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#368260 - 03/08/14 07:28 AM Feed training Crappie
bcotton Offline


Registered: 05/01/13
Posts: 199
Loc: Texas
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
Pro's
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.

Cons,
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.

Experiment:
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.


Black Crappie



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".

The Plan:
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.

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#368266 - 03/08/14 09:35 AM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
Shorty Offline
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Registered: 07/28/05
Posts: 4241
Loc: Raymond, NE
Sounds like a very good well thought out plan, please keep us posted on what works and what doesn't. I'm look forward to hearing progress reports. smile

Quote:
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.


With my RES I have been turning off the filters when I feed bloodworms as the feeding trigger. Once the bloodworms have been cleaned up I turn the filters back on. I do this more for the practical purpose of keeping bloodworms from being sucked into the filters before they are all eaten.
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#368267 - 03/08/14 10:05 AM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
Bill Cody Offline
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With lighting for fish IMO and CB1's experience it is best if low lighting is used. Sometimes it is best to not keep the fish in total darkness but in full moon light brightness for the dark period. Very dim light is good esp at first turn on. Then the light can be increased gradually to a brighter dim. Good luck on this project. A lot of the members are interested in your experiences. Please keep us updated. We will learn together.

Some have had success getting hesitant fish to first eat artificial by using current to move the food to simulate it as living.


Edited by Bill Cody (03/08/14 10:09 AM)
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#368270 - 03/08/14 11:11 AM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: Bill Cody]
Shorty Offline
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Registered: 07/28/05
Posts: 4241
Loc: Raymond, NE
Originally Posted By: Bill Cody
Some have had success getting hesitant fish to first eat artificial by using current to move the food to simulate it as living.


Interesting Bill, I should qualify my previous post by saying that I turn off just my two filters that have mechanical foam filters in place so they don't catch the bloodwroms moving around. I still have my under gravel filters running when I feed bloodworms so there is a reduced current moving the bloodworns around.
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#368274 - 03/08/14 11:35 AM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: Shorty]
esshup Offline
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This will be interesting to follow!
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#368278 - 03/08/14 12:19 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
Cecil Baird1 Offline
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Loc: Northeastern Indiana
I will be interested to follow this too. I would try three times a day if I were you at least until they get bigger. At least that is my experience with bluegills and yellow perch of that size. Once the above species got to about 8 inches I went to twice a day.

As you are probably aware do not handle them more than necessary. Crappie are very sensitive to handling and stress. Notice the frayed tail on one of the crappies in your picture? That happens very easily.

The University of Wisconsin was successful in feed training them as was a trout hatchery in Northern Wisconsin I bought some from. Unfortunately a high percentage died from a fungal infection in my holding pond due to rough handling after hauling (The idiot that netted them put several hundred in a net that probably crushed many of them), and placing them in the hauling tank with larger trout. They probably got beat around a lot in the tank by the larger fish sloshing around.

Surprisingly the trout farm told me initially they put them in a tank with small trout and they all fed on the pellets almost immediately.

Keep us posted!
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#368282 - 03/08/14 01:37 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: Bill Cody]
bcotton Offline


Registered: 05/01/13
Posts: 199
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: Bill Cody
With lighting for fish IMO and CB1's experience it is best if low lighting is used. Sometimes it is best to not keep the fish in total darkness but in full moon light brightness for the dark period. Very dim light is good esp at first turn on. Then the light can be increased gradually to a brighter dim. Good luck on this project. A lot of the members are interested in your experiences. Please keep us updated. We will learn together.


to clarify... the room is my living room. it has windows with curtains so it is not pitch black.. just no direct light.. and the light trigger is just my dinning room 3x60 watt bulbs... not a spotlight on the tanks or anything...

Originally Posted By: Bill Cody

Some have had success getting hesitant fish to first eat artificial by using current to move the food to simulate it as living.


