50 Gallon Tank Setup
Acclimating the New Tilapia


     Garrett (one of the folk we think of as Windward's Away Team) was able to Craig's list a 50 gallon tank and all the accessories for it and come to Windward to help with the setup of the tank. We set up the tank on the stand and then began washing the gravel substrate with tap water. The gravel filled the bottom of the tank about one inch deep.

     The next step was to fill the tank with tap water, which came directly from the kitchen faucet and was warmed to about 75°F. We then installed the filtration system and added the aerator and heating unit to complete the physical setup.

a tilapia checks out the new tank

     The tank was then inoculated with bacteria that would become the biologic filter. This biologic filter is essential in the conversion of ammonia into nitrite then into nitrate, which the plants can then take up. These bacteria came in the form of fish waste from Garrett's home tank filter. Once this was cycled through the system for an hour or so the fish, which consisted of two Pencil fish, and 10 Head & Tail Light Tetras, were released into the tank.

     Windward then acquired 12 tilapia through one of Garrett's contacts, which has put our plans of a large scale aquaponics system one step closer to actualization. It was my job as the resident fish expert to acclimate them to the 50 gallon tank that Garrent and I set up.

     Once the tilapia arrived on site from Portland they were put into two 5 gallon buckets that were half filed with the water they were transported in and were aerated with the bubbler from our tank. We quickly found that one of the fish didn't survive the trip from Portland.

setting up home

     I then put a pitcher of water from our tank into both of the buckets in order to raise the pH so the fish would have an easy transition into our tank. This process was repeated tirelessly until the pH difference was within 0.2 of each other.

      I then took a "test" fish and put it in the tank to see how it faired for about 15 minutes. I was looking for any serious color differences, changes in breathing, and obviously death of the fish. When this exhibited none of those indicators I began to put all the fish into the tank and monitored their behavior for the next hour. One was noticeable darker than the others and was not responding well to the tank chemistry and ended up dying a day later, which was no surprise to me.

      The tilapia immediately took to the tank and began making themselves at home in the rock structures made for them. They also began to eat the small tetras that were in the tank; within the first day they ate half of them.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71