Aquaponic Gardening

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Has anyone found a source of feed for their tilapia that doesn't have fish meal in it?  I"m not having any luck finding anything I consider sustainable so far, and I'm too busy / lazy right now to start up a duckweed system.  Thoughts?

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I agree!  I had the SAME THOUGHT!  Put them in a stack and then you can just lift them up as needed and set them out to dry.  I am thinking PVC frame, plastic zip ties and a fine plastic mesh.

After they dry, perhaps a tarp and a brush to remove from mesh, and then you could fold the tarp and dump the dried duckweed into a receptacle.  OR you could build a small bin that is the right size to suspend the inverted screen over for drying and then brush it into the bin from the back.

I might be O.C.D. 

I expect you may find that most of the trays are stored right on the drying racks and you just carefully slip them down under the duckweed and lay flat then lift up at the time you are ready to harvest.  Probably not much point in having more racks than you can fit in the drying space at one time.


I'm not sure how difficult it will be to remove the dried duckweed form the mesh but hopefully and swift bang onto some appropriately sized bin would do it and then you can pack the duckweed for storage.

Nori is 50% protein.  You know the stuff they roll sushi with?  Below is just something I found searching "nori".  This particular product was 15$ for 50 sheets.  Maybe you can find a wholesale source.  Lots of Tilapia love veggie food but usually benefit most from a mixed diet.  I would guess the best sustainable food would be the one you make yourself.  Whether your home made food contains any Nori is up to you : )



"Navitas Naturals Nori Sheets With celebrated culinary use reported back to the 8th century, Nori continues to reign as Japan's most popular sea vegetable - famously known for its role as a sushi wrapper. Navitas Naturals Nori contains almost 50% protein - the highest of any seaweed - along with an exceptionally dense quantity of valuable minerals and phytonutrients. Navitas Naturals Nori Sheets are simply raw (nori) algal fronds pressed into traditional paper-thin sheets, ready to be enjoyed in all kinds of savory cuisine. Deliciously full of umami flavor, nori is often enjoyed in wraps, soups, salads, rice, and simply eaten a la carte as a low calorie raw snack. Navitas Naturals Nori Sheets are pressed and dried at a temperature that does not exceed 85F. Under constant care and inspection, the nori is rinsed, chopped, pressed, and dried naturally. Navitas Naturals' nori sheets are hand-selected for top-grade quality and flavor. These nori sheets are sustainably harvested and are certified organic, vegan, and raw."

I have not started my system yet, as planning is everything, so I am soaking it all in.  We plan on utilizing vermiculture, duckweed and BFL collection for the main sources of fish food.

I do like the bug zapper idea!

Interesting idea, Jay!  Would you worry about sodium from Nori affecting your plants?  The stuff in my pantry says that it has 20 mg of sodium per sheet.

jay hart said:

Nori is 50% protein.  You know the stuff they roll sushi with?  Below is just something I found searching "nori".  This particular product was 15$ for 50 sheets.  Maybe you can find a wholesale source.  Lots of Tilapia love veggie food but usually benefit most from a mixed diet.  I would guess the best sustainable food would be the one you make yourself.  Whether your home made food contains any Nori is up to you : )



That's a good question and I don't know the answer but I don't think I would worry about all 20mg.  Some of that the fish will absorb.  I know that sodium is a trace element for almost all living things on earth but if that is too much I have no idea.  I guess if you test for sodium/salt in your water and notice rising levels you could ask the question with test result numbers.   

I also wouldn't use nori unless I found a cheap source just for the purpose of supplementing it in a home made diet.  There are plenty of recipes out there but most use fish/shell fish as a source.  