I believe this to be completely true. These 100 gallon stock tanks are the exact strategy i used on my red ears last year but i also had a dozen 4" black crappie that i was trying to feed train in a separate 55 gallon aquarium... They would not eat anything but blood worms.. not even frozen krill.. or live red wiggler worms... i wasnt feeding them enough blood worms to sustain them (the cost adds up).. Over time some died and in dec i was down to 4 left... at which time i gave up.. i needed tank space to move some sick red ears and bluegill indoors from my outside tank so i moved some of the red ears and a couple of blue gill into the tank.. salted to kill the fungus infection they were developing and decide i would just mix pellets and blood worms and krill until i ran out and if they didnt learn to eat pellets they would just starve..(keep in mind the fish have been malnurished for a year and are no bigger than they were when i bought them last year)

anyway.. long story summary, the crappie have now learned to take krill and even pellets.. Their color is coming back and they are starting to not be paper thin anymore.. I dont consider them completely feed trained yet because they will pas son some pellets and then attack other ones.. i am not sure exactly what they need to see to decide a pellet is or is not food but i hunch it may be the movement caused by the red ear's... i did a short video of todays feeding to show whats going on.. there's two bg, four black crappie and teh rest are red ears.. notice they have no problems eating from the surface.

-edit- also they were really timid becaus eth dog was running around going nuts.. they are usually more happy to see me and more aggressive.




Edited by bcotton (03/08/14 02:07 PM)

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#368285 - 03/08/14 03:02 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
Cecil Baird1 Offline
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Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 20043
Loc: Northeastern Indiana
Originally Posted By: bcotton


to clarify... the room is my living room. it has windows with curtains so it is not pitch black.. just no direct light.. and the light trigger is just my dinning room 3x60 watt bulbs... not a spotlight on the tanks or anything...


Holy Cow I thought my wife was understanding! shocked
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If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.







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#368286 - 03/08/14 03:14 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
bcotton Offline


Registered: 05/01/13
Posts: 199
Loc: Texas
by living room, i mean dining room, but there's no mrs.

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#368294 - 03/08/14 06:48 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
Cecil Baird1 Offline
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Posts: 20043
Loc: Northeastern Indiana
Originally Posted By: bcotton
by living room, i mean dining room, but there's no mrs.



That explains it! grin
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If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.







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#368318 - 03/08/14 11:09 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
CJBS2003 Offline
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Yes it does... I am pushing the limits by hanging a few deer heads on our walls in the family room. HAHA
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#368359 - 03/09/14 09:46 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
bcotton Offline


Registered: 05/01/13
Posts: 199
Loc: Texas
Already had a bit of an obstacle. I did water tests this morning and Ammonia was at 2ppm and nitrites at 1ppm in the hybrid tank... the black crappie tank was .25 and .25 which is expected as the bacteria adjusts to the new bioload. I attribute the high reading son the hyrbid tank to the fact i took that substrate from the top areas of the grow beds and i guess it didnt have as much bacteria as i thought. I have added more substrate from under the water line and done a couple of partial water changes today... the ammonia and nitrites are about half what they were before.. i will skip feeding tonight and recheck water in the morning.

I had already salted both tanks with 20 tablespoons of salt... since the water change i added additional 20 tablespoons of salt to the hybrid tank only.

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#368361 - 03/09/14 10:05 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
CJBS2003 Offline
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I will be curious to see what % of fish you lose due to starvation and if the hybrids are more likely to take to feed than the blacks.
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Men and fish are alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths.

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#368362 - 03/09/14 10:08 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: CJBS2003]
Cecil Baird1 Offline
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Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 20043
Loc: Northeastern Indiana
Originally Posted By: CJBS2003
Yes it does... I am pushing the limits by hanging a few deer heads on our walls in the family room. HAHA


I've got the perfect set up for an Elk or Moose on the fireplace, log walls for bear rugs, cathedral ceiling, and I can do the mounts myself. etc., etc. no dice. frown

The wife even hates antler chandeliers. I'm like what is wrong with you?
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If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.







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#368365 - 03/09/14 10:16 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
Cecil Baird1 Offline
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Registered: 08/08/02
Posts: 20043
Loc: Northeastern Indiana
Originally Posted By: bcotton
Already had a bit of an obstacle. I did water tests this morning and Ammonia was at 2ppm and nitrites at 1ppm in the hybrid tank... the black crappie tank was .25 and .25 which is expected as the bacteria adjusts to the new bioload. I attribute the high reading son the hyrbid tank to the fact i took that substrate from the top areas of the grow beds and i guess it didnt have as much bacteria as i thought. I have added more substrate from under the water line and done a couple of partial water changes today... the ammonia and nitrites are about half what they were before.. i will skip feeding tonight and recheck water in the morning.

I had already salted both tanks with 20 tablespoons of salt... since the water change i added additional 20 tablespoons of salt to the hybrid tank only.


