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SteveD

Cat Tip of the Day: Bullhead Bait Tank

42 posts in this topic

This post is about an every year ask for so I thought I would make it a Cat Tip of the Day and get it out on the forum early. My bullheads spots are just starting to open up so it looks like it is about time to get the bullhead tank setup. I don’t run my power filter until later on in the spring when I am sure the night time temps will not get below freezing as I don’t want to damage my equipment with it freezing.

Since the spring of 2005 I have been running a 100 gallon stock tank in which I maintain about 75 to 100 bullheads at any given time. The bait tank is equipped with a large 110 gallon aquarium power filter to treat the water and remove harmful waste and I also run a 110 volt aerator for two 10 inch airstones.

I keep my bait tank in a small shed in my boat carport. This keeps it out of the weather and I am able to lock it up. I am a little paranoid that one of the grandkids may fall in it and get hurt. This also keeps the critters from trying to steal my bullheads.

The aquarium power filter is an AquaClear 110 Power Filter. It mounts right on the side of the stock tank, is easy to reach to clean and operate and is relatively noise free. I run the power filter 24/7 from April to early October. I am still using my original power filter so this will be its 5th season this spring. To be honest with you it is a simple setup and operation. It has 3 filters – a mechanical sponge type filter; a carbon filter; and a bacterial filter. The first couple years I ran the system I changed out the filters about once a month but last year I only changed the sponge filter one time late in the season and I ran the rest of the filters the entire season. I would rinse them out about once a month when I was doing a water change but that was it and my water was just fine the entire season and the bullheads were healthy and active.

I do at least a 50% water change about every 3 to 4 days. I have my tank set up so that I can do a water change very easily in about 20 minutes. I have a sump pump in the bottom of the tank attached to a hose that runs to my driveway. I simply plug in the pump, draw down the water 50% to 75% and throw my backyard hose into the tank and refill it. While it is draining and refilling I clean the filters and I add chemicals to condition the water. I have city water and I need to treat the chemicals in the water which would be harmful to the bullheads. The water conditioner I use is called "AmQuel Plus+" and you can find it a PetCo or PetSmart. I add about an ounce to 1 ½ ounces each time I change the water.

One thing I learned the hard way is to not add my bullheads to my bait tank for at least 36 hours after I catch them. One of the first times I stocked the tank I went out and caught a dozen nice 6 1/2 to 7 inch bullheads and dumped them in my tank. The next morning when I checked my tank they had crapped and regurgitated an incredible amount of slime and crud into my tank. It totally plugged my power filter and I had to take it out and clean it and all the filters completely. I ended up draining the tank and refilling it to get all the crud out. Now I keep the bullheads in a separate tank (a 32 gallon trash can) for at least 36 hours until they are crapped out. I have had no problems since I started doing this.

I don’t feed my bullheads because that just gets them to crapping up the tank. They can go a long time without eating but I usually purge my tank completely about every 5 to 6 weeks. When I see the numbers of bullheads getting low in the tank I will take that opportunity to empty it and completely restock. Later in the summer when water starts to heat up (75 degrees and higher) the bullheads will start to get what we call “the grey crud”. They get some kind of mold and start to die off, I will start to lose about 3 to 4 bullheads a day to this mold. That is a good time to restock the tank but it seems that every year about the middle of August the bullheads start to get the “Grey Crud” – even the new ones you just restock. I don’t think the crud comes from the tank, I think they pick it up from their home waters and just pass it around once they get sick.

I have had little to no problems maintaining a stock of bullheads. They are a tough fish that is well suited to backyard bait tanks. They are easy to catch and transport. I have several good bullhead ponds close to my home and I don’t have any trouble catching bullheads to restock the tank. I primarily maintain bullheads in my tank – I’ve tried suckers but they are too expensive and they die too easy. I can usually maintain suckers early in the spring when the water is cool and later in the fall again when the water is cool.

