Christine Faith, one of our local Front Range food production experts and the powerhouse behind Right To Thrive, and I decided to swap guest posts for our blog. (This was back in January. Have I written my post? No I have not. But Christine submitted this lovely post about how much she likes the fish in her hydroponic system.)
Patience the Cat would like a hydroponic system on the Homestead, now that he knows about the fish. Bet you’ll want one too. Read on …
As you may or may not know, fish are incredibly sensitive creatures. Now, I know they don’t look that way, with their buggy eyes, blank expressions, and swimming in place, but trust me, fish have feelings, too.
I raise fish in my greenhouse in Colorado Springs, CO. I run a year-round aquaponics system where I grow greens, vegetables, and herbs (yes I live in Colorado, no I don’t grow those herbs). My 11 koi fish provide the “engine” that drives the system – fish poop. Fish poop is glorious stuff for plants, and the more my fish dish out, the faster my plants grow.
When I first purchased my fish, they were essentially wild caught, brought in from a huge stocking pond near Pueblo, CO. These fish were put into the pond as fry (itty bitty fish) or fingerlings (literally the size of your finger), and were pretty much left alone for several years as they grew. By the time I made my purchase these fish were nearly a foot long.
These “wild” fish, once introduced into their new 300 gallon tank, did not care for the digs. The tank is a cube, with four corners where the walls meet. Fish prefer round tanks, as it facilitates their natural swimming style. The good news is that koi are not a schooling fish, and as such the round tank is not as critical. That being said, the habitat in the tank definitely needed some improvement.
To that end, I purchased several large, food grade buckets and partially filled the buckets with gravel. I then dropped the buckets in the tank, making sure that they landed on their side when they settled to the bottom. The fish were enamored. Immediately, the koi began to explore the buckets, swim in them, hide behind them, and generally make use of the new addition to their habitat.
Since the fish were introduced into the tank, and the tank’s habitat was refined, the fish’s behavior has changed dramatically. When the fish first arrived, a shadow (my shadow) passing over the water was enough to send my 11 little babies diving to the bottom. Now, after two years, when the koi see my shadow on the surface of the water, they swarm to the top. (I could try to claim that they do this because they like me, but I think a more likely reason is that they know I carry the feed bucket).
Which brings me back to the “my fish have feelings” statement. The koi that live in my greenhouse behave very differently today, when compared to their behavior two years ago. My fish are calm, unafraid, and will come to the surface of the water and nearly eat from my hand. This change in behavior indicates a change in comfort and security, and those my dear reader, are feelings.
Now, I wouldn’t nominate fish for “The Most Highly Emotionally Intelligent Creature in the Animal Kingdom” award (though they might have a chance at that title if they were up against the Plant Kingdom, because, let’s be honest, fish do exhibit more emotional range than an eggplant). But still, I contend that fish, do indeed, have feelings. Which works out well for me, because I adore the little buggers. It’s nice to believe that my fish like me a little bit too, and yes, I concede, even if it’s just because I carry the feed bucket.
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