Good luck. The good thing about fish in the sunfish family is they are more tolerant than most species to nitrites and your salt will prevent brown blood even if it is an issue. It doesn't take much salt to do that btw. Hopefully you won't have to do too many water changes before you biofiltration adapts.
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If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.







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#368366 - 03/09/14 10:17 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
CJBS2003 Offline
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My wife knew what she was getting herself into when she married me... I still try not to push the issue too much though.
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Men and fish are alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths.

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#368372 - 03/09/14 10:28 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: CJBS2003]
Cecil Baird1 Offline
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Registered: 08/08/02
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Loc: Northeastern Indiana
Originally Posted By: CJBS2003
My wife knew what she was getting herself into when she married me... I still try not to push the issue too much though.


Actually my wife is pretty open minded and I have a lot of freedom. I just don't push it either as I do have a taxidermy studio. A good way to have marital problems is have an attitude of my way or the highway. Big trouble!
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#368376 - 03/09/14 10:49 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: Cecil Baird1]
esshup Offline
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Originally Posted By: Cecil Baird1
A good way to have marital problems is have an attitude of my way or the highway. Big trouble!


Not to mention that the highway isn't that far away!!
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#368381 - 03/09/14 11:00 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
hang_loose Offline
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Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 888
Loc: Sunbury,Ohio
bcotton, everyone asked my questions! Good luck with your system and changing some water with new water won't hurt. I used well water and just a little rock salt. Fish did excellent till the kids knocked the pump plug out of the socket... Grrrr cry.

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#368382 - 03/09/14 11:01 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: esshup]
Cecil Baird1 Offline
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Registered: 08/08/02
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Loc: Northeastern Indiana
Originally Posted By: esshup
Originally Posted By: Cecil Baird1
A good way to have marital problems is have an attitude of my way or the highway. Big trouble!


Not to mention that the highway isn't that far away!!


A short walk down the driveway! blush grin
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If pigs could fly bacon would be harder to come by and there would be a lot of damaged trees.







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#368427 - 03/10/14 08:53 AM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: CJBS2003]
bcotton Offline


Registered: 05/01/13
Posts: 199
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: CJBS2003
I will be curious to see what % of fish you lose due to starvation and if the hybrids are more likely to take to feed than the blacks.


If i lose any i dont think it will be to starvation. If the water is adjusted today i will start feeding again. Granted i dont know how long they were kept by the supplier without feeding, but they are still getting acclimated to their new surroundings and most havent started to take the blood worms yet anyway.

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#368434 - 03/10/14 09:20 AM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
bcotton Offline


Registered: 05/01/13
Posts: 199
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: bcotton
Originally Posted By: CJBS2003
I will be curious to see what % of fish you lose due to starvation and if the hybrids are more likely to take to feed than the blacks.


If i lose any i dont think it will be to starvation. If the water is adjusted today i will start feeding again. Granted i dont know how long they were kept by the supplier without feeding, but they are still getting acclimated to their new surroundings and most havent started to take the blood worms yet anyway.



Ahh, thnking back, i think i misunderstood.. you mean starvation over the course of feed training.. and i am too.

I am curious if one seems to feed train easier and i am also curious how much faster hybrid grow than black... at least that's the rumor, right?

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#368435 - 03/10/14 09:57 AM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
bcotton Offline


Registered: 05/01/13
Posts: 199
Loc: Texas
today the hybrid tank is at .5 ammonia and 0 nitrites, the black crappie tank is at .5 and .25.

Since i dont work today, it's 70 degrees outside and the outside tank is getting good sun, i decided to resume feeding and just recheck this afternoon and do partial water changes if necessary since the temp shouldnt be too big of a swing.

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#368439 - 03/10/14 11:16 AM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
Cecil Baird1 Offline
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Loc: Northeastern Indiana
Originally Posted By: bcotton
today the hybrid tank is at .5 ammonia and 0 nitrites, the black crappie tank is at .5 and .25.

Since i dont work today, it's 70 degrees outside and the outside tank is getting good sun, i decided to resume feeding and just recheck this afternoon and do partial water changes if necessary since the temp shouldnt be too big of a swing.



What's your PH to calculate unionized ammonia?


Edited by Cecil Baird1 (03/10/14 04:54 PM)
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#368466 - 03/10/14 04:27 PM Re: Feed training Crappie [Re: bcotton]
Sunil Offline
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So, are any of the crappie eating the blood worms?
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