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Of course my mom would text me about the refrigerator aquarium they made on TV.  But it brought to my attention that I have a problem to solve.  I have two refrigerators in my garage and I would love to turn one into a grow out tank.  Any ideas?  Would it be as simple as digging space into the ground and throwing the fridge in it (after some deep cleaning) and putting the fish in (with pump and filtration)?  I live in AZ so I figure that this may solve my heat advisory problems over the summer.


I have goldfish that I feel are polluting my tilapia water so I think if I move them to this new set up and create some vertical grow towers, I can salvage them and have a future grow out tank for when my little tilapia get too big.

Basically I'm going to make this happen whether I fail or not.  What I'm looking for is advice from anyone who has tried this so I know what NOT to do.  Thanks!!!

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Hi J,

Our goldfish outgrew their regular aquarium and the funds were not there to purchase a bigger tank.  We have a broken freezer chest in our basement which we converted to a tank for the fish and we grew houseplants and veggies in a kiddie pool on top of the freezer.  It did amazingly well.  From that point on, we've been hooked on AP.  The fish now have a new home in a 110 g stock tank and new grow beds in the greenhouse.  The only thing we did to the freezer is line it in plastic as the freezer wasn't waterproof. 

Ya want to make sure that any penetrations from the inside of a fridge or freezer are sealed up and if the interior is not plastic you may want to line it since metal will rust and corrode (the enamel paint is never perfect and if you dump gravel into it you will nick it and it will start to rust out) and not be good for the fish or the system.

I don't think you get to actually run the refrigeration when you go and lay a fridge on it's back and if you are filling it with water and/or gravel I don't think it would work even if it was a chest fridge.  So I don't think this will work to chill the water in a system.  I expect you would be better off making sure you have a large enough fish tank volume to handle keeping water temps stable instead of trying to chill the water during the day.

If you think some goldfish are polluting your tilapia water, sounds to me like you need more filtration for your tilapia system.  Tilapia and goldfish are both notoriously good at thriving in terrible water conditions so if you think the water is getting too polluted for one or the other group, I would say you just simply have too many fish in the system for the filtration.  And more filtration or remove some fish or BOTH.

Thanks guys.  I figured out that I would have to line it when I was looking at it yesterday. It's an old fridge and there's too many mechanics exposed and even I know that won't be okay for the fish so at this point we are going to try to pull out the section that separates the fridge from the freezer and seal off some areas.  It definitely will NOT run as a refrigerator when we start this.  That was a nice dream.  I see people worried about their fish freezing.  I'm worried mine are going to turn into fish stew in these AZ heat advisory temps.  I have seen the chillers turned aquariums online.  That would be soooo much easier.

I don't think the goldfish are necessarily polluting the tilapia water and hurting the tilapia---but I think the goldfish themselves are getting hurt.  Yesterday I thought they had ick because suddenly they look more white.  When I separated them I saw it was not ick at all but their scales look funny--like they are losing color.  And some of them do have scales missing.  I separated them so I could treat them and reduce feeding without reducing feeding for the tilapia.  The temps have steadied at 82 degrees (our presummer temps...yay) in our water and I read that goldfish need lower temps.  They also produce a lot of waste, especially if they are fed often.  Right now they are fed at least 3 times a day, sometimes more.  Although they are a sturdy bunch and should acclimate, maybe the high nitrites and high temp are taking a toll on them?  I also have no interest in 1lb goldfish.  So I figured if I could make an inexpensive aquarium for them, I can moderate their feeding and still have the advantage of another grow system.

You are right about the filtration.  I think 24 growing tilapia plus 14 goldfish is too much for our system.  Our filtration is simply our grow bed but even that is in its beginning stages. 

I keep reading about folks in AZ. that have problems cooling water in the summer. I have to wonder if just putting an IBC in the ground would help a lot with that, absorbing the cool ground temperature. Using an insulated refrigerator in the ground would be counterproductive to the problem. I'm in MI. and am in the process of putting and insulated IBC in the ground for my sump to keep the water warm.

Hey Jeff, with the plastic walls of an IBC provide enough insulation to negate most of the cooling effects of the ground unless it was really moist.

If you took a freezer and cut a hole in the top (never the sides!) to put your pump down through, you could just turn it on to cool.  You wouldn't want to bury it in this situation though - the condenser needs to be exposed to air.  

A fridge on its back wouldn't work.  The refrigeration equipment has to be right side up to work.

Here's some more info. on cooling.

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