Temperatures are rising. Fish are swimming up. We're moving into an exciting new period! Lots of teacher input and questions.
Welcome to March.
Soon we'll be thinking about field work and starting to plan our Release Days. As you know, last week I sent out an e-mail in which I requested updates. Thanks to many of you, those came flooding in, and I'll share them. But first a few photos from Emma Vastola at Mount Holly School. As you'll see, just a very few fish are swimming up. Too soon to start feeding!
Emma said that on the afternoon of March 5th, 10 out of 97 were swimming up. She also provided this:
Our DI is at 85 today and after leaving the front of the tank during the day last week, today I have started leaving the front and the top off of it. The temperature is set at 52 degrees and some of the trout have started to swim up. Just a few and I have not started feeding yet. I was going to wait until 50% have, as you suggested. They seem more active since taking the top off.
Jen Grilly, of the Bridge School, said the following:
Happy Valentine’s Day, trout. Since Valentine’s, the Bridge School trout have been roaming free in the tank and are loving riding the bubbles like an amusement park ride!
Jen sent this picture too.
Melinda Carpenter sent this report from BFA Fairfax:
BFA Fairfax is doing ok, but I am a little worried about our nitrite and nitrate levels. Our other numbers seem to be fairly steady.
We have lost 5-6 since they started feeding 3 weeks ago.
I encouraged Melinda to make sure that, along with the siphoning, she's adding Nite-Out II on a regular basis (after the siphoning, not before). I also said that rising nitrate levels may indicate that her tank is "cycling."
Sabrina McDonough, of Shrewsbury Mountain School, provided this nice video of her trout.
Sabrina added that, of course, she would be siphoning out all the food that wasn't eaten within five or so minutes. That's an important practice! She also said:
As of Thursday, we had about seven swimming up in each basket. Though we had a snow day Friday, I trekked up the mountain for fear of missing swim up, and I am glad that I did as about 15 were swimming to the top of the baskets. I did give a small pinch of food in each basket. When I went up today, only five to seven were remaining on the bottom of the basket. All seems to be going well.
Michael Luzader, of Currier Memorial School, gave this report:
Hey Joe, no swim up yet.
In a separate e-mail, Michael said that on March 3rd, his DI was 80.2. I'm pretty sure his DI will hit 85 before the end of the week.
On March 4, Sandra Fary, of Camels Hump Middle School, submitted this:
Here at Camels Hump Middle School, the swim-up occurred a few weeks prior to break. We have been keeping with the schedule and just in the last day lost a dozen fry. Another dozen are looking listless. The only value that seems low is the GH. Here are our numbers:
My response was:
I don’t see anything in your readings that would explain the recent die-off. Are the fish still in the breeder basket? If so, what’s the condition of your breeder basket? If the breeder basket is dirty, it can become a Petri dish for the development of disease.
Is there any chance that these fatalities were “pinheads,” that is, alevin that never made the transition to feeding?
Sandra replied with:
The fish are still in the breeder basket. You're right--it could be dirty. I'm not sure if they're pinheads or not. Should I let them out of the breeder basket?
I wrote: If all of them are feeding, you might partially submerge one side of the breeder basket and allow the adventurous ones to swim out.
Meg Ritter, of Crossett Brook Middle School, also provided this advice:
My suggestion would be a water change and add baking soda to bring up the KH and GH, as well as the pH. Our tank at Crossett Brook Middle School needed quite a lot of baking soda infusions to bring the KH, GH, and pH to a more alkaline environment ( currently 240, 72, and 8.4). This has held for almost a month. We also switched to chemical water tests, rather than the strips, for greater accuracy.
Dan "Rudi" Ruddell, of White River Partnership, submitted this report:
Tiffany [Tiffany Tucker, of Hartford Cooperative Nursery School] is further along, but most of the GUVTU-WRP tanks appear to be on track for swim-up after returning from break on March 7.
I strongly suspect a high ammonia reading at Sharon was an anomalous reading, the fish seemed fine when I checked in. Teachers and students have found the test strips a good bit trickier to use and far less refined in categories of readings, and the colors change quickly so need to be read promptly. The South Royalton HS students did a x-check against the test solutions from last year and had a couple GH readings of 30 on the test strips and 125 using the solutions.
Several schools responding in the March 1st through March 4th timeframe provided similar reports:
Sarah Stebbins, Cold Hollow Career Center, came in with a different report:
CHCC had swim up in early February. All seemed to be going well, until this past week and half where we have also lost about 15 fish. All chemical levels seem to be fine, the only thing I have noticed is that there are a bunch of the fry that are hanging out at the bottom of the basket that are skinnier and don't seem to feed as much. It is my observation that those are the group that are dying, but any other insight or suggestions would be great!
Her TIC community volunteer Chuck Goller provided a very good response:
I just saw a similar situation at the Camel’s Hump Middle School in Richmond this morning. Most of those skinny ones likely did not make swim up and never started feeding. If some are indeed feeding, I suggest tipping your breeder basket and leaving it so the stronger fry can swim out leaving the weaker ones behind. Start feeding 3-4 times a day both in and out of the basket, but still only so much that it is all eaten. Keep close watch on the detritus on the tank bottom as well as your chemistry and adjust feeding accordingly.
From Devin Schrock at Lincoln Community School:
This is my first year with the tank. We raised the temperature to 52 as of last Wed. There are about 6 fry swimming to the surface to eat. The rest are moving but hanging out at the bottom of the basket. We keep the top and sides off during the day. Should the rest of the fish begin swimming to the surface over the next week?
I said yes.
Jenn Tifft contributed this:
At Middletown Springs Elementary, our fish just returned from a month-long vacation at Wallingford Elementary School, where they got a chance to visit while our chiller was acting up. I am pleased that they are back home and are very active. They will be swimming up any day now.
Meg Ritter asked this question:
We have done the cool and slow method as well. Tomorrow (our first day back from break), we will be at about 82%. Should we start raising the temp (currently at 43F), though none of the alevin seem interested in swim-up yet?
My answer is definitely! Alevin need both warmer temperatures (50 to 52 degrees) and exposure to light to trigger their swim-up response.
On behalf of the West Rutland School team, Jenny Gammon submitted this report this afternoon:
West Rutland decided to go warm and fast. Our chiller has still been acting up randomly and we figured the more developed the fish were the better they would be at handling the temp changes. The fish hatched out by accident over a weekend the chiller failed. They were at swim up stage by the 17th of February and were released from the breeder basket this past Friday because I believe cannibalism has been occurring.
I've only found 3 dead fish. But I've counted about 50-60 fish in the aquarium (we had two fish with curved spins which disappeared over a weekend). The nitrogen cycle is in good swing. And my general science kids have become excellent water chemists.
Here are two pictures Jenny sent me.
Let me remind you of the curriculum resources I promoted in the February 7, 2018, blog. Within the next week, I will be making decisions about the distribution of those resources.
Joe Mark is Lead Facilitator of Vermont's Trout in the Classroom program.
In June 2012, I retired after 40 years in higher education, having spent the last 32 years of my career as dean at Castleton. One of the first things I volunteered to do in retirement was to work with a parent-friend to help the Dorset School, where his kids and my Vermont grandkids attend, start a TIC program. Gradually that commitment grew into my current role, which is both demanding and highly rewarding.