I usually get a lot of questions about how much everything costs and where do you get the equipment. Here is a breakdown of what I use and the approximate costs:

100 Gallon Stock Tank – Fleet Farm – about $70

AquaClear 110 Aquarium Power Filter – Pet Smart – price varies from about $90 to $100 – ask them to do a price match from the on-line Pet Smart price and you will get it for around $90 otherwise the store price could be over $100.

Double outlet Aquarium air pump - WalMart - about $10

Two 10” airstones and airline – WalMart – about $10

Optional Tank Sump Pump for water changes – Menards – about $40

I keep my bait tank in one of those Rubbermaid storage sheds to keep it covered and clean and to keep one of the grandkids from falling into it. You don’t have to do that but the aquarium power filter is not designed for outdoor use so some type of bait tank cover may be needed.

I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions ask. Here is a picture of the tank all set up:

BullieTankIDA.jpg

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Great post Steve. Now we just need the rivers to settle and the water to warm up and it's game on

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Nice post Steve!

I really need to quarantine my “new” bullheads this year. They really puke up a LOT of stuff the first couple of days.

Questions about your sump pump. Is it just like a 12v boat bilge pump and is that the drain pipe on the left side there?

I have my tank near my drain in my basement and not sure if would be easier to pump it out or install a valve and let gravity do the work. I have been just using a 5 gallon bucket and dumping into my laundry tub, but that can get kind of messy.

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Yep I wish I had a spot that I could put a 100 gallon tank. I run a 55gl tank with a filter system that is rated for a 150gl tank. I don't get the amount as Steve but it definitely holds enough for my needs.

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Thanks again for the tip Steve. Very informative. My bait tank last summer was just a 5 gallon bucket with an aerator that I set up in the basement. While it did the trick for the time, I am looking for a more permanent solution. This gives me some great ideas to run with. For a tank, does metal provide any advantage over plastic or an aquarium setup? I only ask because I have an aquarium that I've thought about converting into a bait tank. I noticed that the crud tends to stick to the plastic quite a bit and I bet cleaning metal would be much easier during maintenance. I'd love to see what other people have for bait tank setups. Great post.

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Be careful with the plastic storage containers. I had to reinforce mine with wood braces around the perimeter to keep it from bulging.

Not only that I think someone might have had a plastic one crack on them last year whistle

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Ya JimBuck my tank is glass and the cleaning of the tank is easy. Also with the amount of bullheads that would be in the tank I would go get a large pleco fish or a few medium sized one. They will keep the algae and waste to a minimum. The nice thing about plecos is that you dont need to feed them food. They are self sufficient in those means. Hope this helps

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and is that the drain pipe on the left side there?

If I recall after a tour of Steve's system, that is a fresh water feed??? It might be a sump though. Ah, who am I kidding grin I was so giddy being able to go fishing on Steve's cruiser, the tour went right over my head grin

Yep good post once again Steve!

The one mod I am doing to my system this year is to install a PVC drain right at the bottom with a male end garden hose fitting on the outside of the tank. Then all I have to do is attach a garden hose, run it out side, flip the knob and let it drain. I just have to make sure the drain valve can not be opened easily be accident, or a big mess and total lose could occur.

Yep, I noticed a huge difference in water clarity and filter build up by letting my bullies soak in a 5 gal aerated bucket for a day or tow after catching them. I catch all my bullies with a rod and about 15-20 at a time. They last just fine for a couple days in the transport 5 gal. bucket. The downside to catching your bullies with hook and line is they are actively feeding fish, so you know they are going to have all kinds of junk in their stomachs if they mow down on your crawler chunk.

Mainly for the kids, but we brought home a couple of crawfish we caught in some of the traps I had out last year and put them into my bait tank. I figured they would toast in the first couple days, but they lasted forever. I think they help clean up some of the large matter that the bullies release out after the quarantine stage has been completed or help reduce it down some before it goes into the filter.

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I love the urgency of how quickly questions are answered here in the cat forum. Many thanks guys. I'll be shying away from the plastic and see what the pleco's are all about.

