Bluegill As an Alternative to Tilapia
Bluegill – also known as Lepomis macrochirus – is a species of freshwater fish sometimes referred to as bream, brim, or Copper Nose. Native to North America, Bluegill live in streams, rivers, lakes and ponds and is most commonly found east of the Rockies. Bluegill often hide in and around old tree stumps and other underwater structures. They can live in either deep or very shallow water, and will often move back and forth depending on the time of day or season. Bluegill also like to find shelter among water plants and in the shade of trees along riverbanks.
Bluegill can grow up to 12 inches long and weigh about 4.5 pounds. They have very distinctive coloring, with deep blue and purple on the face and gill cover, dark olive-colored bands down the side, and a fiery orange to yellow belly. The fish are omnivores and will eat anything they can fit in their mouth, though they mostly feed on small aquatic insects and fish. Bluegill play a key role in the food chain as they are prey for muskies, walleye, trout, bass, herons, kingfishers, snapping turtles and otters.
Bluegill In Aquaponics
If you are searching for something less tropical that can live in both warm water and near-freezing or even frozen water – as well as something that eats just about anything, you have found it!
Bluegill is a great alternative to Tilapia in aquaponics because of the wide range of temperatures that they can tolerate. Ideal temperatures for Bluegill range between 60˚ and 80˚ F, yet they can withstand temperatures of 39˚ to 90˚ F. In most cases, you will not have to heat your water in the winter. Bluegill do reproduce rapidly and are hardy fish.
Bluegill spawning season is between May and August in their natural environment. In a controlled environment with ideal "natural" conditions such as spawning water temperatures around 67˚ to 80˚ F, light fluctuations, an area to build a spawning nest, and well-planted aquariums, Bluegill can reproduce year-round – and a female Bluegill can lay between 10,000 and 60,000 eggs.
When it's time to mate, males create a spawning bed in shallow water, and if a female chooses this mate, she will start to swim with the male. Together, they will settle in the middle of the nest, touch bellies and spawn. After the female drops the eggs, the male chases her out of the nest and guards the eggs. The male watches the eggs until they hatch – usually five to seven days later – and until the new fish swim off on their own. During this time, the male can be seen cleaning the nest and aerating the eggs with his pectoral fins.
Once hatched, the larva swim out of the nest and filter feed on zooplankton until they get large enough to eat small insects. At this point, Bluegill can become cannibalistic. Bluegill are excellent predators, and the parents will eat their young, so you will want to gently move the larva to a smaller tank.