HELP! Homemade fish emulsion gone awry!

Bonheur(8b FL)September 15, 2005

I hope you can help me. I'm trying to make fish emulsion. This past Sunday night,

I mixed 2 gal. red & beeliner snapper parts (everything but the filets), 2 gal.

dry oak leaves, & a few tablespoons of blackstrap molasses into a 6 1/2 gal.

bucket. I layered & mixed as best I could & then filled with rain water

to cover. I put the lid on tight. By Monday afternoon, the lid had almost popped

off. I beat the mixture down & mixed it, drilled three 1/2 inch holes in the

lid, added a handful of dry molasses. I put an air hose through 1 of the holes

& connected it to an aquarium pump. Each day I've mixed & beat it down,

nothing but fish bones & leaves identifiable. Flies have been swarming by the

dozens on the lid, so I spread a thin layer of diatomaceous earth on the lid. Today,

when I opened the lid, there are THOUSANDS of maggots in the mixture, small ones

& big ones. If even 1% of these mature, I'll be inundated with flies. What

did I do wrong? What can I do to correct this? Please help me.

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You put tasty smelling (to them) food and fermented it, and let them have a way in.

I have NO idea how else do do it, and youre brave for trying. Id scrape them off and put them in a hole-less bucket and let them die. As long as that smells like it does and has holes in it, itll gather flies!

good luck, ive honestly never heard of making your own.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 8:53AM
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Bonheur(8b FL)

I really goofed by drilling holes in the lid, but it had built up so much pressure I really think it would have blown off. I added some apple cider vinegar (didn't bother them) & put a solid lid on the bucket this morning & set it in the sun all day in 90+ heat. Tomorrow I may have the nerve to open it & see if they're dead - LOL. I was inspired to do this by CaptainCompostAL's post in this forum's FAQs. It's amazing how fast the fish decomposed!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 10:02PM
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thats awesome. If you had chickens or guineas, youd have lunch.... :-)

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 10:37PM
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LOL, this reminds me of the old theory that maggots came from meat. This was the honest belief until a scientist proved that it was the flies eggs that hatched maggots that ate meat. He proved it by putting meat in 2 jars, one left open, the other he covered with a screen so the flys couldn't land on the meat. Now we know that meat doesn't give birth to maggots :).

Do the same, you were right to drill holes, it would have literally exploded. Next time, Just cover with a screen, or mosquito netting or cheese cloth-something too small for the flys to get through.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 3:02AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Dear Heloise,

Dear CaptainCompostAl,

Dear Abby,

Dear FEMA,

In the above order, I would write for some guidance!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 11:15AM
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Why don't you just do like the Indians did in the Colonialists stories? Remember? They used to put a small fish in the planting hole with seed corn. I think it was Squanto the Indian chief who helped the first settlers.

I cannot imagine the smell of rotting fish - won't it stink in your garden for a long time?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2005 at 10:58AM
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I think the fish smell will bring in the raccoons. It's the reason I don't use fish emulsion anymore - I found teethmarks on the bottle one time.

What about burying the stuff? It will help cover the odor and can still fertilize that way.

Have you got a birdbath or other bird attractor? They would probably like the maggots for their lunch. Maybe flies aren't such a threat, though. In the warmer months, many of us, including me, have compost full of fly larvae - but I haven't found the air black and buzzing with flies, or the house invaded.

There's always the option of flushing it down the toilet, but I think a nice deep hole would do the trick.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2005 at 11:20AM
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andrea_san_diego(z10 So Cal)

I buried a bucket full of fish heads in my lasagna garden and it never smelled.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2005 at 10:18PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

At this point I would compost the mix. Open up enough room in a compost pile to dump the mixture. If you have some horse manure to go in with the fish mess, that is always good. Then cover the hole with a foot or so of leaves or other browns. It won't smell after that. The flies will hatch but the flies are attracted to freshly killed meat. If you don't have any of that lying around, you'll never see those flies again.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 11:05PM
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tyshee(Z 3 & 4)

I put the waste from over a hundred salmon in my compost this year and no smell. I have to be careful because of neighbors and bears. I bury it down in the compost. Put a layer of green, a layer of brown and then a soil layer. Then put a layer of coffee grounds if you can get them. It gets very hot and rots fast. It will only smell if you turn it before it is done. If this happens just layer over it again. The bones and and all just decompose and boy do your plants love this as a top dressing. The rose will triple in size in one season. My grandmother used to bury the fish and clam waste in her veggie garden especially near her rhubarb. I use clam waste also and kelp if I can get it. It's all good stuff and smell is only if you don't bury it well.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 2:04AM
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Pudgy(7a TX)

