Saturday, 31 December 2016

Fish story - Part 1: The pond

I have a fish pond at the farm which doesn't quite look like a pond.  It flows with fresh water from the source through a 3 inch polypipe that I had installed and the water flows out into Sg. Lai at the other end.  When I first bought the land, I noticed that there was a dried stream bed the winds through the land so I used that as the guide and created the fish pond by deepening and widening resulting in a river-like fish pond.  Over the years, I have made modifications and I love how it is turning out.  I am blessed because the farm is located in an area where there is a fresh water source and still uncontaminated - something which I strive to encourage the neighbour to maintain and hopefully no developers will come and destroy it.

I rear red tilapia, lampam and catfish.  Along with the inflow of the river water, I further get river fish and shrimp bounty like bujuk, seluang, eels and haruan.  With the addition of the other fishes, it is a blessing and a challenge as the larger river fish tends to also eat the fish that I put in the pond.  So, it is a balancing act.  The small river fish becomes food for the larger fishes.  I further add greens by planting kangkong and throwing in tapioca leaves which also becomes their food.  From my recycling of organic wastes, I get some black fly larvae which also serves as a protein supplement.  I do supplement with fish pellets but it serves as an addition but it is something that I hope in the near future I can totally remove.  Periodically, we will put banana pseudo stems from our own banana harvesting activity and this serves multiple functions: additional food, water cleanser and places for the fish to lay eggs and rear their babies.  It is a continuos balancing act but it is all aimed at producing tasty, fresh water fish without the muddy or weird smells nor lots of slime.  The water is uncontaminated water and we do not feed it garbage like animal carcasses or chicken innards.  The water is nice and clear and you can easily see the more bright color fish and although ton see the silvery-tone fish takes a bit of work.  As the farm is totally organic, we do not have any chemical elements contaminating the water and the fish.

With the two main elements of food and water in place, the other main element is maintenance and operations.  The fish pond is segmented into 3 areas: the largest is non-cemented base as I try to mimic as natural environment as possible, the second is a temporary holding area when we do our fish sorting and the third is a cemented base processing pond which otherwise is used for rearing our catfish.  Every two months, we will drain the ponds and sort and harvest the fish.  As the larger fish tends to eat the smaller fishes, sorting and harvesting will minimise the cannibalisation.  By draining the ponds, we get to clean and change the water although it is not necessary since water is flowing in and out continuously.    Our latest improvement was to build "retainer" walls along one section that is closest to the farmhouse.  Over the years, erosion has occurred so it became necessary to build one to protect that area.  The plan is to further beautify it with flowering edibles like roselle so it can become another nice spot to rest and relax and where I can fish with a fishing rod when I feel like it.

Besides it being an opportunity for a produce and ensuing products for the farm, it also serves as a
flood mitigation element.  This are has been known to flood especially during rainy season as the level of the river can rise very fast after prolonged rain.  Sg. Lai is fed by 5 other small rivers and streams so the water volume can increase dramatically and it comes with strong currents known to have floated 1m in diameter cement drain pipes like it was a cork.  It also adds aesthetic value and serves as a lounging area hence the addition of the patio where I can sit in the late afternoon and enjoy a drink and fresh air as I watch the fish - utterly relaxing.  The fountain that was created requires no pumps but uses the pressure of the water flow.

I expect in the ensuing years I will probably do more modifications but always balancing between maintaining the environment, natural elements and aesthetics with the underlying aim of producing quality fresh water produce and products as an integrated farm.