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Most aquaponic gardeners immediately go for the most common fish such as tilapia, catfish, or even crustaceans to use in their system. Surprisingly, raising largemouth bass is also relatively easy because they are not fussy, and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, making them perfect for growing a variety of crops. Though proper practices are still required when caring for largemouth bass in aquaponics systems, their growth potential and delicious meat can make for a truly rewarding harvest.
In this article, you will learn valuable tips on how to care for Largemouth Bass in an aquaponics setup.
Why Raise Largemouth Bass in Aquaponics Systems?
The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) belong to the sunfish family, which makes them relatives of the bluegill. Also called black bass, bucketmouth, largies, and widemouth bass, this freshwater gamefish are native to North America, typically residing in rivers and creeks.
While they can be tolerant of temperature changes, largemouth bass is not recommended for those who are just new to aquaponics. Still, many aquaponics gardeners choose this type of fish because of their potential to grow large in just a short span of time. For instance, an adult largemouth bass can grow as heavy as 12 lbs in just 16 months. And since they are also great-tasting fish, there are plenty of recipes that you can enjoy with largemouth bass.
Florida-Strain vs. Northern-Strain
There are two types of largemouth bass that you can use for your aquaponics system: the Northern-strain and the Florida-strain. You can typically tell them apart by the size and growth rates. The Northern-strain can only grow to up to 10 pounds, while the Florida-strain can grow up to 20 pounds or more.
As for the growth rate, the Florida-strains can reach 14 inches in just two years and a pound more per year. On the other hand, the Northern-strain grows at a similar rate for three years, but then this growth slows down in the preceding years.
Requirements for Caring for Largemouth Bass in Aquaponics Systems
Below are the parameters to consider to keep your largemouth bass thriving in your aquaponics setup:
A good rule of thumb when caring for largemouth bass in aquaponics systems is to keep 1 inch of fish per 1 gal. Keep in mind that largemouth bass grows up to 8 inches in the first year and will be fully mature in two years at approximately 10 inches, while some can reach a length of two feet.
A 100 to 150 US gal (380 to 570 L) tank is a great size to start with, and this would be enough to house eight fish, given they’re no more than 10 inches in length. If you want to keep them with tankmates, then you will need an even much bigger tank. And because they are a gamefish, they need more room to swim.
Gamefish like largemouth bass also quickly outgrow their tanks, so carefully consider if you have a tank large enough for them to move around.
Largemouth bass prefer water temperatures between 82 to 84 deg F., But since they’re generally a tolerant and hardy fish species, they can withstand temperature ranges of 55 deg to 85 deg F without problems.
Largemouth bass typically seek shade to avoid the sunlight, and this is because of their anatomy. Bass lack eyelids and so direct sunlight could hurt their eyes.
You should maintain a pH level between 7 and 8. As always make sure to use a quality pH meter.
The largemouth bass will need at least 3 mg/L of dissolved oxygen concentration, but anything higher than that is ideal.
Fish diet/nutrient requirements
Your largemouth bass will be happy when fed with insects and worms, but they’ll still be satisfied with floating commercial pellets.
Give feed only once a day or feed them as much as they can eat in 15 to 20 minutes. It is recommended that you feed them at the same time every day so they’ll know when to eat.
How to clean the tank
Largemouth bass are heavy waste-producers, so the more fish you have in your tank, the more frequent tank cleaning will be. At a minimum, water should be changed every two weeks. And when doing so, make sure that the temperature of the new water is similar to what’s in the tank to avoid a sudden change in temperature.
A lethal disease called largemouth bass virus has been observed in this particular gamefish. While it also affects other warm-water fish species, it’s known to cause mortality in the largemouth. The disease affects the swim bladder, which will result in equilibrium or buoyancy issues inside the fish. Eventually, the fish will perish.
There is no treatment as the virus will usually run its course. A fish with a strong immune system, such as those usually kept in good condition, will usually recover.
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Your tank should have a decent filter, preferably a canister filter, to keep up with the waste produced by your fish.
Can they be mixed with other breeds?
Largemouth bass are usually aggressive fish, but they can still be mixed with other fish like trout or catfish. Still, you need to be careful when adding tankmates, keeping in mind that they are of similar sizes. It’s also good to note that largemouth will eat crayfish, so it’s not a good idea to add these crustaceans to your tank.
Largemouth bass will become sexually mature when they reach their first year. Spawning will begin when the water temperature is at a steady 60 deg F. Males use debris they can find at the bottom of the water for building nests. Once they’ve created their nests, they will swim around to look for the female to begin mating. The pair will then “dance” around the nest and deposit the eggs and sperm, which should come in contact with each other as they descend to the nest.
Based on this mating behavior, you need a really big tank for the males to be able to build the nest. Otherwise, breeding bass in captivity will prove to be challenging.