Hello tyshee, great advice. I grew up in the NW, and spent many moons on Camano Island with my grandparents in the 60s, 70s and part of the 80s. She always put crab, clam, fish parts in the compost pile, and Gramps buried fishheads in new planting holes as one suggested above. Never a smell, stink or such because we never dug up the pile until the following spring. It was always well cured and aged ready to go for that Spring tilling and planting.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 4:00PM
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veggiecanner(Id 5/6)

The same thing happened to me. I dumped the whole thing in the middle of a compost pile that was being turned for the second time. i grew the best broccolli from that compost. I won't do that again however. I bury my fish deep in my garden now or put in the middle of a hot compost pile.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 12:13AM
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aschueler(z7, Virginia)

I can only imagine what the aftermath of an explosion of liquid rotting fish would have been like.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 10:46AM
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That was an amazing concoction you brewed! I echo the idea of simply planting the fish in the garden. I was assured of at least one spring fishing trip when my father planted sweet corn as he buried fish under the seeds. I am an avid fly fisher but because I practice "catch and release" I never have any trout to add to the garden. Conservation/sustainability presents its own dilemmas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rural Life 2.0

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 10:47AM
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dangsr(N Fla)

Well hello there I must be lucky with fish emulsion, a friend just gave me a barrel of the nicest yellow emuleion I have ever seem, oh boy is my container garden going to get to enjoy a fishy spring and summer.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2006 at 3:38PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)

If it's brewing, you could have added an 'air-lock' from homebrewing euip

Did you happen to notice the label on a commercial Fish emulsion ?? it's somewhere around 16% chlorine bleach.

I bet that was to reduce the smell..

    Bookmark   February 27, 2006 at 8:14PM
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whip1 Zone 5 NE Ohio

About eight years ago, I read an article about useing rotting meat to catch catfish. I worked in a cold storage warehouse and got about fifty pounds of meat. I put it in four five gallon buckets. I added some water, mollases, and veggie oil. I put it outside in the evening. It was hot the next day, very hot. The first one exploded with enough force, that I thought a bomb went off. I looked around and noticed that there were three buckets out back with lids that were ready to pop. I wasn't about to get close enough to get hurt, so I let the other three pop. Between the noise, and the smell, the neighbors were very unhappy. I will never try anything like that again! I'm sorry this doesn't help, I just wanted to share.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 12:44AM
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Exploding meat and catfish? Will that get your phone lines tapped? Seriously, I was laughing so loud my girlfriend asked me what was so funny. Then I had to promise I wouldn't try making some...


    Bookmark   March 6, 2006 at 1:30PM
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I haven't yet done this myself, but soon will as I am the happy inheritor of a caretaker position on an island in Puget Sound and will be doing a lot more crab, halibut, salmon and other fishing soon. I have read that the thing to do is to cover your bucket with a board and weight it down with something too heavy for the raccoons to move. Make sure the raccoons can't get to the keys for your garden tractor (stupid opposable thumbs!) This allows the lovely scent of fish emulsion to vent without exploding. Don't use the snap on lid that came with your bucket. Hope this helps, because that's what I'm going to try.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 9:56PM
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Nobody has answered the question as far as I can tell:

"What did I do wrong? What can I do to correct this?"

What did this person do wrong? I have a feeling it was because the system was sealed and went anaerobic. It needs to be oxygenated constantly, correct?

Or maybe too much fish was added?

These are my guesses, I'm interested in seeing what other people have to say....In regards to fish+compost tea....NOT burying fish in the soil, or putting it in compost, etc....

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 12:20PM
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I recently inquired about a job at a local fish farm. They said they might need a fish picker. This job involves picking the best, of the fairly new hatchlings, to raise and be sold. The owner said, "Some people have trouble with this job because the ones you donÂt pick die." I asked did they make fish emulsion. He said ......... no, but they had tried putting them on their garden and the dogs rolled on them and brought them to the house. So now they just bury them. So I have been looking up to make fish emulsion. That is how I found your forum.

I have a story to tell you that might help you out.

