I was trawling the internet looking for something, when I happened to stumble upon a website which was going to prove extremely valuable to our eco project. It was a Spanish site where anyone, companies or private could sell second hand goods, and I went on it to find out if there were any second hand aquariums which someone had told me about.
I just happened to type in ‘tilapia’ out of idle curiosity. Lo and behold, a Belgian couple who lived just the other side of Alicante about an hour and a half from us, had silver tilapia fry for sale! Then, stone me, there was another advert from a guy in Seville who was selling some larger tilapia fry, all red!
This was all too good to be true. We contacted them both and sure enough, there were 350 tiny silver tilapia fry for sale for a euro each, and about 100 red fry for 2 euros each.
When questioned, both breeders assured me that they were simply hobbyists who had no intention of trying to make the fry all into males or any other shenanigans of the sort. So here I had the opportunity to get male and female fish with which to start our own breeding colony. Boy, was I excited!
So we drove over to meet Wim and Nancy the Belgians – a lovely couple who ran an estate agency selling properties to Belgians – and who dabbled in backyard aquaponics, using fish waste to feed the plants. They also kept some hens and a few other weird looking birds. We exchanged pleasantries, handing over the wad of cash, put the container of fry in the front passenger well of the car so Karen could steady it with her feet, and high tailed it back to the house with our prize. All the way back I was grinning like a Cheshire cat, whilst still a little unsure as to where I was going to put them all. The big fish in the aquaponics system would kill them, and the lone killer fish in the aquariums in the underbuild would polish them off in minutes.
So we put them in a small holding aquariums, but it was obvious that they could not stay in there for long.
I also wanted the larger red fry, so I thought the best thing to do was to get them, and work out the logistics later. Apparently the man would send them via a courier, and the polystyrene carrying box would have a battery air pump in it to feed the fish with oxygen for the journey. Now the one thing I have learned about fish in aquariums – although they live in water, they need oxygen to survive. The more they can get, the better they are. So knowing that the water was going to be oxygenated for the journey, I ordered them to arrive the next day, sent to the local courier depot.
It was actually quite funny seeing the concerned look on the faces of the people in the depot, who had in their possession a box which was buzzing loudly (the air pump). I assured them all was okay and again, left with my prize.
Unfortunately by the time I had got them home even the oxygen was not enough to keep them all alive, and there were about 30 dead ones which was very sad. We put them in a small holding tank with lots of air pumps, whilst we tried to figure out just what to do with all the fry.
Then I had an idea…..
We caught the ‘killer´ fish from the large aquariums and put them in the 6 metre square pond outside after realising the outside water temperature was just about warm enough to sustain them now. Then after 24 hours with nothing bad happening to the killers in the outside pond, we spent several hours catching the all male troupe from the aquaponics in the grenhouse. In total we had 36 aquaponics fish, and they went into the big pond along with Burke and Hare. I could almost sense the joy emanating as a result of their new found freedom as they swam about in shoal formation in the huge pond. Then a funny thing happened. The killers joined the shoal, and they all swam around together quite happily!
The Big Tilapia
This left us with 2 large 400 litre indoor tanks, and the 400 litre aquaponics tank in the greenhouse. The red fry went in that, and we split the silver fry into two groups for the indoor tanks. I figure that if we lost one tank to an ammonia spike or other mishap, we would still have plenty to work with. I was hedging my bets from every which way and wasn’t going to take any chances.
The tilapia rearing was back on track much to my absolute delight. And there was even more good news to come. We’ll share that with you soon!