How to Farm Tilapia Fish in a Pond at Home
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.
Many tilapia fish feeds have been manufactured, but Purina Mills Aquamax stands out. It took me a while to discover this feed and I regret not knowing about it when I was starting this economic activity. The best thing about it is that it allows the fish to grow quicker and healthier and reproduce faster. I'm harvesting large-sized, fleshy tilapia because of this feed!
If you are getting those skinny and bony fish, it is the high time you start using Purina Mills Aquamax! When you begin using this feed, you will start getting meaty fish in short periods of time. Formulated with wheat germ, bread crambs and other nutritious products, this feed allows your fingerlings to grow to mature, big fish in less than 6 months.
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.
Are you planning to raise tilapia in your home garden?
If yes, do you think this article can help you farm the fish?
© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores