Polar vortex brings chilly lesson for aquaponics producer

Matt Jones
April 16, 2014
By Matt Jones

Cliff Jagger learned a painful lesson this winter. Jagger who set up Asheville Aquaponics in Mills River, North Carolina, a few years ago, discovered that it’s wise to have a backup heating supply for your fish if you’re raising tilapia in winter.

Raising tilapia in frigid temperatures isn’t easy but it’s doable – provided you’ve got the right equipment. When the polar vortex ushered in sub-zero temperatures to the region this winter the operation’s natural-gas heater in his greenhouse just couldn’t keep up, and the fan froze.

         To add insult to injury there was a thermostat problem with a second fan and everything happened “of course when we were asleep,” says Jagger. “We found our vertical stackable pot looking like a frozen ice sculpture.”

         Because not all the tanks are heated, the fish in the unheated tanks were lost. Thankfully, Jagger notes, the heated tanks kept other tilapia alive and enabled the warmer-loving plants to survive as well.

         “We had mostly all cold weather crops in the beds and they did just fine,” said Jagger.

         “I guess the moral of the story is...have a back-up heating supply,” he said ruefully. Jagger intends to have his solar water heater up and running soon.

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