Nothing puts a damper on the excitement of a new upgrade in the Aquaponics quite like coming home to a dead fish, then another, then another, etc. It was depressing watching my last batch of fish die off, then to find out I am losing about 2 a day still, it really makes you question if its worth trying to raise fish. But alas, I am not giving up! Time to learn from my mistakes yet again and move forward a more educated aquaculture’ist.
So while working through my current fish problems here are the things I thought were causing them to die (In the order I thought of them)
- PH – The PH of the water in my system is about 8.0, this is the highest the PH can safely be from my understanding for my plants and the goldfish
- Water Issues – I use city water in my system, I have long been worried about the possibility of the city adding Chloramine to the water we get, many cities use Chloramine instead of Chlorine, and without putting in another chemical to neutralize it it will build up in my system until it eventually kills off my fish.
- Media Issues – My grow beds use rock that I get from Lowes to grow the plants in, it is possible for the rock to have chemicals or metals that would dissolve in the water that could endanger the fish, it is a bit of a remote chance, but one I have worried about before.
- Weak Fish – I know that the fish from the pet stores are not the greatest quality, especially the feeder fish I buy, I thought maybe some of them were on the verge of dying anyways, however with the amount I lost, that didn’t seem plausible.
- PH – I circled back to PH being the culprit, I thought that maybe my old batch of fish had gotten used to it, but that it was too much difference from what the pet store had and shocked the fish to badly.
In the end, Meagan commented on the fact that one of the fish had all but lost its tail and wasn’t swimming very good, I dismissed that as it being sick and the other fish attacking it and didn’t think much about it for a few days. Then all of a sudden it hit me, I had made a rookie mistake, Meagan had been dead on, we were dealing with a common fish disease called Fin Rot (http://www.fishdeals.com/fish_diseases/fin_rot/), I started looking at the fish and couldn’t believe I had missed that, also within a couple hours of studying the fish swimming around and some research I also realized some of the fish had another disease called Ich (http://www.fishdeals.com/fish_diseases/ich/).
It was pretty obvious once I realized I was dealing with these two diseases what was going on, also, since I had only had the fish for about a week I was certain they had brought these illnesses from the pet store. So now that I had my answer on what was happening, now it was time to come up with a game plan on how to fix it. In a normal aquarium they have medication that you can add in for each of these that will solve the issue pretty quickly, but in an Aquaponic system its a little bit more complicated because anything I add to the system will eventually be absorbed by the plants and eaten by us, so the result of this is that you really cannot put medicine into the Aquaponic system. The general fix-all in an Aquaponic system is to add salt, most diseases can be fought off with the addition of salt, I immediately salted the system.
Once I salted the system, the fish that had not been affected now had a way to fight off the illness, however the ones that were already sick still were dying off. I started building what is called a “Quarantine Tank”, basically a tank that is separate from my main system where I can have a higher salt concentrations (plants can’t tolerate as high of a salt content as the fish can) and can also add in any medication I want without having to worry about it making it into the plants we will be eating. However, before I could get the tank ready I lost the rest of the fish that were exhibiting the symptoms of Ich and Tail Rot, so the quarantine tank was a bit of a moot point for this round of fish.
At this point I still have 9 out of the 24 feeder goldfish and I have the two fancy goldfish I started with. I also now understand much more the reasoning behind always quarantining any new fish that come in. I have read so many times that you should always quarantine any new fish, I didn’t do that because I didn’t have any fish in my system as it was, so I wasn’t worried about the new ones infecting the existing ones. However I failed to realize that by adding them directly to my system I was introducing diseases to my main system that I now have to work to eliminate, and I also was very limited in my options on how to cure the fish once they started getting sick.
In the end, I have now learned how to recognize Ich and Tail rot, I also now have a quarantine tank mostly setup (I will be finishing it over the next couple weeks), I purchased a Refractometer to test salt levels in my tank and I setup a rain barrel to solve the water issues I thought I might be having (I will be publishing an article about my rainwater collection system soon).