This is a guide to raising and harvesting fish using a fish farm. A fish farm is a great idea, giving you tons of quality protein for a minimal time and money investment. It also pairs very well with worm composting, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re looking to diversify your food supply, give starting a fish farm strong consideration.
This set up can work for various kinds of fish, but works particularly well with:
A typical 50-60 gallon barrel can house up to 40 fingerlings. They won’t be reproducing in these conditions, but they will grow to their adult size and be ready to eat.
HOUSING YOUR FISH
This is a guide to building a functioning barrel aquarium for your fish.
What You’ll Need:
1) A 50-60 gallon barrel. Plastic works well.
2) Aquarium gravel.
3) An aquarium water filter.
4) A water tap and garden hose.
5) A circulation pump or aerator.
6) A thermometer.
7) Water de-chlorination drops.
Putting It Together:
1) Find a level area that receives partial shade, and is within reach of your garden hose.
2) Place your barrel on the level area.
3) Put 3-4 inches of aquarium gravel at the bottom of the barrel. Place an aquarium water filter firmly in the gravel (also called the substrate).
4) Secure a garden hose to the barrel, at a level just above the gravel. This is where new water will be added- from the bottom up.
5) Attach a circulation pump or aerator to ensure the water always has enough oxygen.
6) Attach a thermometer to the inside of the barrel, at a level that will always be immersed in water. You want your water to stay within the 70-85F range. You may need to adjust how much sunlight your barrel receives to sustain this.
7) Fill the barrel with water and treat it with de-chlorination drops.
8) Cover the barrel with a pane of glass and let sit for 2 days so the temperature can stabilize.
9) Add your fish.
Maintenance on Your Barrel Aquarium
Every day, remove 15 gallons from your barrel and replace it with fresh water that has been chlorine treated and allowed to sit in the sun for 5 hours.
Every month, empty the tank and replace all of the water.
FEEDING YOUR FISH
There are commercial fish foods available at most hatcheries and these will work fine. Each will come with their own instructions on how much to use for the type and amount of fish you have.
But a really cool idea is to build a worm composter, and feed your fish the worms from there. It’s possible to create a system where your kitchen and garden scraps feed your worms, your worms feed your fish, and your fish head to the kitchen to start the cycle anew. It’s a good permaculture environment to consider. If you’re interested, check out this detailed guide to worm composting.
If you go the worm route, you’ll want around 10,000 red wigglers to get you started with 40 fingerlings. You’ll need to feed your fish 50-100 worms a day, and the number will grow as the fish do.
Feed your fish at dawn and dusk, as these are the times they naturally eat in the wild.
HARVESTING YOUR FISH
When your fish reach adulthood, you can clean and gut them and use them for food. Empty your tank out, clean it and start the process again.
You can also go with a staggered approach, taking a few adult fish out at a time and replacing them with younger ones.
For a constant supply of fresh fish, start a new barrel every 2 months.
Here’s a very cool article on Aquaponics. It shows in great detail how to create a closed, independent ecosystem with fish, microbes and plants that all feed each other in a continuous cycle.
Good luck and stay prepared!