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Posts Tagged ‘Giant Redclaw Crayfish’

I could not be more frustrated, or more elated, with my aquaculture, aquaponics projects. First, the goldfish in the goldfish garden are absolutely smashing. They are tough, hardy fish.  The floating raft with greens that I have in the tank is doing so,so.  I think the sunlight is a little too indirect and I may supplement with an led grow light.

The Tilapia are positively thriving.  They are eating like little pigs and I believe some of them have actually grown, already.  We will get a grow bed attached to their tank very shortly. I couldn’t be happier with them.  They dart around like little under water jet skis. I adore them.

The Red Claw Crawfish are another tale altogether.  I have only two of the original 18 left.  One male and one female.  I’m trying desperately to save them.  If I can keep them both alive, then all will be well and we’ll have plenty of new ones in a few months.

I am at a total loss to figure out what went wrong.  It’s a genuine mystery.

I set up a new, smaller tank for them this morning.  I’ll let it cycle for a bit before putting the crawfish inside.  Top ups will be done with rainwater from our rain barrel to see if they like that better than de-chlorinated inside water.  I’ll have to warm it up before adding it, but that’s only a minor inconvenience.

I will use an aquarium bio filter and a home made one at least until we can get a growbed on their tank, as well.  I might not even put a bed on theirs and simply use the nutrient dense water on traditional plant containers when I do water changes.  We’ll see which seems to make the most sense.

 

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Nitrite Spike. Cloudy Water. Bacterial Infection. Dead fish. Danger, Will Robinson. Danger!

That pretty much describes yesterday.  It was a life and death struggle. It seemed to come out of nowhere.  When I got up yesterday morning the Red Claw Crawfish tank was unusually cloudy.  I told B we were going to have to do a partial water change and I asked her if she would make a solids filter for me.

A solids filter is just what it sounds like.  You take a bucket, drill a hole near the top to put a hose or pvc pipe. Then drill a hole at the base of the bucket and put a drain pipe.  Then you place some filter material in the bucket. In our case we use filter pads.  Set the bucket above the fish tank or plant grow bed so it can drain into one of them. Put a submersible pump in the bottom of the tank and run some hose or pipe into the bucket.

As the pump sucks up water from the tank, it collects some of the solids that are in the water and on the bottom of the tank.  As the water flows into the bucket, the filter material catches the solids but allows the water to flow back into the tank or grow bed. Simple, yes?

We were too late.  B sent me an urgent email yesterday afternoon saying that when she went to install the filter, there was already a dead red claw.   My first thought was ammonia spike.  She tested, but it was well within range, as was the pH.

Then she mentioned that some of the other Red Claw had white fuzzy stuff on their claws or on their heads.  Even as inexperienced as I am, I knew that was probably a bacterial infection.  I asked her to do a nitrite test.  Sure enough, it was way out of range.  So strange.  I had done a nitrite test 48 hours before and all was fine.  Now, we were killing fish.

That tank has an old style bio filter that was obviously designed for a lower stocking density and was not keeping up.  Fortunately, we had another tank we cycled and were preparing for Tilapia.  Brittan moved the Red Claw over there.

When I got home from work, I gave the fish a salt bath and will keep them in the hospital tank for a few days.  I spent the next three hours, with Brittan’s help, cleaning out the sick tank and refilling it.  We also replaced the bio filter with a better one.

This morning, both tanks tested well.  The Red Claw are happy and active.  They will get another salt bath this evening.  In addition to the new Bio filter, we will install a grow bed and put a grow light over it.  We’ll get some lettuce out of that and it will help keep the tank in balance.

It was very scary.  We could have lost a lot of crawfish.  Fortunately, Brittan was on the spot to do the tests and move the fish until I could get home.  These smaller tanks are volatile things. They must be monitored constantly.  For now, though, all is calm, all is bright. Sorry, couldn’t resist the seasonal reference.

 

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It's a Boy! The Red Claw Gives It Away

The day is finally unwinding.  I’m not, but the day is. And what a day it’s been.

