I am a perennial experimenter and one of the two fish related spring projects for my aquaponics system is to feed train crappie.
Crappie in Aquaponics
1) They are temperature hardy for all of north america,
2) They are one of the best tasting freshwater fish
3) I expect them to be more active/feed for a longer portion of the year than say bluegill and channel catfish.
1) potential obstacle in getting them to eat commercial feed
2) slower growing fish? The growth charts I have seen online put them at good/great conditions to grow about 1/2 lb a year (which is comparable to a bluegill and considered slow as it would take 2 full years to produce a fillet-able fish). Does this increase if the crappie are eating commercial/balanced feed and not forced to expend energy on hunting?
Pond lake con's that dont apply to aquaponics.
1) in my 800 gallon ferrocement tank , I will not have a problem with overpopulation, even if they decide to breed i dont expect young to be able to survive predation in the close quarters.
I have attempted to feed train red ear sunfish for about 3 years and last year thanks to posts on this forum i was successful. Over the last year i have read every post with the word "crappie" in it and found a lot of encouraging information that this is indeed possible. It is just not often attempted.
a) Friday 3/7, I purchased 50 black and 50 hybrid (1-3")(ended up with about 60 black and 70 hybrid). I was hoping for more middle or smaller fish in that range because i feel like 2" or smaller is a better (best?) time to try to feed train fish as they seem more open to try new things and not so set in their choices of cuisine.
I was surprised at how difficult it is to tell these guys apart at this age. I know roughly half of the hybrids will look like black but i expect roughly half to look like white... Counting spines right now seems like it's maybe more of a challenge than it would be worth..There's some small chance that i swapped the bags and mislabeled them but they are in different tanks and until they get older and i know for sure we will call the first image black crappie and the second image hybrid crappie.
b) I put the crappie into two 100 gallon stock tanks. This is a temporary home for a month or two while i feed train them. once it warms up and my second outdoor aquaponics ferro tank is complete , they will go outside.
I am using a makeshift filter out of an air stone, a strainer and some substrate from my aquaponics grow beds . The gravel should already have plentiful nitrifying bacteria already living on it. I should avoid the ammonia and nitrite spike that happens during a new aquarium "cycling". However, if there is a mini-cycle I have the ability to do frequent partial water changes with the outdoor aquaponics system which is over 1000 gallons and fully stabilized, same PH, etc. I would have to consider temperature differences when determining the amount of water i can change at a time.
c) in addition to the crappie, in each tank i have 1 pleco and 3 of the "runt" feed trained red ears from last year. Some of my feed trained red ears are 5-6" now but some are still 2-4". I picked out some of the small ones to help "teach" to eat pellets. I dont know if it's really teaching. The behavior observed is more of creating competition and I know the red ears will be aggressive feeders because i have trained them to be so...They will help with the "frenzy" that will i need to get crappie to try the commercial feed. keep in mind, I use some soaked and sinking pellets in the early stages so the pleco and red ears will help keep uneaten food from rotting in the tank.
All references to live food such as blood worms, brine shrimp or krill are frozen kinds not really "live".
1) I will feed twice a day as close to 11am and 11pm as possible.
2) The light in the room with the tanks stays off but I will turn it on when it is feeding time to help trigger feeding response.
3) I will start feeding them small amounts of blood worms until i notice most or all of the fish participating in feeding time. Sometimes it takes a few days to a week for fish to settle into their new home and get with the feeding schedule.
4) I will start soften up small high protein ciclid pellets (floating and sinking) by soaking them in water (with the blood worms) and increasing the pellet portion a little at a time until it's obvious that the fish are eating both indiscriminately
5) Then I will feed only soaked/soft pellets.
6) then I will switch to the same pellets not soaked
Some other thoughts that i consider and sometimes tinker with.
-Crappie feed by sight and can easily distinguish a blood worm from a pellet. Sometimes i find that it helps if i mix other food sources of different shapes in because it seems to help them be less strict about the way something looks before they taste it.