Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New School Year, New Trout!

Round two, the eggs have arrived!

In a boxed-up styrofoam container, including food bags sized 0, 1, and 2, the trout eggs arrived in the early afternoon of November 5th.  The fish tank was ready with the water chilled to approximately 53 degrees F.  However, first came the Sorting.  Viable eggs, those that still have life in them, are sorted out from the dead eggs.  One can tell the difference by the color of the eggs.  You can actually see the eyes of the fry in the live eggs.  The dead eggs are a white color and solid.

The final count is 307 viable eggs and 19 dead eggs.  Approximately 50 more eggs than last year!  The eggs will be spending some time in a wire basket (similar to the one above) submerged in the chilled water of the fish tank.  Once the eggs have hatched they will be gently released to the gravel on the bottom of the tank.  Fry will continue for a time to feed from the egg sac, to which they remain attached.  When they have taken all of the nutrients they can from the sac, they will free themselves from the shell and begin to eat size 0 food, which was sent with the eggs.  Some of our trout were already emerging from their eggs when we were sorting!

Check back for more updates on the 307 emerging fry and how they will be growing over the next few months before their release in the spring!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hydroponics from March 2014

The Trout in the Classroom project continued on into the spring preparing for the big release in a few weeks.  Due to the incredibly cold weather, staff are monitoring the change of seasons to make the transition from tank to stream as smooth as possible.  Meanwhile, students were able to make a visit to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center and explore more possibilities for their tank and other creatures (see previous post).  With new thoughts in mind, an experiment with hydroponics was begun in the classroom.

Fingerlings and hydroponics from beneath the surface.
Along with partnering with the Erie County Conservation District for the Trout in the Classroom project, the students are also working with Environment Erie to begin and sustain their hydroponics endeavors.

Environment Erie was able to provide assistance with equipment and startup advice for hydroponics - lettuce!
Also, note the details and maturity the fingerlings are achieving!

**Added note - Fingerlings were released in May due to the very cool spring temperatures.  The release was also accompanied by a water quality study to ensure the young fish were entering livable waters.  Over 100 trout were released that day - an outstanding number!  Remember the 10-20% mortality rate of 244 eggs?  Approximately 36 eggs were predicted to survive and be released and the students were able to stock the stream with over 100!  As of September 2014, the staff and students are preparing for the new year of studies and eggs arriving in November!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Student Update

By Alexis Burkhart and Bryanna Slater
In our school, North East Middle School, we have been raising Brook Trout from the PA Trout in the Classroom project, partially sponsored by the Erie chapter of Trout Unlimited.  We have been raising these trout from when they were eggs.  These incredible creatures have lived in our science room until we let them go into 20 Mile Creek.  We got the trout on November 5th, 2013.  They are expected to get four to six inches when they are full grown.  Before we got our fish eggs, we had to take a class on how to raise and feed the trout we were going to get.

            On the Hooked on Fishing not on Drugs trip to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, we went everywhere in the building.  We went to different rooms where the workers were growing fish, turtles, and plants.  In the rooms, we learned about aquaponics, which is the practice of raising fish and other water organisms for food.  We saw how you can grow crops by using the dirty water that needs to be cleaned to feed the plants. All of the members of Hooked on Fishing toured the building and even the tower.  Up at the tower, you could see the Ravine Flyer III and Waldameer Park.   
We water, feed them the exact amount, and make sure they are healthy to live.  Also, we had to make sure the tank is clean all the time so they don't get sick. Three or four times a week, someone has to filter the water by putting a tube inside the power head and suck some of the water out. Then, once some of the water is drained, they have to put clean water back into the tank. After the water level is back to the top, the filter cleans the water that was just put in it.  We have an air stone, which gives the fish proper oxygen.  The tank also has a filter, an electronic temperature controller right outside the tank, a cooler, and even a power head. A power head is a tube that puts currents in the water so the trout feel like they are in a stream. The temperature controller has to be around 50 degrees for the trout so they don't get too warm and die. We have an automatic feeder to feed the fish overnight when nobody is at school.  The food we use was at zero, which is the first food we have to feed the trout.  The 14th of January was the last day that the trout were given zero food. The sixteenth of January was the first day the trout got fed a number 1 food. The food for the trout is just ground up shrimp. A couple weeks later we lost 2 more fish.

            Quasi, a trout that's back is messed up because his tale got stuck in his egg sack when he was still forming to be a fish, is our survivor trout. Quasi's back is getting straighter every day. We know that because everyone in eighth grade keeps an eye on him because he's so special. After a couple weeks Quasi’s back got straighter so it is harder to find him in the fish tank.

            A system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water is called aquaponics. We started this process on February 4th, 2014. The lettuce was just planted and after 10 days the lettuce was about 5 centimeters tall!!!!! J

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trout are Growing!

Despite the frigid Erie air outside, the trout are holding their own in their tank inside the classroom!  The water temperature is averaging 54 degrees, which seems chilly to us but is perfect for the fingerlings.  

 The fish have moved from size 0 food to size 1, being fed once a day, every other day.  The ammonia levels remain steady at 0.5 and nitrates at 5ppm.

At this point, the fingerlings are active during the day, moving about the gravel.  Occasionally they will nestle down into the gravel to avoid the flow of water.

