air stone to the bag since the oxygen will be released.
- Practice safe water handling – Water used to transport fish is usually from a clean supply, however it is never sterile. While there is no intention of sending along any issues, transport water can potentially carry different bacteria, plant spores, organisms, and plant or fish pathogens. Some vendors will transport fish using various salts, medication or calming agents. For all these reasons, it’s a good idea to avoid introducing transport water into your aquaponic system.
- Transfer your fish – Using a small net, carefully scoop your fish out of the bag and into your tank. This is the time to get a good look at your little fishies, since once they are in the tank, you may not see much of them depending on the color and size of your tank and water clarity. Its a really good idea to secure a net over the top of your tank to avoid issues with fish that think they can fly.
- Don’t feed right away – Fish can survive several days without eating. Don’t feed them for a few days to give them time to acclimate and ensure that the nitrifying bacteria are ready for the fish load. Once you start feeding, go slow, starting with only a small amount and see how they respond. Scoop out any uneaten food after 5-10 minutes.
- Monitor water quality – Test the water in the fish tank for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, starting the day you introduce fish, and about every 3 days there after. Ensure that ammonia level stays below 3ppm, and nitrite below 1ppm, nitrate is relatively safe. Perform 1/3 water changes (remove 1/3 of the fish tank water and replace with new, de-chlorine/de-chlorimine, similar temperature water). Chart your water quality to ensure that you system is properly cycled and performing optimally.
- Ready for food – After a few days, if your ammonia and nitrite levels are low, then you can start feeding 2-3 times a day. Use a good quality floating extruded fingerling food with at least 45-50 % protein. If the feed is too large, grind it down into a powder.
- Enjoy your fish – Now it’s time to work on keeping them healthy and happy. Ensure consistent temperature appropriate for your fish species and always provide adequate aeration. Check that you fish feed well, and watch for health issues. Remove sick or dead fish as soon as possible. Monitor water quality and watch them grow.
Happy Fish Rearing!