Grow Your Own Food – Dams And Dinner
Dams are great for beautification and recreation, but did you know they can also be used to improve your food security? Dams are actually super helpful for growing your own food at home and can help you get a five-star dinner on the table without having to visit the shops.
The two main ways in which your dam can do this is by providing you and your family with fresh fish and by boosting the health and yield of your crops.
This won’t just happen magically, however, and it isn’t as simple as just dropping some fish in, pulling some water out for the paddocks, and hoping for the best.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Dams and Dinner Part One: Stocking Fish In Dams
If you want to stock fish in your dam for the purpose of putting food on your plate, the first thing you’re going to need to do is ensure your dam is a healthy environment. This is because fish require certain parameters to thrive in and if your aquatic ecosystem doesn’t provide those, you’re not going to have a strong fish population which means you won’t successfully grow them for eating.
Step One: Install A Dam Aerator
Adding a dam aeration system will raise the oxygen levels within your water body and improve the overall water quality in your dam. This can mean bigger, healthier fish.
Fish, like all living things, require oxygen to survive and without an aerator, it will be hard for them to find adequate levels in most dams. Plus, lack of aeration can lead to imbalances that cause all sorts of issues than can be detrimental to your fish and dam such as stagnation, algae, and aquatic weeds.
Well aerated dams allow fish to safely access all parts of the water to live their best lives and hide from predators.
Dam aerators are available in both surface and sub-surface variants and can be mains powered, solar powered, a hybrid of the previous two, or operated by wind.
The best option for you will depend on what else you want to use your dam for as well as the actual specifications of your water body but the below resources should help you get an idea of what you’re after and our friendly team of experts are always happy to assist with selecting and installing the perfect aeration system for your dam.
Step Two: Dose With Biological Water Treatments
If you’ve had your dam for years but have never done anything with it, chances are you’ve got a fairly decent, nutrient-rich, sludge layer building up at the bottom. You may even be experiencing issues with odour, algae, stagnation and aquatic weeds.
The seasonal growth and die off of organics in your dam contributes to sludge build up which can lead to excessive nutrient levels within your dam.
This nutrient-rich sludge layer is the perfect food for algae and weed so it is important to combat this before you put fish in your dam.
The easiest way to do this is to utilise a targeted biological treatment such as WaterTreats Biostim Pellets which work by settling into your sludge layer and literally eating away at it.
There are a lot of biological water treatments on the market that are designed for smaller water bodies or international conditions but we have found that the WaterTreats range of biological treatment products are not only safe and super concentrated, they are also effective in Australian conditions. This is why they are our top recommendation.
You can find out more about biological water treatments with the below resources and if you’d like to get in touch, one of our specialists will be happy to work out which treatment is best for you and what dose rates you need to use.
Step Three: Find The Right Type Of Fish To Stock In Your Dam
One of the most popular options among those looking to grow their own food by stocking fish in their dam is the Freshwater Catfish (also known as the Eel-Tailed Catfish). This species is native to Australia and is one of the very few fish that can successfully breed in a dam if provided with the correct conditions. They do require certain parameters in which to spawn, but these requirements are far less strict than the breeding conditions needed by most other species. This makes them great for ensuring you’ll always have something to put on the table as your dam generally won’t require constant restocking like it would with most other species.
Freshwater Catfish make quite good eating and can be fished out of your dam just like any other breed. Once you have removed your catfish from your dam, we suggest relocating them to a holding tank for a few days to remove any undesirable flavours then cooking them however you like your fish.
Another great thing about freshwater catfish is that they are considered community fish and will happily get along with most other species. This means that if you’re looking to have Golden or Silver Perch as well for a bit of variety, you can safely do so without worrying about your catfish eating them.
We recommend stocking Silver Perch alongside your catfish as they’re easy to care for, super adaptable and a great addition to almost any dam. They are also great for eating and fun to catch, but it is important to note that Perch and other species will require restocking every year or so if you intend on fishing them out to eat.
Once you’ve decided what fish you would like to stock, all you need to do is check with your local or state fisheries advisory to ensure that you’re allowed to stock your chosen fish species in your catchment area. You’re generally safe with native species but it is always best to be sure.
Dams and Dinner Part Two: Using Dam Water To Boost The Health And Yield Of Crops
Another way that your dam can help you grow your own food is by improving the quality and yield of any crops you may be growing.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, managing the nutrients within you dam is crucial to the health of your aquatic ecosystem but it can also assist in any farming endeavours that you are undertaking.
Irrigating your crops from your dam doesn’t just give them the water they need to thrive, it also supplies valuable fertilisation and, if you’re using biological treatments, can assist in improving the quality of your soil. This is because the same beneficial bacteria that live in your dam are present in healthy soil and boosting those levels can improve soil quality. This in turn generates higher yields of bigger, tastier crops as have access to more nutrients and a better environment in which to grow to their full potential.
The same benefits apply to smaller vegetable gardens or any other plants you may be growing so it’s a great idea to look into using your dam as an irrigation source if you’re not already. This can be set up easily if you know your way around PVC pipe and our friendly team can get you connected with a local irrigation expert recommend the perfect pump and accessories for your needs.
*When irrigating, we suggest pairing your intake valve or foot valve strainer with a Matala Pump Defender. Although originally designed for the protection of submersible pumps, pump defenders are a great way to boost your beneficial bacteria counts (which in turn increases the health of your dam and your soil) and greatly decrease the risk of clogging in your irrigation system.
Dams And Dinner Part Three: Using Your Dam As A Garden
Another great way that your dam can help you grow your own food is by actually acting as a garden. While this is more commonly done with smaller water bodies such as ponds, you can grow food in your dam if you choose to.
Obviously this would need to be done in the shallower portion of your dam or with the assistance of a floating planter, but adding plants is a great way to boost the filtration of your water even if you’re not looking to put them on your table.
If you’re looking to have your veggies growing a little further out, we’ve been told by some of our inventive customers that the easiest way to do this is by anchoring a sheet of Matala Premium Filter Media and growing them directly in the sheet. The filter media provides a lovely grow bed for your plants while also supplying a home for beneficial bacteria to thrive in.
Growing your own food in this manner is very much like having an oversized aquaponics system.
Organic waste created by your fish and other factors will have the nutrients stripped from it by the plants within your dam, therefore allowing your plants to flourish and improving your water quality at the same time.
Please Note: Although aquatic plants can help add oxygen to your water during the day, they take oxygen from the water during evening and night-time hours. For this reason, you may want to consider adding a slightly larger dam aerator than is required for your water body volume to ensure that there is always enough oxygen for both your fish and plants.
So there you have it, three ways that your dam can help you grow your own food.
Water Quality Solutions are committed to naturally improving water quality all around the world, one dam at a time. If you’d like to stock fish in your dam, grow fruit and vegetables with the help of your dam, or even simply just improve your water quality, give us a call on 1300 283 387 or fill out a contact form to be paired up with one of our friendly expert team members.