The trout are now measuring between 
1-3 inches, which moves them from fry status to fingerling.  The original count, when they arrived in November, was 244 viable eggs.  As of January 13th, the number had dropped to 187 fish.  Although the change in numbers may seem rather drastic, keep in mind mortality is part of nature and should be expected even in healthy environments.  

We are looking forward to some signs of spring and the Spring 2014 release date!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013


The eggs have arrived! 

Students and teachers throughout the school have been waiting for the box to arrive in the office labeled "LIVE FISH!"  Now it's here!
The next job was to separate and count the eggs.  Trout in the Classroom estimated between 200-300 eggs were shipped.  In order to properly maintain how the population progresses throughout the year, a full count of how many eggs arrived, both live and dead, must be made upon arrival.  So.

Two teachers and four students commenced preparing for the initial count.  Because the eggs are to have minimal contact with light, we took the extra measure of adding shade protection to the counting site.

It took several tries to obtain a working technique for scooping out the eggs to separate and count.
 Finally, the boys decided upon one of them scooping eggs with a plastic spoon, two boys counting and sorting, and the final student recording answers.
The photo is blurry due to an uncooperative camera.  However, look closely to notice the dark spots on the eggs.  Do you see them?  Those spots are eyes!  Any egg that was orange colored was deemed live and thus moved to the nesting basket in the larger tank.  The white eggs were deemed not viable, or dead.  

White eggs:(

After we triple-checked our numbers, the final tally was...

244 live eggs.  50 dead eggs.

The survival rate of the eggs is between 10%-20%.  Challenge:  Refer to your middle school mental math skills.  If there are currently 244 live eggs, how many (on average) can we expect to be ready for release next spring?

Students will be monitoring the eggs regularly each week.  They will be keeping a current count of live/dead eggs, and record all of their data.  They will also be in charge of keeping the water fresh for the eggs and the watching the temperature on the tank to make sure the chiller is working properly and consistently (52 degrees Fahrenheit!).  

Check back regularly for updates on when the eggs hatch, how their population is doing, and to find out exactly what you feed fry (newly hatched trout)!

Meticulously counting and sorting trout eggs

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


The preparation continues for the trout eggs to arrive.  Now that the tank is set up, curiosity grew as to whether it functioned properly.  What better thing to do than collect water and test it out?

That is exactly what a group of students accomplished before the weather turned.

The eggs are expected to be delivered on November 4th-5th.  To be certain that all of the tank equipment was assembled and working properly, students collected enough water from the host creek to fill their tank and test everything out before the big day.

The kick net from the stream study was utilized as a sieve to keep any large sediment from entering the tank (and clogging up the valves).  The thermostat and chiller have been working efficiently to keep the temperature as stable as possible.  

And now we wait.  

HOWEVER, while we wait, another aspect of this adventure involves testing the stream at the site for its level of health.  Approximately 20 students took to the stream on October 22 to test the water for levels of phosphate, nitrate, dissolved oxygen, pH, and the turbidity.  They also canvased the site for levels of macroinvertebrates, or insects and larvae the size of your fingernail, to see what is living in the creek.  All of the data will be interpreted by the students to gauge the health of the stream.  After all, this stream will be the new home of numerous trout fingerlings come spring!

Despite the cool water temperatures (9 degrees Celsius), students waded into the water to collect their samples.  Above is a collection for dissolved oxygen, below is the team recording data for turbidity.  Compare the water flow in this photo to the one at the top of this entry!

We did a search for macros and came up with minimal results.  However, we were not the only group enjoying being outside in the stream today.  Numerous steelhead fisherman were shoulder-to-shoulder along the stream, vying for the perfect location.  One fisherman was very lucky - 

If this adult can survive, there are high hopes for a healthy habitat for our fingerlings in the spring!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Adventure Begun!

For North East Middle School students and teachers, a new adventure has begun for the 2013-14 school year.  They have embarked on a Trout in the Classroom project.  This project is headed by the PA Trout in the Classroom movement by partners PA Council of Trout Unlimited and PA Fish and Boat Commission.  Schools throughout the Commonwealth have the opportunity to raise native brook trout within their schools and release them in the spring to approved waterways.  

What is more fun than fish?

The faculty is very enthusiastic about this project, ready to assemble the gear and complete test runs prior to the eggs arrival (not for several weeks yet!).  Our efforts to be prepared for the trout eggs are reminiscent 
of first-time parents; checking and re-checking all of the equipment to make certain things are just-so before the little ones arrive. 

Students in 7th and 8th grade were more than happy to learn about these native fish and also prep the equipment for assembly.  

An added bonus to the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) project for North East:  the 8th grade is also involved in an annual stream study utilizing the stream the trout will be release into in the spring.  Not only are the students learning about various chemical tests to gauge the water quality, they are also including assessment on the biological health by monitoring the macroinvertebrate population.  The water chemistry tests include phosphates and nitrates, dissolved oxygen, coliform bacteria, pH, and turbidity.  The results of these test will be posted on www.erieconservation.comhttp://www.erieconservation.com/education/ as the data is reported.  What a great connection to monitor the health of the very stream that the trout will be released into in a few short months!

We will be posting activities as soon as the eggs arrive!