How it all Started 11, Tilapia

Breeders

Breeders

Tilapia Fingerlings

Tilapia Fingerlings

May 29, 2008 we got tilapia for our Aquaponics System. About 100 small fingerlings and 3 larger ones as breeders, two female and one male.

They traveled in a cooler with a battery powered bubbler for the hour + drive home from Morningstar Fishermen and did fine for that.

Tilapia can start breeding quite young and small, I’m hoping to breed the three in an aquarium system and the others will move into a cage in the big fish tank once they are big enough and done with their quarantine period.  The cage is to keep them from breeding so they will hopefully grow quicker.  Since tilapia are mouth brooders, they need to pick the eggs back up after they are fertilized, if they are in a cage up off the bottom of the tank and have no surface for laying the eggs and picking them back up, they can’t really breed.  (Beware, any hides or bits of pipe you drop into their cage may well allow for breeding so don’t give em any if you are trying to avoid that.)

male Tilapia size

male Tilapia size

My quarantine system wasn’t fully cycled up when we got these fish but we managed to get through it and they survived, well most of them did.  I started having issues between the 3 larger breeders right away.  In a small tank it is difficult for the girls to avoid the attentions of a randy male tilapia and before too long, one of the females was beaten up so bad, she didn’t survive.

Female Tilapia Size

Female Tilapia Size


I went on to build an indoor Aquarium Aquaponics system where I moved the two remaining breeders hoping to keep an eye on things while they went about perpetuating the species.

Boy and Girl Tilapia Together

Boy and Girl Tilapia Together

Before you get too excited about the breeding system, let me warn you that it never worked for me. I probably didn’t have it warm enough and I wasn’t willing to spend that much money on aquarium heaters.

I have also given up on Tilapia, they are not quite tropical fish but my climate won’t guarantee their survival in a flood and drain aquaponics system outdoors or even in an unheated greenhouse. They might survive down to 53 F but their immune systems are compromised and if the temp drops too much lower than that, they die outright. I’ve had two winters in a row where even under greenhouse plastic the system water temp dropped too much to keep tilapia alive without supplemental heating. It just isn’t worth the expense or trouble when the Catfish don’t require any of that.

Fingerlings in big system in cage

Fingerlings in big system in cage

For this period of time in the Aquaponics system, I have tilapia. The fingerlings moved into the big system on June 12th 2008. It was a bit short on the quarantine period but the quarantine system just wasn’t up to it and the fish were so hungry and had grown enough to not escape the cage.

Tilapia make a fine Aquaponics Fish but only if you can deal with the breeding behavior or get all male fingerlings in an appropriate quantity for your system, and keep the water warm. They do need warm water and don’t grow well unless the water is over 70 F, I would not get tilapia at all if you water temperature might drop below 55 F. There are other fish that can thrive in cooler water but still handle rather warm water too. They just require slightly better water quality and aeration which isn’t difficult to provide.

For those who wish to go read the detail version check out my original system thread. BYAP System Thread Pages 41-47 (May 29-June 12, 2008) are the time frame for this Blog post.

3 comments to How it all Started 11, Tilapia

  • This looks so good that I think I might be off to the grocey store. Thanks for sharing

  • Jason v

    What is the time frame that is needed from fish being introduced to the tank and having the seeds germinated and ready for the rich nitrite filled growing bed?

    • TCLynx

      Well, I hope you actually mean nitrate since nitrite is toxic to the fish. However I’m not completely certain what your question is.
      If the system has already been cycled up fishlessly, then you should already have plants in and growing since there will already be nutrients available. Even if you are cycling up with fish (please remember to start small with few fish and cycle up slowly otherwise you risk killing fish) You should be able to plant seeds in the grow beds about the same time you add fish to the tank since seeds and small seedlings don’t need much nutrient to start and hopefully you will be cycling up and providing nutrient as the plants grow and need it. In new systems it is often recommended to start out with seeds of plants that are not excessively greedy. Lettuce is a good starter for cooler climates or cooler seasons as are many herbs and other greens. As the system gets a bit more mature the greedier fruiting plants will do better.

      I would not recommend transplanting well established tomato seedlings into a brand new uncycled system since there wouldn’t be much nutrient available to them for several weeks at least.

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