We often get asked “Should I put some fish in my dam”? The answer is almost always “YES”. Fish are a great addition to most dams as they help form a balanced ecosystem and are great fun to have. When appropriately stocked, they can remove nutrients as part of a food chain, control mosquitoes & filamentous algae, and most of all, provide recreation and fun by fishing, hand feeding or just observing. When selecting the best fish to stock in a dam we treat every client individually and find out their goals. There’s no point stocking an aggressive angling fish that may be a bit more difficult to manage into a clients dam if they don’t want to fish and there’s no point stocking Barramundi in Tasmania because they’d probably turn over as soon as they hit the cold water. There are several fish available for stocking into dams and in this series of blogs we’re going to look a but further into individual fish species to help you decide which ones are best for you.
Silver Perch are a hardy fish well suited to dams and reservoirs. Their natural habitat is lowland, turbid, slow flowing rivers ranging from Queensland to Victoria and into South Australia so they have adapted to a variety of climates which makes them an ideal fish for dams. Silver perch are grey to grey brown in colour with a lighter underside but as the name suggests, they look silver in appearance. They grow to a maximum length of 500mm and maximum weight of 8kg although you need to be feeding them with fish food pellets if you want them to grow to that size in a dam.
Silver perch are omnivorous feeders meaning they eat both plants and animals. Their natural diet includes aquatic plants, snails, shrimp and aquatic insect larvae. They will also readily take fish food pellets. Young fish are considered by some to be good for mosquito control and they are also promoted as being able to control filamentous algae although this will depend on what other food is available because just like kids at dinner time they may want to eat the meat before the veggies.
Silver perch are a good table fish and are one of a few native fish bred for aquaculture. Muddy water can transfer into the taste of the fish so if you’re stocking silver perch for the table then you should either floc (clear) the muddy water or purge the fish in tanks for a couple of days before eating. Their tolerance of a wide range of temperatures and water quality make them an ideal fish for dams and aquaculture but like most native fish in dams, when they breed their eggs will not remain viable so they’ll need to be restocked from time to time. This is because in the wild they spawn in flood waters or moving rivers so the eggs remain buoyant whereas in farm dams they sink to the bottom and get overrun by fungus and bacteria. When bred on aquaculture farms the fish are housed in spawning tanks that are environmentally controlled so it ‘sets the mood’ and after the fish spawn the brood stock are removed and eggs kept in suspension, hatched and then the tiny fingerlings released into grow out ponds or tanks. Sometimes if the fish aren’t in the mood they’re injected with hormones to get them to spawn – yes fish Viagra exists!!
Silver perch are a good angling fish and will readily take a variety of baits. When stocking any fish in dams habitat is crucial. Nowhere in nature do these fish exist in impoundments with a deserlate ‘moonscape’. If you want your fish to thrive and be protected from predators (birds, water rats, crocs etc depending on where you live) then you add habitat to your dam. Habitat can come in the form of underwater structures such as wood, pipes, brush piles or purpose made fish habitat structures, aquatic plants or floating wetlands. A variety of habitat that is above and below the water or floating on the surface is recommended and will ultimately result in happy fish that are less stressed and able to put more energy into growing.
To sum up, I would say silver perch are one of the best fish to stock in dams as they’re easy to find, easy to grow, tolerant of a variety of environmental conditions, are good to catch and good to eat. What more could you want from a fish?