Januaris is an expert gardener and author of farming guides. He loves to write about crops, pest control, fish farming, and beekeeping.
Raising tilapia at home is not as complicated as most people think. Personally, I used to think that aquaculture could only be practiced in a place with flowing water, but later I came to realize that this was not true.
I came to know that I didn’t need flowing water or a large pool of water to do tilapia farming at my home. The little water I trap from the roof was enough to practice aquaculture. Another thing I came to learn is that I didn't need to have a large field to keep this aquatic animal. The small space in my backyard was enough to breed this type of fish.
In case you didn't know, Tilapia is the third most farmed fish in the world. It is a good source of protein, always in high demand and quite profitable.
The fish is tolerant to a variety of living conditions. It can survive in a pond with a high stocking density, and relies on cheap feeds, such as cereals and vegetable diets. In addition, it grows fast and takes a few months to be ready for harvest.
In this article, I will teach you how to farm tilapia in your home backyard. If you are already carrying out the practice and you think you are not doing it correctly, this article can help you get it right. If you are just starting up, read on to learn how to construct a good pond, maintain proper levels of water, feed the fish and more.
In Brief, How to Farm Tilapia in Your Home Backyard
- Construct & prepare a pond
- Add and maintain water
- Do stocking
- Provide right temperature, lighting and aeration
- Provide feed
- Prevent and control parasites
- Prevent, control and treat diseases
- Protect tilapia from predators
1. Construct and Prepare a Backyard Pond for Raising Tilapia
Select the best site to construct your fish pond. Ensure the site is easily accessible to facilitate free movement to and from the structure. The site should be receiving enough sunlight, which is good for algae growth. This micro-plant is a great food for tilapia. Also, choose a place that is free from floods to avoid dirt water getting into the structure.
Consider the size of your backyard or garden to determine the size of the pond. Consider also the amount of fish you need on a monthly basis to come up with the right size. This size can get you started: 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 2.5 feet deep. You can increase or decrease it, considering these two factors, but ensure one mature tilapia has a water space of 1 square feet or 0.5 cubic feet of water.
The next thing is to choose the type of fish pond that suits your specific needs. You can choose from earth ponds, kiddie pools, lined plywood troughs or fiberglass hot tubs. Earth ponds are preferred in places with soils that retain a lot of water and with low infitration rates. These types of ponds can also be constructed anywhere with the help of lining materials such as nylon paper sheets. They are easy to construct, but require a lot of maintenance work.
The other pond types are a bit expensive. You will need to buy their construction materials and hire an expert to install them for you. The best thing about these structures is that they require little maintenance work.
2. Add and Maintain Clean Water for Healthy Tilapia
Get water from a safe source, and the water should be clean. If you can’t use the water for drinking purposes, then it is not suitable for tilapia. You may have to filter and soften any water from a source that you don’t trust. If you are using a municipal source, ensure it is free from high levels of chlorine & nitrates and doesn’t have ammonia.
Use a suitable container to fill your pond. Do not use a hose to transfer water to the pond because the force of the flowing water can damage the structure, especially if it’s earthy or made of weak materials.
Some soils or pond materials can have harmful chemicals. Test the added water for any chemicals. Some chemicals that you should test and remove from the water include: mercury, lead and cadmium. Use detoxifiers to remove any toxic or heavy metals.
Ensure the water is at the right pH level. Tilapia survives in the 7-9 pH range. Test the pH and adjust it if it is not in this range. Use alkaline or acidic products to correct the pH.
Tilapia is a freshwater fish which means that it finds it difficult to survive in saline conditions. The salt levels should be below 18 parts per thousand (PPT). If you have to add salts to help with situations such as population control, keep them at lower levels.
If you are using flowing water, install filters at the intake to trap solids (both suspended and dissolved) and block unwanted aquatic animals. To prevent your fish from swimming away, install another filter at the outlet. Keep testing the water for toxicity, pH and salinity to ensure it is always suitable for the aquatic life.
3. Stock the Fish Pond
Start by adding fertilizer to the pond one week before introducing the fish. This will boost the growth of algae. Use chicken droppings if you can’t afford fertilizer.
Get tilapia fingerlings (young fish) from a reputable source. The number will depend on the size of your pond. The recommended number of fingerlings per square meter is 5. Use this figure to calculate the exact number for your pond.
If you can’t secure fingerlings, you will have to start with breeders. It is important to get the breeders in pairs. The recommended number is 20 pairs per 200 square feet. The breeders reproduce within 10 weeks to provide fingerlings.
When transferring the fingerlings or breeders, ensure the pond water is at the same temperature as the water in the fish container. And it is recommended to stock when the weather is cold.