I have been making homemade wine for about 15 yrs now. My first attempt was disastrous. I was and still choose to use a 5 gallon drinking water jug. I put a small hole in the top, inserted an aquarium air hose into it and sealed it with silicon. The tube is then placed into a 2 liter bottle of water. This will allow the gases to escape and nothing (such as bugs) to enter. Which is very important in wine making. The only problem is............ I filled jug to full. The berry, water, sugar, and yeast mixture rose. It clogged the tubing causing the cap to fly off. The wine exploded everywhere ...... all over my 9 ft ceilings and newly painted walls of an old farmhouse that I had just moved into.
Anyway I think the answer to your problem is...................... put one ................ probably 3/4 " hole in your barrel top. Insert same size tubing. Put the other end in a bottle of water. And DONÂT overfill your barrel. Only fill it 3/4's or less. This will ensure that the hose does not become clogged. I believe this will allow the fish to ferment and compost into a very nice fertilizer tea.
Please let me know if this helps.
I would appreciate it if you could let me know the ingredients and the ratio of ingredients to add to the fish.
I hope to help those dead goldfishes lives to benefit society! LOL

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 12:23AM
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Three stories that fit in with this thread.
1. When I was a kid I brought home some starfish I found at the beach and put them in a jar full of water and left them sitting out in the sun. When I opened the jar up a few days later the smell stunk so bad I couldn't get within a 100 foot radius.
2. Another time I went fishing and buried the whole catfish I caught in the garden for fertilizer like I read the indians did. The neighbors dog dug them up and carried the stinking fishes to his owners yard. I wonder how he thought they got there.
3. Another time I and two fellow workers had to make a business trip to Northern California, and we used a company car for transportation. While we were there one of the guys bought a gallon jug of pure cherry juice and left it on the floor in the back of the car. On the way back the jug exploded spraying fermented juice all over the back of the car, it smelt like a winery.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2007 at 2:24AM
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I stumbled on this thread while doing research. I plan to concoct a batch of the brew this spring. I was told by someone in the know that the plan of action is to aquire a brewers bucket. He says they are a glorified five gallon pail with a one way valve and spout at the top to let out air. He says they cost around $10. His recipe, (don't do this in the house)-Pour two inches of water into the brewers bucket. Boil whatever is left of cleaned fish. Strain through a screen into the brewers bucket. Fill the bucket half full. Place the bucket in a loction where you won't be offended by odors.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2008 at 8:52PM
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Catch and release for fishing does not change the fish population in the stream appreciably at least in the Great Smokies. You can keep your limit and not statistically make any difference. Keep them if you like to eat them.

The maggots will compost like all the rest of it. Just go ahead and put it(the whole mess) in the garden. I have had the same issue as above with varmints getting into the dead animals that I have put in the garden. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. I usually plant them in some part of the garden that is not to be planted in crops for several weeks. That way if the dogs are going to dig up said creature they will not dig up my cabbage plants or whatever. I am also careful not to put them where potatoes are to be planted as I don't want to unearth a partly decomposed thing while digging something I plan on eating.

Mother nature will clean it all up for you. You just need to get it in the ground where it belongs. The active soil will take care of the rest.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 6:20AM
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I Cook my fish fertilizer by boiling the fish heads and left-over parts, if I catch a trash fish like shad or gar I add them in also. I put the heads in a large metal pot,cover with water and put it over my gas fish cooker and bring it to a boil and then I turn down the flame to just simmer for 20 minutes. I use a paint stirrer and my drill to break apart the heads and meat. As soon as it cools I mix with at least 5 times more water than the fish mush that I have cooked. I imediately take a dipper and put in my garden or around my roses. If you want to save it you must use phosphoric acid, about 1% by weight to drop the ph to 4.5 or lower so that it will not rot and smell. This method keeps the dogs out of my garden and I do not have the rotten smell of dead fish. My experiments show this fertilizer to work great. I have put it around small trees that seem stunted and the begin to grow rapidly. It seems to feed the micro-organism and the microbes feed the plants with their waste (poop and urine). I just planted my garden after a fishing trip. I need to learn how much I can dilute the mix. I am certain that I am mixing more solids than is needed. But I am the kind who thinks if a little does good a lot does better.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 10:34PM
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Hi, I am in the process of making about 30 gallons of fish emulsion. I thought I would try something different than just throwing in a bunch of fish parts in rain water.... I added some aneroblic benefical bacteria to the mix as a compost starter, as well as some green matter. The bacteria was in the form of raw yogurt, and brewers yeast, and composted molasas yeast fertilizer... I also added about 10 pounds of wheat grass for green matter....The mix was started over winter but did not get going till Middle to late march when the batch thawed... I looked at the cook today and most of the 50 pound of raw fish parts have decomposed with the exception of the heads and large cartilage..I do not think this is rocket science ... I added the benifical bacteria in the hopes of keeping the pathogenic bacteria at bay.... I will allow this mix to fermint until about mid July when I will begin to apply it to fruiting veg. plants.....If you have any suggestions or a update on how your cook went, I would be very interested......John Cremati 216-651-9949

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 5:30AM
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i just take a post hole digger and dig down about 2 feet and dump all my fish guts in and cover works great anywhere
in the yard that you need it.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 6:30PM
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