An FYI for anyone hunting for a cheap glass tank. The "C list" has some bargains.

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Ya I should have posted that also. Crawdads work very well to help clean your tank. Just keep in mind, if you bullies are small enough the crawdads will try and eat them. Also make sure that they are female crawdads also. If you pu two male together they will tare each other a part.

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I have a slight variation on Steve's tank. Mine is in my basement next to a sink. I bought one of those pumps for backyard fountains and rigged it to a spray bar mounted across the back of my tank. I put in a valve and a diverter hose so when I want to change the water I open the valve and the pump pumps the water into the sink instead of through the spray bar. I then have another piece of hose with a fitting that screws onto the faucet in the sink to refill the tank.

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My bullies always eat the crayfish on me. I have them in a 300 gallon tank so maybe that extra room makes the bullies eat more.

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Nice post Steve! Questions about your sump pump. Is it just like a 12v boat bilge pump and is that the drain pipe on the left side there?

Darren - It is a standard submersible 1/4 hp sump pump I bought at Menards for $40. It comes with an 8' cord that plugs into a standard 110volt outlet.I bought it to pump off my swimming pool cover in the spring but one day I was looking at it and got the bright idea to drop it into my bait tank for water changes. It works pretty slick - I just leave a piece of hose always attached to the pump and it runs out the side of my little shed and out to the driveway. I just plug it in and in about 10 minutes the tank is about 3/4 or more empty. I just plop the garden hose in the tank and refill it. Add some chemicals to take out the chlorine and chloramine from the city water and I am back in business. After reading some of WWG info from last year I may just stop with the chemicals. It sounds like I don't need them and that would hold down the expense somewhat.

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My bullies always eat the crayfish on me. I have them in a 300 gallon tank so maybe that extra room makes the bullies eat more.

My tank has some cover molded into the bottom for the crawfish around the wheels and axle. Plus the small area between the wheels. I figured they would be shells or less, but when I would draw down the tank they would be their or scoop the bottom with the dip net and they would cling to it. How much or anything they do, I do not know.

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Speaking of plastic tubs for storage, here is a picture of what I came up with last year. Pretty similar to what Steve has done, I figure it's holding about 45 gallons of water, it has a two stone air pump with two 5 inch stones, and then the filter system that you see on the left. What made me post this though, is what was mentioned earlier about them having to be re-inforced. I was anticipating this so before I even started to fill it I added the rope you see, I just drilled a hole on each side and tied a knot on each end to keep it from bulging out. Seems to work just fine.

Bullhead_Tank.jpg

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Great refresher Steve, good article to kick off season; a good catter is only as good as his bait smile.

I collected last year a nice crop of bullies w/ that "grey crud"/cloud-type fungus, and it came from their home waters infecting my whole setup...not good. I used a product to wipe out the fungus but it took awhile for it to take effect, and follow the instructions on the bottle wink.

The product has a very strong anti-septic smell to it.

Heres the link to the product manufactures home page. I think you can buy it at any pet store or online.

http://www.aquariumpharm.com/Products/Product.aspx?ProductID=57

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Be careful with the plastic storage containers. I had to reinforce mine with wood braces around the perimeter to keep it from bulging.

Not only that I think someone might have had a plastic one crack on them last year whistle

On a positive note, I did catch a 47 pounder out of hanson's boat that night! Wahoo!

League night....I get home from work, go downstairs, and what do you know -- 30 of my 45 gallons of water are in my carpet. The plastic container that I was using, even though reinforced with a wood frame, had a hairline crack down in the corner of the molded bottom. Had one crack last year too, but it was while I was changing water and moving it around, so I figured it was more my fault. This time it happened at a random time, I hadn't changed water in a couple days and I had checked on it the night before. This particular model has wheels molded in on one side, useless when holding water and apparently the molding around the wheels is a week spot. I went and bought a metal stock tank the very next day.