4. Provide the Right Temperature, Lighting and Aeration
Tilapia does well in this temperature range, 25-30˚C. During the cold months, the water temperature can fall far below this range forming ice on the surface. Use a suitable heating system, like an electric heater or heat exchanger, to raise the temperature of water. If the water temperature goes above 30˚C, sprinkle cold water in the pond to keep the heat down. You can also shade the pond in the hot months.
Lighting is a very important factor in raising tilapia. It is needed to keep the fish active and to help the aquatic plants photosynthesize. Let your fish enjoy 18 hours of light per day. Use light bulbs to illuminate the structure at night.
Like any other organism, tilapia needs enough air to survive. The aerobic bacteria present in the pond also need oxygen, primarily to break down compounds like ammonia. Pond water is usually calm, something which prevents air from penetrating into the water. You need to keep the water surface in motion to create air entry. A fountain or bubbler can help with the process.
5. Feed Your Tilapia
As mentioned earlier, tilapia doesn’t rely on expensive feeds. It can feed on algae or water insects. Keep adding fertilizer or chicken droppings to grow enough algae and attract insects such as termites and worms.
You can also use supplement feeds, such as rice bran, flax, wheat germ, bread crumbs and vegetable products. Feed the fish every morning and afternoon. Note, do not allow food remains to stay for long in the pond as they can become toxic or change the water chemistry.
6. Prevent and Control Parasites
Parasites can infest your pond if you do not observe cleanliness. You can also have parasites if the water is saline. The harmful organisms lower the quality of fish. Worms are the most common tilapia parasites.
You can prevent parasites by keeping the water clean and free from salts. If there is a parasite attack, use appropriate chemicals to kill the threatening organisms. For parasites living in the water (not on or inside the fish body), you use an ultraviolet sterilizer to kill them.
7. Prevent, Control, and Treat Tilapia Diseases
Diseases are some of the worst things that can happen to your tilapia. You can lose all your fish if there is an outbreak of a disease. Some diseases to be careful about are columnaris, streptococcus and trichodina. You can prevent many diseases by keeping the system clean and avoiding stressful situations such as overcrowding and disturbance.
If some of your fish are infected, you can quarantine them to control the spread of the disease. You can also use medication to treat the sick tilapia. Get assistance from an aquaculture professional if you don’t understand a certain disease.
8. Protect Tilapia from Predators
There are a number of mammals and birds that feed on tilapia. Some predators you should be aware of include: mongoose, heron and eagle. Use a wire-net fence to keep the animals away, and add a net over the pond to prevent birds from accessing it.
9. Maintain and Manage the Fish Pond
Maintaining a fish pond is a great way to create a healthy habitat for the aquatic life. If a pond is well maintained, it also adds aesthetic beauty to a garden or backyard.
Clean the pond regularly as dirt can give it a bad shape and harm the aquatic life. Install an overhead barrier to prevent leaves from falling directly into the pond. Trim any branches hanging over the pond. Drain the water if it becomes too dirt and scoop out excess sludge before adding fresh water.
Grow plants in your pond. The aquatics have a lot of benefits. They help aerate the water and also make the slough lively and beautiful. You also need to control the growth of the plants, including the algae.
Maintain the structure every now & then and repair leaks. If you are using pumps, fountains or filters, ensure you inspect and maintain them regularly. Leaks cause water loss, so repair them immediately after they occur.
10. Harvesting Tilapia
Tilapia is ready for harvest in 6-7 months. After this period, you can have a continuous supply of fresh and organic fish in your home. To avoid overcrowding, sell some of them as fingerlings, breeders or fillets. Use a lift net or dip net to catch the mature ones. If you want to harvest all of them at once, do it in the early winter. You can then stock your pond again.
This is how simple it is to farm tilapia in your home backyard. There is nothing complicated in the whole process. You can do it on your own. You can utilize that small space in your garden and use rainwater from your roof to carry out the economic activity. And the best thing is that you cannot break the bank to establish the pond and raise the aquatic animal.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is the average weight of mature tilapia?
Answer: Pond tilapia weighs between 250grams and 1500grams.
Question: Can fish ponds be made from cement blocks?
Answer: Yes, concrete blocks.
Question: I constructed a pond and intend to put tilapia in it. The pond is about 90 sq. meters and four feet deep. What is the ideal number of fingerling to put in my pond?
Answer: That is a large pond. Five hundred or more fingerlings would be ideal.
Question: Where can I get tilapia fingerling?
Answer: Your nearest tilapia farmer or aquaculture store.
Question: do we need oxygen in concrete pond?
Answer: Yeah, oxygen is needed in all kinds of ponds and will always be available so long they are open.
Question: Is water from borehole good for tilapia?
Answer: Yeah, but you need to ensure it's not too salty.
