Aquaponic Gardening

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One of the great delights of Aquaponics is watching your fish grow and develop into mature fish. From the first moment when you release your fish as tiny fingerlings less than an inch in length it takes many months watching them grow before you even begin to think of harvesting and eating them.

In my case we started off with 60 Jade Perch which according to scientific studies are a hardy fish very suitable for Aquaponics but also a fish loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids. More than Atlantic Salmon, Jade Perch have heaps of this great stuff that is meant to aid against cancer and heart attacks, yet very little is known about this warm water fish found mainly in Northern Australia.

Well after 12 months of watching them grow, the time had arrived to start harvesting our fish. Oddly enough I had got into Aquaponics mainly for the fresh vegetables. I really wasn't interested in eating my fish or looking forward to having to kill them one day but the idea appealed in an abstract sort of a way.

So a few days ago, my wife Jane urged me to do the deed. Time to harvest and kill our fish. "Lets have a fish dinner tonight." she said.

We went down to the tank with a sharp knife and I lifted the hatch to look at the victims as they lazily swam to the back of the tank.

"Look at them." I said to her, "They are too small. Lets wait until they put on a bit more weight."

"You said that last Christmas. They are plate-sized now - look at that big one in the corner."she said, "You did say we would harvest them by Easter."

She was right. It was Good Friday and it was as good a day as any.

For many people like myself, used to buying supermarket produce that is neatly packaged, its a different matter to now look at your own fish in a different light. I rationalized it to myself that the fish were now crowding the tank and needed "thinning" out. But deep down I was quite happy to keep them at "pets."

She handed me the net and somewhat reluctantly I agreed to catch one to eat.

The net went into the water and rather than lunge at the fish I knew this would only freak them out.

"Lets see what goes into that net." I said.

Within moments a fish swam into the net.

"He's too little." I said releasing him.

Another one swam in and immediately started thrashing in the net.

"Not bigger enough.." I said. I released that one too.

But by now I had decided to catch one. A decent sized Jade Perch swam easily into the jaws of the net. I lifted him right out of the water with ease.

This 365 gram Jade Perch would be our meal tonight.

Dispatching him was easier than I had imagined and it was all over in seconds. I have to say killing your own fish instills in you an appreciation of the food you eat.

We decided to have a little meal made up of only the greens found in our Aquaponics system that night. But we cheated at the end and added two other ingredients. A few slices of lemon and some garlic.

So here were out ingredients for the night. Some freshly picked greens, some chillies and a Lebanese Eggplant.

My wife wrapped the fish in foil after stuffing it with lemon and garlic and into the oven it went for 15 minutes.

There's a terrific sense of accomplishment in growing your own food. However modestly sustainable it is, is beside the point. If we can grow a portion of the food we eat ourselves and eat it freshly picked, there must be some health benefit to this practice.

So what does Jade Perch taste like?

The flesh has a silky crumbly texture that easily falls away from the large bones. Delicate and moist with a gentle flavor. Closer to the main spine you could see the little jelly like fat deposits that must contain plenty of the famous Omega 3 fatty acids.

The fish tasted great. My only complaint? We should have harvested two!

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Comment by Tawnya Sawyer on April 5, 2010 at 9:53am
Good info about the omega 3s in yellow perch, one of their benefits over tilapia which are lower in omega 3s and higher in omega 6s. We recently "dispactched" with two tilapia and was told a knife through the back of the head (sorry to be so graphic) was the fastest, most humane way to do this deed. The tilapia being much bigger fish, we easy enough to fillet leaving the head and bones in place. It made a fantastic fish chowder with lots of garden veges. I love the pictures you took of the perch dinner. Looks as good as you said.

I was also told, that not feeding the "victims" a few days before the event will purge them of food and therefore help them taste less fishy. I don't know if this is true or not, anyone else have info along these lines?
Comment by Murray Hallam on April 4, 2010 at 9:13pm
Good work Frank,
I had Jade Perch x 3 for Sunday lunch with an old mate from North Queensland.
We cooked by smoking for 15 minutes over hickory chips.
Very nice with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Comment by Frank Gapinski on April 4, 2010 at 3:53pm
Hi Sylvia, yes I write an occasional blog at and yes feel free to repost this blog on your other excellent site if you like it.
Hi Jessica, good point about keeping the fish's head on. Looks more presentable! I dispatched the fish by cutting its throat. All over in a second or two. Many posts say Jade Perch is an oily fish to taste. I have found it to be less so. I think its an ideal fish that can absorb strong flavors in Chinese dishes, curries etc.
Comment by Sylvia Bernstein on April 4, 2010 at 8:33am
Riveting post, Frank. I felt like I was right there with you and the net. Do you write a regular blog? I'd love to have you do a guest posting on mine - in fact this one would work great if you are willing.

So how did you "dispatch" the fish?

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