Thanks for posting your research, Theresa. I think you may have hit the nail on the head with that clip about drying the duckweed to break the pathogen cycle. I used to use rabbit berries as tilapia feed until TC corrected my ways. But now I think I could use rabbits and chickens over duckweed only ponds. The duckweed could then be added to a homemade feed recipe, extruded trough a meat grinder, and dried for storage. I stumbled upon a method of drying called 'vacuum drying', while researching Carey's freeze drying method mentioned in another thread. It looks promising. Freeze drying destroys fiber, cooking destroys nutrients, even with sun drying I'm sure the uv degrades the food a little. So vacuum drying might be the best to preserve the nutrients while also being fast and energy efficient. To vacuum dry, place the goods in an airtight container and apply vacuum. So I built a chamber out of a length of 4" abs pipe with a glued cap at one end, and a threaded cap at the other, and tapped a small port for a vac pump. I'll run a batch today. My hope is to get a sticky binder in the feed recipe and foam it a bit, so that the vac expands the feed and hopefully it will float when dry. 

Also, Sylvia, back to your original question about none fish-meal food, try rabbit food. When I bought redclaws thru Stickfin, they said to feed 1/2 catfish chow, and 1/2 rabbit food, so I did. I had tilapia in the same tank, and sure enough, tilapia love rabbit food. It's all veggie, and it's a complete food for rabbits, I assume complete for tilapia as well. It's $12.50 per 50 lb bag, and available at every feed store. It does leave a residue of woody fibers behind, but my plecos suck that up like vacuums.

This is the best, most natural, healthiest ingredient fish food I could find.  It is also the most expensive at about $11/lb!

This one has some fish meal (marine protein products), but seems to have a better ingredient list and higher protein content than the major brands.  It is slightly cheaper starting at $7/lb.


I am really starting to like Jon's suggestion of using rabbit food, although what I'm really looking for is a mostly algae-based feed.  The perfect fish food (for omnivores) would be a blend of algae with various insects and larvae.

Tilapia really love algae. I had a bag of MB3 bio media just hanging against the side of my IBC  FT. When I moved it to another location, immediately the tilapia began grazing on the algae growing on the sides even though me standing there usually spokes them. Their desire for the algae overcame their fear of me. I need to think up a way of increasing the algae growth surface area of the sides of the IBC.


They also love the sweet potato leaves, but the pieces they rip off tends to clog my overflow drain. This is another good reason to try to try to make our own ground pelletized food. Pelletized food is really convenient to use in an automatic feeder allowing you to go away on vacation.


$11.00 per pound. I gotta get into the koi food business. I know it's a specialty product for show fish, but still. I'm sitting here reading the miraclekoifood site while at a diner eating a huge pesto chicken sandwich, grilled onion bun, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, sweet Maui onions, and a side of potato salad made this morning, served by a gorgeous waitress who refills my iced tea as fast as I can drain it, jazz and blues playing in the background. Then I realize, hey, I'm paying less than $11.00 per pound for lunch. Those fish better appreciate us, eh?

Meanwhile my ghetto fish are in the slums, forced to eat table scraps and $.50/lb rabbit food. Poor things

I was reading the label on the contents of my hens' layer pellets (it's organic).

It looks pretty interesting, it has extra calcium too, which might be a very good thing.  Not sure if it would be TOO much tho.

It's 16% protein. I haven't tried using it, my first thought would be that even if I could use it, it might cloud the water. not sure yet. More research needed.


On Rabbit pellets: They are mostly alfalfa, which has a very good growth hormone in it.  Might be worth while.  CERTAINLY wouldn't cause issues with water quality.  Alfalfa is lovely...  I grow it to feed fresh to my critters. 

Chicken feed is certainly cheaper but if you are trying to avoid the corn and soy in your fish diets then the chicken feed won't help.  Most fish are fed much higher protein also as some where between 32-36% protein seems to be the number for most catfish/tilapia feeds.  I'm not really all that certain that the extra calcium carbonate in the chicken feed is really going to be a benefit to an aquaponics system, it will really depend on your source water and if you are in need of it or if you would be better off adding more potassium bicarbonate instead.


In any case, I would be interested to hear how the tests with the chicken feed go and if they cloud the water or not.

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