The rumblings of potential issues began last night when neither Brittan nor I could sleep.  B was over caffeinated while I was suffering with a back issue.  Stuff happens. We ended up with about three hours sleep.

When we arrived at the farm today, we expected to load two cows and get them to the processor. What we did not expect was a flat tire on our trailer.  The trailer that weighs 3000 pounds in low humidity.  I grabbed a can of fix a flat and the air compressor and went to work.  It was not a big deal, but trusting a 2 hour round trip on the interstate with wife, truck, trailer and cattle to an aerosol can of foam and air is stretching common sense just a little.

It took us nearly three hours to get one cow loaded. The other one was not going to cooperate.  Fortunately the one we got in was Chuck the bull and he was the most important. In the end, Diane got a reprieve for a season.

B and I were flat out pooped by the time we got on the road.  The drive was fairly uneventful and we spent it with mixed emotions.  We’ll miss Chuck, but this is what we raised him for. On the other hand, we were all excited about coming home to a box of 18 Giant Red Claw Crawfish (sometimes called freshwater lobster) to begin our aquaponics garden in earnest.

Before we could get home, we needed to get some hay for the animals, so we unhitched the horse trailer and replaced it with a utility one and sped down the road to the feed store.  By the time we got back to the house it was 4:50. In the mailbox Brittan found a note that said the Post Office did not deliver the Crawfish. They were at the Post Office and would be delivered tomorrow.

I had ten minutes. Ten. Fortunately, you can see the Post Office from our house. It’s a one minute drive. I raced over there only to find a line of people mailing Christmas Boxes.  Naturally the man two in front of me had 13 boxes to be shipped all over the world.  By the time I got to the desk it was after 5.

I handed my card to the nice lady and she went to get my box. She returned empty handed saying it was still on the truck and the truck was long gone.  My shoulder fell. I groaned, “but it’s live fish. They will be dead by morning.”  She apologized and gave me a dispatch number to call.

With no expectations, I called the distribution center. The line was busy. The line was busy for 6 minutes. I kept trying. I eventually got a very nice lady on the phone.  I told her my situation. I ended by saying, “They’ll be dead by morning.” to which she replied, “They smell like they might already be dead.”

I was not comforted.

After what seemed like a decade, she said, “You know what. I’ve got a truck leaving for the main Acworth office. If you can meet the driver behind the building, I’ll get you your box.”  Folks, that’s customer service.

Brittan and I jumped in the car and headed down the road. The main office is on the other side of town and it was rush hour, which means there’s no hope for rushing.  When we finally arrived, the driver was waiting patiently. He was so nice. As he handed me the box, he said, “I sure hope the little guys are alright.”

Tonight I am very happy with the United Postal Service. They went above and beyond what they had to do.

We got home and opened the box to find our Crawfish very much alive.  As the series of photos shows, we acclimatised them to the water before releasing them. Once released, they seemed to very much enjoy their freedom, while our male cat, Cash, thought all his Birthdays had come at once.  He did everything but climb into the fish tank.

We will keep them together in this one tank for a few days, then split them into two tanks.  Once the females are full of eggs, we will set up additional tanks for nursery and grow out.

One of the Crawfish does not seem to be too perky, but the others appear to be off to a good start. We’ll know more tomorrow.  All that’s left to

do tonight is shower. Even the pigs won’t come near me. I can take a hint.

First, Acclimatise The Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close up of Red Claw Getting Acclimated

 

 

 

 

 

 

Releasing The Crawfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Needs Cable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Milling About in the New Digs

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s our first nursery tank filled and cycling.  It’s a 55 gallon system.  Ultimately it could support a great deal of veggies. For example, you could split a 55 gallon plastic barrel in half, create a grow bed in each half and this tank would feed it. That could produce a lot of food right there.  We also have a 75 gallon tank and two 20 gallons ones.  These will mostly be for housing our breeding fish.  We have a 300 gallon system ready to be put together and will get to it shortly.  Next weekend we’re going to drive north about an hour had get some IBC totes and plastic barrels to convert into diy systems.  Brittan is very excited because she gets to break out the power tools.  Love that woman!

