They are aggressive feeders! Look healthy. I forget -- are they hybrids or black crappies? Sounds good Brian! What feed are you using?
Thanks for the kind words.
The things that I have found make successful feed training more likely:
1. Crowding to elicit a more competitive response. (I put 500 in about 140 gallons of water)
2. Hit them heavy with the sinking feed several times a day. I think the term is blizzarding. You will waste some feed and you need to keep your clarifier clean with more partial water changes than normal but it's worth it.
4. Sinking feed. Contrary to what is typical these fish had no interest in freeze dried krill at first. But at some point I added it to the tank and they ate it. So I fed them exclusively freeze dried krill until I used up the bag (2 lbs.) and then it was back to the sinking feed. They also preferred it more whole and not crushed vs. very small pieces and powder.
5. Start them out as small as possible (Didn't happen with these hybrids as they were purchased 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches.)
6. Putting some similar sized feed trained fish in with that to help them learn ( in this case it was tilapia). But if the teaching fish get much larger than the fish you are feed training, it's probably a good idea to remove them as they may aggressively hoard the feed. I did this and the crappie are feeding even better now.
7. Add salt to help with stress. Knowing from experience how easily crappie are stressed, fungal and bacteria issues prone, and die from simply handling them, I added 0.5 percent salt I to the system for a couple of months. That's what's recommended for hauling and I figured it couldn't hurt as the bio filters don't have issues with salt at low levels. I've since dropped it down to 0.2 percent. Not sure what you can get away with in an aquaponics system before you have issues with the plants.
8. I suspect but can't verify it, I believe the low light conditions of my basement (I use a dimmer switch in conjunction with an incandescent bulb) may help at least keep the stress down which should make feeding more likely.
If these guys are like the black crappies I hatched and feed trained myself, they will probably lose interest in pellets once released into the pond. I put my previous black crappies into a cage and they stopped feeding on pellets. There may have been fathead minnows that strayed into the cage, and crappies are know to feed on zooplankton. They seemed healthy when I checked on them so they must have been eating something. If I do it again I would also make the water depth in the cage shallower as it seemed they had to come up a ways to the floating feed. (You need to make it easy for fish to reach the goal you have set for them).
My plan it to release a certain number into the pond (not sure if I will use a cage this time), and keep some in the tank longer in hopes they will be less likely to go off pellets once released into the pond. Once I plant the tilapia that are now in another tank in the basement, back into the pond for algae and weed control, to produce bass forage, and sell the excess, I will spread out the remaining crappies in both tanks and keep them until at least late summer.