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Monday, May 16, 2011

Automated Breeding Systems ~ A cost effective alternative to fishroom's for breeders?

Automated Breeding Systems ~ A cost effective alternative to fishroom's for breeders?

© Alan S. Bias
Permission granted for nonprofit reproduction or duplication of photos and text with proper credit for learning purposes only.

For quite a number of years I’ve thought I would like to automate my fishroom.  The reasons for doing so always seemed about equal to those for not.  With most closed recirculating systems disease issues seem always a concern, even with the most effective and high end UV sterilization in place.  So, until a couple of years ago the only system I really considered with any serious intent is a trough setup using open vinyl gutters to drain tanks and lacking a central filtration unit.  The primary benefits being frequent and convenient water changes.  With this type system water is still fed via a series of pipes and distributed by valves to each tank.  The difference is in while tanks are drilled and fitted with risers & drain tubes in the bottom, sides or both, they are not physically connected to a sealed drain pipe containing co-mingled water from all tanks.  Drain tubes simply sit over a gutter system, and in theory little or no contact exists between tanks.  If the need arises tanks are simply lifted from racks without a need to disconnect plumbing.  This would work well in a dedicated fishroom built from scratch or modified to fit an existing space.

Many are often surprised to see how basic my setup has remained.  By nature I like to piddle around and tinker with things.  So I keep it simple and guppy breeding has remained enjoyable for a number of years.  On the few occasions that circumstances allowed I have designed and built a fishroom to meet my current interests and needs.  More often than not it evolved around an existing room to meet the needs.  For the most part my current fishroom is based on the latter in an existing room using the same setup as my first nearly 30 years ago.  That being racks fashioned from stained 2*4’s.  Not only are they cost effect, but support and distribute a lot of weight without any worries of rust or corrosion.  Allow for full utilization of a small space with some forethought in design.  Additionally they offer a bit of portability when moving or redesigning a setup.  Modification is easy and connecting to other racks for added stability is as simple as adding a piece of 2*4 and connecting with lag bolts.

My personal preference is too secure ends and  any cross braces with three 12-16 penny coated sinkers.  Legs are mitered and notched for maximum stability and load bearing capability.  Each leg is drilled oversize through the rack and connected by a lag bolt with washers and nuts.  Doing so allows for some “play” that is often needed for shrinkage and leveling.  When building, take some time and add extra cross bracing.  Not only will this help prevent warping, but will allow for ease in reconfiguring at a later date if you choose to change tank sizes or locations on your racks.

Wooden racks allow for the most flexibility and ease of modification.  The use of cinder blocks for for legs results in alot of wasted space.  Any after thoughts can be accomplished by drilling, nailing or screwing it in place.  They create nice recessed and hidden locations for wiring, light fixtures, air and water lines.  Personally, I prefer to mount everything on the underside of my racks and above the tanks.  The less clutter on the front of the racks the better.  Neat, tidy and out of the way. 

As they say, “things often change in life.”  Over the last decade I have moved several times with increasing frequency and each time I have wanted to continue raising guppies.  I now realize it just may not be practical to have a dedicated “fishroom” in the future, much less the ability to move all the existing components of the current one.  A setup consisting of large permanent racks; requiring a ton of 48” fluorescent strips based on a rather large number of individual, bulky tanks run off of a noisy blower.   

So I have been pondering designs for a portable stand alone "Self Contained Breeding System" encompassing portions of my current setup & practices.  One sufficient to raise multiple lines of several strains of guppies in a variety of settings.  If desired easily cloned to double capacity.  Initial research pointed to a design similar to those found in a high end laboratory setting with compartmentalized racks.   It did not take much research to realize pre-built systems for laboratories more often than not have limited tank visibility, and are conceived with egg-layers in mind.  For the total volume of water they are just plain expensive.

What I envision is a breeding system more in common with those designed by several Asian breeders in recent years.  Not only would such a system be easy to move, but would need to withstand the rigors of a move on more than one occasion.  Such a setup would need to be both affordable and simplistic enough to be built with my skill set.  Of primary interest is creating a major reduction in the electric foot print now found in most fishrooms.   I’m not sure of the effects on water bound creatures in small confines, but prolonged exposure to Electro Magnetic Fields is negative in nature to human breeders.
At a minimum my criteria for a self contained breeding system are:

* High visibility in each compartment, thus eliminating a “plastic shoebox” approach for tanks.
* Ability to locate in a dedicated room or shared space such as a living room or den.
* Need to reduce / contain moisture levels, also aid in heating and lighting efficiency. 
* A hinged collapsible rack design in which lighting and wiring remained in place, while PVC water and airline was easily removed for transport.
* To be both cost effective and transportable with ease individual tanks would be long & multi compartment.  Each tank would use heavy gauge glass to retain heat, and a single piece covering over the compartments.
* Compartment size should take into consideration such factors as overall surface area needed for efficient growth rate per total volume of water in each.
* All tanks should sit on solid wood or similar for additional for insulation.
* Automated for water change.
* A closed recirculating system in which the majority of heating is done in a single location such as the central filter or locations on each level such as the drain pipe.
* Compartments would all have individual filtration, as well as individual cutoffs on all intake and outlets to isolate and quarantine if needed.
* Each level of the rack would have a tank design & compartment sizes geared to a specific goal – breeding trios or groups, large number of fry, grow out of maturing fish, retention of older breeders.
* Covered tanks.  Excess moisture created from uncovered tanks is a common foe in most fishrooms.  The only real solution to the constant humidity is control provided by a dehumidifier in conjunction with a couple small fans to help circulate air.  So covered tanks will not only reduce humidity levels, but aid in retaining heat.

Is such a system possible and practical for the average breeder?  I think very much so.  Still, prior to initial output in time and cost, North American breeders need to abandon both the concept and established practice of purchasing cheap 10 gallon tanks and packing them with fish in large spaces.   While common in Asia and Europe the practice of building tanks from scratch or even modifying existing commercial designs by partitioning is done by few these days in North America.  For myself, such a conversion should be easily accomplished as I rarely crowd my tanks and prefer a very small fishroom for ease of maintenance.  As seen in the photo to the right, over the last 5-6 years I have swapped over a large portion of my fishroom from 10 gallon tanks to ones that measure 48 * 13 * 13 or about 33 gallons in total.  Each is then in turn divided into 4, 6 or 8 individual compartments by further glass partitions.

How many tanks can be held in such a setup?  Quite a few as indicated in Derrick's posting of his breeding systems back in 2006.  His design was one of several that got me started on this idea some years ago.  There is little doubt such a system is can be appealing to the eye:   

4 month old Gold (Blond) Bodied Yellow Vienna Emeralds
While dehumidifiers create a welcome source of additional heat in colder seasons, it can be a problem in warm weather.  An often overlooked practice to regulate excess heat in summer and humidity in all seasons is leaving your fishroom door ajar a couple of inches or removing a couple inches off the bottom.  Give it a try...

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