 

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We haven’t even started building the system and already have a dilemma.  Such is our lives.

Sharp Entertainment, producers of shows like “Man Vs. Food” and “Extreme Couponers” are doing a show for National Geographic Channel called, “Doomsday Preppers”.  A melodramatic title, to say the least.

We have talked with them several times about the show and they want to come and film for two days in September.  We explained that we don’t have any bomb shelters nor are we expecting an alien invasion in 2012, but they are intrigued by ‘our edible suburb’.  They think the idea of a sustainable suburban farm would have some appeal.  We thought that our lack of ‘extremeism’ would be the end of things, but no, they sent us a release form this week and want to come out sometime between 12 and 27 September to film for two days.  There is no money involved.  Shucks.

There is a catch, though.  Someone in the production company read my post about Giant Redclaw Crayfish and they are psyched about that.  I have tried to explain that the Red Claw plan is scheduled for spring due to budgeting constraints, but they are urging me to move it up because it’s so different.  The simple answer is that we’re not prepared to blow the budget just for the chance to be on TV.  That’s totally counter to what we’re trying to accomplish.  We have an emergency fund, a year’s worth of food and supplies in storage, a considerable investment in, shall we say, security, a self sufficient garden, two years or so of seeds and 8 varieties of livestock, yet the one thing we weren’t planning on until next year is the one thing that excites a television company.  How do you spell ‘irony’?

Last night, B came up with a three phase plan that would allow us to get our first tank started in the next two weeks, making the production company happy while keeping us financially solvent.  I’m going to spend some time this weekend working through her plan to make sure we can get it done.  In the meantime, we are forging ahead with our first tilapia system.  I wish we had some cooler weather in which to construct the darned thing, but it’s been over 90 since the first week of May and there’s no end in sight.  So all construction projects include heat stroke and sunburn relief spray.  After all, we live in “HOTlanta”.  BTW, the old song, “Rainy Night in Georgia?”  Total lie!

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Regular readers are aware that we are in the process of developing an aquaponics gardening system to raise Tilapia and veggies.  We are very excited about it and are getting close to set up.  We just need to find the right (read, ‘affordable’) greenhouse or hoop house and work out the electrical issues for running the pumps and we’ll get started.

This past week we had some visitors to the burb who inspired us to think beyond Tilapia.  One of the guests was an old friend of mine (I’m old, she isn’t) who I haven’t seen in about 14 years.  She brought her sister and brother in law along as they are in the process of setting up on some acreage in North Carolina.  The brother in law happens to be an aquaculture specialist.  How fortunate for us!

In the course of conversation he mentioned growing ‘freshwater lobster’ in a tank or aquaponics environment.  We were intrigued.  Brittan was even more interested than I, and she doesn’t even particularly like lobster!

As a result of the discussion, I started researching and found that the “Australian Giant Redclaw Crayfish”, often referred to as the ‘freshwater lobster’ is ideal for tank and aquaponic raising.  Now I’m psyched.

The Giant Redclaw average about 1/4 to 1/3 lb.in weight, but it is not unusual to have a specimen as large as 1 and 1/4 lb .  Texture and taste are considered very high quality and demand is growing.

They are prolific reproducers and are more ‘sociable’ than most other lobster and crayfish varieties, meaning they don’t fight and cannibalize each other.  So far, so good.

I found a fish farm in North Florida that specializes in Giant Red Claw, so I reached out to them to get more information.  I’ve also ordered a book on farming this species (yes, there is a book on pretty much everything).

Time will tell, but first signs are promising that we will begin with Tilapia and add Giant Redclaw Crayfish pretty quickly.  It takes about a year to get your first batch to market size.  My question to the the burb readers is, If you are a shellfish eater, would you try ethically raised, sustainable freshwater lobster direct from the farmer?  Heck, we might even be able to provide the butter from our own dairy cow!

Let me know your thoughts.  Thanks, team.

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