|Written by Sheryl Wiesner|
If you are going to raise Tilapia for food as part of an aquaponics system you may want to consider breeding your own to save on the cost of buying fingerlings and having them shipped to you.Finding your initial source of tilapia can be challenging but once you are able to obtain some, you should consider keeping a few back for yourself to breed. Tilapia can begin to breed as small as 4 inches so you should be able to keep a breeding group going of smaller fish and then letting them grow out to eat as well when you have the fingerlings you need for the next batch.
Things You'll Need:
100 gal aquarium or tub
250 or larger wattage aquarium heater
pump with sponge filter
ceramic or clay flower pots at least 2
1 male and 3-5 female tilapia
These are Nile Tilapia fingerlings. Fingerlings are between 1-4 inches longThe first and most important step is to obtain your seed stock.Seed stock is just another way to say your future brood stock. You should obtain several fishes so that you can pick the fastest growing to be your inital breeders.Usually you will need to onto the internet to find quality fry or fingerlings, do not try to buy adult fish as this can be a rather expensive proposition.I bought my fry/fingerlings from this website http://www.tilapiahybridpair.com Don has been quite fair with me and generous in sharing his knowledge.
There are several varieties of Tilapia as well as several hybrids or crosses of 2 more types to create super-hybrids. Many of these hybrids are genetic males, this means that out of a batch of fry most if not all the resultant fish will be male. This is a good thing if you are raising Tilapia for the table but a bad thing if you want females for breeding so check into the particular strain or cross to make sure you have both sexes for your foundation stock.
1500 watt pond heater may be necessary if you are keeping your tilapia in huge tubs or a pondTilapia are a warm water fish, as such they need a heater of some sorts for their tank.This can be as simple or as complex as you like.If raised in aquariums or tanks a simple submersable heater will be just fine.If you are raising them in large tubs or an outdoor pond you may need something like the 1500 watt pond heater shown in the picture belowThe ideal temperature for growing out Tilapia is between 78-86 degrees, colder than that and they stop growing or die, too much warmer and you can cook your fishes
The female is on the left and the male is on the rightOnce your Tilapia have grown to at least 4 inches you can visually determine their sex. Tilapia are in the chiclid family and as such are mouthbrooders. This simply means that once the eggs are fertilized by the male the female will scoop up the eggs into her mouth.You will set up your breeding tanks with 1 male to 5 females. It is best to set up these breeding groups in large glass aquariums so that you can see when the females are brooding eggs or young
This is a female with eggs in her mouth, she will release them into the tank after they have hatched and grown a bit from the little pencil point things they are when the hatchYou will want to put 2 or 3 ceramic or clay flower pots in the tank and sprinkle some sand in the bottom of them, lay them on their sides and place into the tank with the open ends facing away from each other.If you have clear tanks where you can watch your fish you will eventually notice a female or two with eggs in her mouth. When you see this you will want to try to remove the other fishes and place them into another tank to let your females brood in piece and prevent the other fish from eating the fry once they have been released by the female.
after a few days the female will let her fry swim for short sessions. They are very tinyAfter a few days to a week the female will release her fry for short periods of time to learn to swim and feed but they will dart back into her mouth if they sense danger.
Tilapia grow quickly if given the proper temperatures and conditionsOnce the fry are free swimming you can remove the female to a seperate tank or remove the fry to a tank of their own. If handled as directed above there can be several hundred fry from one female. If you do not want so many fry you can simply scoop them up in a net anytime you see them in the breeding tank.
You can feed your Tilapia a variety of nutritious foods including Trout and Catfish chow, Goldfish or Koi chow or flake. to this you can add earthworms, phoenix worms, meal worms, grass clippings (place into net bags and keep filters clean as this will cause them to clog up) If you have open topped tubs you can keep a bug zapper over the tubs so that night insects will get zapped and feed your fish. You can also offer green water (algae water), vegetable trims such as lettuce, carrot tops ect., to their diets as well. For adult fish I also give some hen scratch from time to time.
In summary there are a wide variety of Tilapia to choose from for your systems. Some are prettier some grow faster, some are predominantly male. Contact a reputable breeder to obtain quality fry for the best price and to suit your needs.You can spend a fortune for your seed stock or buy them at a local pet store, the choice is yours and dependant on your expectations. Tips & Warnings
This article should give you a good begining to understanding how to breed and raise Tilapia for your table. For more information consider using the links below
Anyone can grow fish for the table, start as small or as large as you like.
Consider adding hydroponic style growbeds to your Tilapia system, this increases your productivity giving you both fresh organically grown fruits and vegetables in addition to the fish
Do weekly water checks and changes as necessary to keep your fish healthy, you are checking for Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates. KEEP THESE LEVELS IN THE SAFE RANGE
Do not name your fish, if you name them you will become attached and not able to eat them later!
Do weekly water checks and changes as necessary or you WILL loose your fish
consider having 2 aquarium heating units in each of your tanks in case of failure of one the other will take over. I had a heater failure and lost 100 fish overnight!