Aquaponics - fish fed fish

1. When you feed your fish, it becomes obvious that they remember you. Or at the very least remember the food jar they see when you are about to drop food into their world.

2. When I put a 10cm length of plastic tubing into the fish tank to measure my fish against, I noticed the fish would peck at it enough to move it around the tank.

These two points lead me to the obvious conclusion that I need to make a fish feeder that the fish themselves control.

I can trust them.

If I can make some kind of lever that sticks down into the water, and connect that to a motorised fish feeder, I should be able to teach them to feed themselves.

I should be able to train them by waiting near the lever, and when they get near, press the lever for them. I'll set it up so that the feed drops right next to the lever to encourage an association between lever and food.

Once they start hanging around in roughly the correct area, I'll reduce the distance so they need to get closer before I trigger the lever for them. I'll keep reducing the distance gradually until they have to be right up against the lever before I trip the lever.

If I stay disciplined, and don't cave in and feed them even when they are miles away from the lever, I should gradually see them getting closer and closer to the lever whenever they are hungry. They should also start to hang around the feeder, rather than swimming toward me whenever they see me.

Waiting until they get nearer and nearer each time should get them used to the idea that food comes from the lever area.

When they are regularly hanging around the lever, I should be able to stop tripping the lever for them and just wait until one of them hits the lever either by accident, or because fish just peck at stuff.

Once one of them has the hang of it I'm convinced many more will pick up on it.

I'll still have to regulate the food supply so that no more than my system can process is fed to the fish in any given day. This should be possible by only putting a day's worth of food in the hopper. With regular testing of the water, and keeping an eye on how much they take, I should be able to work out if I can trust them with ever increasing amounts of food so that perhaps I could set up the system with enough food to last 3 days or so. I would want to set the maximum amount of food in the hopper to a level that even if all of it got dumped into the system all at once, the system would still be safe.

Now all I need is the device, and a willing fish.

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