Question: How frequently do I have to change water to farm tilapia?
Answer: It depends on how quick your water gets contaminated. You can always change if it excessively accumulates dirt and threatens the fish.
Question: How many tilapia can fit in 5,600 liters of water?
Answer: Around 30 fingerlings or 6 breeders.
Question: Can I farm a tilapia fish in a rubber drum?
Answer: You can, but this fish requires unlimited space, so the drum should be spacious and able to hold important things such as soil, small plants, etc !
Question: How do you prepare fertilizer from chicken droppings?
Answer: There is no preparation needed, you just collect the dry droppings and pour them in the pond.
Question: Does pink tilapia taste different from Nile tilapia?
Answer: It requires some special care and may not survive pretty well in natural waters. As for the taste, not testier than the Nile one.
Question: What is the difference between pink tilapia with the black tilapia?
Answer: It is just the color, but black tilapia is usually hardy and can grow bigger. Concerning the benefits, it require lesser food and you can farm a lot of them in the pond because they don't grow big.
Question: can earthen pond be ideal where water is scarce?
Answer: Yeah, if you can get water from somewhere else.
Question: It is ok to construct a pond using canvas only? Is it ok for tilapia even without flowing water?
Answer: It is possible without flowing water, and as far as material is concerned, as long as it is not harmful to the fish, you can use it.
Question: My pond measures 7' x 5'. How many koi fingerlings and adult koi can I put in my pond?
Answer: I would put five fingerlings per square meter. If your pond is deeper than 2.5 meters, you can add adult koi, or you can reduce the number of fingerlings to create more room for adult koi.
Question: I would like to start a tilapia farm on my rooftop, is this possible?
Answer: Yeah, but some times you will have to protect the fish from cold weather.
Question: Why is pink tilapia rare?
Answer: It is so delicate and not resistant to some harsh conditions, so farmers don't like farming it. It can't also survive pretty well in natural waters - rivers, lakes, etc
© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on August 27, 2020:
@xanalexander, it's okay. The adults may eat some but there will always be survivors.
xanalexander on August 27, 2020:
i have a twelve by six meters by 2 meters deep pond . I was wondering what would happen if i just put some tilapia not a lot maybe four or six in would they multiply and grow naturally or would the adults just eat the fry ?
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on August 01, 2020:
Yeah, but with an earth bottom and some coating/liner on all sides.
Xmond Afful on August 01, 2020:
Is Concrete pond good for tilapia.
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on July 24, 2020:
@Xmond, you can change after every season, and you can try partial changes to avoid stressing the fish.
Xmond Afful on July 24, 2020:
How offen do I need to change the pond water when you using the (pond liner ) nylon paper sheets
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on July 13, 2020:
@Lawal, consider cooked peas
Lawal Yusuf on July 11, 2020:
Can I give them cooked rice of there is no fish feed
Mukasa Samuel on June 25, 2020:
It's really educative and inspirational to low earners
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on June 21, 2020:
@Eduardo, yeah. It has a number of benefits over concrete.
Eduardo on June 19, 2020:
Do I need to cover earth on top of a concrete floor?
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on June 08, 2020:
Yes, these elements are pretty important in a fish pond.
Zaza Abbas Flomo on June 07, 2020:
Do I.need to add soil and chicken drop in my concrete pond?
Joy on June 04, 2020:
I am glad i stumbled on your informative site. I am interested to make my own pond at home
Mohammed Umar Midala on March 07, 2020:
I need to be a volunteer/an the farmer
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on December 05, 2018:
Get them from your nearest fish farmer!
Dinh on December 05, 2018:
I want to buy the tilapia fish where do I buy could you please help me
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on October 29, 2018:
@Martin, the water could be poorly aerated or bringing substances which react with other substances in the pond to cause harmful compounds.
martin masvaure on October 27, 2018:
helpful stuff. but need help to prevent my tilapia from dying when running water is turned off
Weng on May 17, 2018:
thanks a lot
John Erb on November 13, 2017:
I've been thinking about doing an aquaculture pond for years. This concise and informative website has inspired me to start something. Thanks. John Erb, Tampa
Chatuyemusic3030@gmail.com on September 12, 2017:
Nice my brother trying to farm some tilapia now I can try it your way
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on August 07, 2017:
Yeah, but I usually encourage farmers to do it on their own!
ZADOCK OKOTH on August 06, 2017:
thats a great article .dou you have technicians who always guide farmers through all the process?
Januaris Saint Fores (author) from Intercontinental on November 16, 2016:
Thanks Christian for finding it interesting. Wish you all the best in your fish farming plans.
Christian Gilbert on November 16, 2016:
Very interesting informations and I cannot wait to start my own fish farming.