The metal stock tank has a hole at the bottom where I put a hose and ran that into my drain in the basement, gravity driven, no pump. I can drain the water down about 3/4 of the way in 4 minutes or so and fill it with a different hose off the faucet from my wash-tub in another 3 minutes. I got by without conditioner for a year and a half, but for some reason right about the middle of last year, I started having trouble with the city water and had to condition it. I use whatever the cheap brand is at walmart in their fish section. I change the water approximately every 5 days.

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I justed posted about this in another forum on FM and I fgure I would threw it up in here again cause it worked out so slick for me last. Then when the time came last fall, cleaned it out, put my chem,s and euipment in it and rolled it outside and it looks like normal wink

I am adding two drains to it. One on the bottom for a full drain of the water and a second about 1.5' up for a partial drain (that way I can hook a hose up to it, run it out the garage and not worry all the water will drain out and it helps to keep the tank stabilized by doing partial water changes).

I have been throwing around the idea for a couple days now of what I am going to build for a bait tank. Two things I kept in mind for my tank.

1) Get the most gallons with least floor space.

2) Mobility

I have done some soul searching and this is what I came up with:

Here is what I bought:

3415647528_924894fd35_o.jpg

Cleaned out first.

3414442961_18235c506e_o.jpg

Made a grove for the cord.

3415248692_9aeb775a57_o.jpg

Pre-drilled holes for screws

3414443087_7bae64c63e_o.jpg

3414443153_0f9ff8b6a4_o.jpg

I mounted my filter three inches down from top. My main idea is portability of the tank. The higher the water, it adds weight and the splash would go all over the place. Make sure filter is level for even water flowage. This does not mean it will be eye level with the top rim on a rubber main tank.

3414443901_5ac68fd466_o.jpg

3414443199_7a1cf4fae2_o.jpg

From the get go, I wanted the air pump to be part of the unit. I also did not want anymore noise than possible. So I found a spot to mount and drilled a hole.

3415248940_68bca4484d_o.jpg

Next, I used a key ring to mount air pump to tank.

3415249002_2d94b6e5c6_o.jpg

Next drill the holes for the air tubes. Make sure they the correct sized holes for tube. To small, you will not get threw good; to big water can leak out when you move the tank.

3414443387_905aa156a6_o.jpg

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Next, pull tube threw and connect your air stone.

3415249132_9ceeca16d5_o.jpg

Inside view.

3415249192_a7fe699fd1_o.jpg

Backside view.

3415249250_c35936acbf_o.jpg

Next, clean out any shavings inside tank from drilling. Then fill with water.

3415249334_95e2d44668_o.jpg

The other item that is nice to have is a thermometer.

3414443751_af48bd5b82_o.jpg

System up and running.

3415249488_c566c5f346_o.jpg

For now, I am keeping water level right under filter. The manufacture says the back side can get wet, but nothing about under water. I figure it is a water pump and the same as the garden fountain sump pump I have, but I will check into it some more before I fill tank any higher. Also it is a very good idea to run this system on a ground fault protection circuit.

3414443985_b57c0efdee_o.jpg

Everything running now.

3414444049_a3073e0773_o.jpg

This is what she looks like from the outside when all is said and done. Also it is a very good idea to run this system on a ground fault protection circuit. Either on the wall receptacle or a cord like that has one like I am using in this image.

3414444113_27fc809104_o.jpg

All in all, it cost a little over a hundo to build. I only need a system to hold about 3-4 dozen right now and I think this should work.

Now I have to catch some bait. wink

I have up graded the air stones since I did this last year, other than that it worked pretty good for me!

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That is a great idea. I use a stock tank in that mannor, but that is much better, has a lid, takes up less space and nothing can get in it and has wheels.. Bravo to you.

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None of shackbash's pictures show up for me.

Am I the only one?

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Sorry, looks like I have some work to do wink They where from an old hosting site I used and they worked the other day.

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A nice hard plastic tank at CRAIG who has this LIST. Just type in "water tank" and you should see the item. Wish I had the place to use it correctly. Gary

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