Eating fish is incredibly good for the body, if the fish is safe for consumption. Unfortunately the greatest majority of fish that are sold are unsafe to eat, especially after the disaster in Fukushima, Japan. There is a way to produce your own fish; it’s simple, affordable, and you will have control over what your family consumes.
My family and I raised enough fish last year to completely fill a small freezer and it was very easy. You can literally put hundreds of pounds of clean, toxin free fish on the table each year.
Build Your Own Fish Box
You can buy a fish box but building your own is about five times cheaper than purchasing one. We experimented with size and shape and decided that a rectangular fish box with dimensions of 3’x3’x6′ seems to work best. We use three boxes for our fish crop. The first step is to purchase the supplies you’ll need to assemble the box.
Supplies You’ll Need
1. Nylon mesh or webbing (commonly used to keep leaves out of gutters). This can be purchased at a hardware store.
2. Treated wood or aluminum tubing for the top frame. If you choose, you can create a frame for the sides and bottom as well. We lash the mesh together with nylon rope instead and create a sort of basket frame. It is so much lighter to work with and cheaper to build, but they don’t hold their shape like a full frame cage.
3. Material for a solid top. Fish normally prefer shade instead of sunlight. We used a piece of aluminum for ours and attached hinges for easy feeding.
4. Flotation material like polystyrene foam is necessary because you want the top of the cage to sit about four inches out of the water. Just attach your flotation devices in a manner that allows this. We found that it takes roughly a cubic foot of foam to support a cage of 50 cubic feet. .
5. Last, you’ll need some very fine mesh netting (like mosquito netting), to create a feeding ring. I cut a hole in the lid of the frame and attached the netting which creates a feeding well. Another way is to attach a length of the webbing to the frame right at water level. It prevents the food from slipping out.
Water for Your Fish
We own rural land and have a pond on our property. Not everyone does, but that doesn’t mean you can’t produce your own fish. Ideal water depth is about six feet deep. Shallow water may not provide enough circulation and deeper water can cause the cage to tip. If you live near a lake, find out if you can just keep your fish off of the dock instead of having to boat our everyday. If you have a neighbor who has a body of water on their property, you can often just offer a portion of the harvest as payment. If you don’t have access to any water, you can purchase a large container and a filtration system to keep the water clean, although this approach is expensive to start up.
The Best Fish to Produce
Blue Tilapia: I mix the fish in each cage and blue tilapia are great because they take care of a lot of the algae that can accumulate on the mesh. Of course, they are also a great food source.
Channel Catfish: I don’t personally like catfish but they are a great fish to produce.
Rainbow Trout: These fish can tolerate slightly higher temperatures than other trout and do well in crowded conditions.
There are other fish you can produce in cages, but so far the fish mentioned above are the only ones I have produced. Tilapia is my favorite.
Stocking the Cages
You can purchase fish from multiple sources. Make sure that when you stock the cages with whatever kind of fish you are going to use you find the optimal temperature for the water. Bring the fish home in doubled plastic bags that are approximately half full of water. Float the bag in they water inside of the cage, check the temperature of the water in the bags and your water source. When they have equalized, gently tip the fish into the cage. We stock our cages in the spring each year.
A cage with fifty cubic feet can hold approximately two hundred pounds of fish. Basically, you have to think about how long you will be able to grow your fish and how big they will get in that time. For instance, we usually produce fish that weigh about a pound because we live in an area where we can grow for about eight months. I usually start with about 230 fish, which includes extra to compensate for mortality rate.
Feeding the Fish
You can buy commercial fish food or provide natural food for your fish. It is important to catch a fish from time to time and weigh it. This is how you can determine how much to feed the fish. Basically, you should feed the fish about three percent of it’s body weight, six days per week, and once per day. I feed mine at dusk each evening. You can feed at dawn if you prefer. I figure out how much to feed my fish by using the following simple math: Weight of all fish, multiplied by three percent, equals pounds of food to be given. For example, if I have 100 fish that weigh half a pound each, I would multiply fifty by three percent, which would mean I would feed my fish one and a half pounds of food per day. If my fish weighed a pound each, I would feed my fish three pounds of food per day.
There is a bit of work involved with raising your own fish but you will save a lot of money and eat a better quality product. Just remember to clean excess algae from the mesh (I use a toilet brush), check the fish for good health, and do not overfeed.