Tilapia Farming in Lakes, Cages, and Tanks

Updated on April 26, 2019
Blond Logic profile image

Mary is a tilapia farmer in Brazil. Through her articles, she shares insights and tips to make your farm more profitable.

Tilapia for sale
Tilapia for sale | Source

Tilapia Farming in Brazil

Before arriving in Brazil, I had never heard of a tilapia. There were a few in the lake in front of our new home when we arrived, and after a year, we decided to net the lake and sell the fish. These sold very quickly, and it was at that point we started to seriously think about raising them to sell commercially. In this state in Northern Brazil, there is a requirement of 40% more tilapia because of the growing domestic market.

We now have over 10,000 fish and are set to double this number in the next few months. We are currently using three methods here on our farm: free swimming, in cages. and in purpose-built tanks.

Digging tilapia lakes with a tractor
Digging tilapia lakes with a tractor | Source

Raising Tilapia

Tilapia can be raised in ponds, lakes or tanks. We have chosen to have lakes dug, which are fed by the water table.There are several lagoons in the area, some are deeper than others. We wanted to make sure we would still have water at the driest time of year so we can keep producing fish, albeit smaller quantities.

Some tilapia farms lined their lakes with clay. These are then continually filled with water and then drained when the fish have been sold. Our lakes use the water table and are therefore cheaper to run as we don't have the added expense of pumping water to fill them.

Lake and Pond Aeration

Because of the quantity of fish in our lake, we needed to aeration. The wind, which is a constant for several months of the year here, will add oxygen to the water by breaking the surface tension of the water. With extra added oxygen we will be able to farm more fish and as such make more money. Without aeration, ammonia builds up as a result of fish waste. The aeration promotes aerobic bacteria which clean the lake and reduce the ammonia.

There are several different methods for aeration. Here in Brazil, we have seen the paddle aerators that sit on the surface of the water. Think of a paddle boat going down the Mississippi and you will understand what I mean.
Some aerators sit on the surface and push air down, and others that sit on or near the bottom and deliver air through a diffuser that spreads the air over a larger area.

There are also windmills that will aerate ponds and lakes. These are an excellent idea when there is no electricity present. Solar panels are also used to drive a small pump to circulate water.

tilapia cages and aerator
tilapia cages and aerator | Source

Tilapia Fish Cages

The cages we use are plastic coated chain link. This is on a metal frame and we have used 4 x 50L plastic bottles to keep each afloat. These cages are 3m x 2m and can take 900 fish each.

We have also bought others that are on a wooden frame with heavy gauge plastic netting as the cage. These will be used for our new fish as the holes are too small to allow a 30g fish to pass through. These are 2m X 2m and 1.2 meters deep. At maximum water level, they can take up to 600 fish.

Feeding Cost of Tilapia

The cost of food to feed tilapia is high. We have seen many people digging lakes here to put the tilapia in but they don't realize that you have to provide food for them for 6-8 months without a return on your money. Once you have all your equipment, the cost of the food is the greatest expense. As such we have sought different methods of feeding. We are currently using duckweed which is floating plant. We have constructed ponds to grow this and we feed this to our fish every other day. This has cut our food bill down drastically.

The other option is to feed every other day. They will grow slower but it is estimated that in the same time frame your fish will be 10% smaller. If you have the time to leave them longer you will save more money feeding them every other day.

Another viable option is delayed feeding. If your pond or lake is rich with algae, you can delay feeding your young fish for 2 months. They will gorge on algae, and save you the cost of two months worth of commercial feed.

A Bit More Information About Tilapia

In parts of Asia, they will put tilapia in the flooded rice fields. When the rice is ready to pick, the tilapia are also ready to catch.

The type we have are an African Nile variety. This variety grows fast and is slower to breed than others. Although new to the western palate, the tilapia were farmed in Ancient Egypt.

They are very hardy and can survive in water temperatures to 40° Celsius(104°F). Although for optimal growing it should be 28-30° Celsius (82-86° F). In parts of America, they use tilapia as a low-cost method to keep the algae down in the water systems.

Tilapia eat a variety of foods, and as such are an economical fish to feed. In some areas, farmers will add manure to the water to encourage algae to grow. The fish then eat the algae, as mentioned previously.This is much cheaper than commercial fish foods.

Mistakes to Avoid When Raising Tilapia

As newbies to fish farming, we have made some mistakes and are now rectifying these.

Our first mistake was putting the fish into the lake without cages. We were advised to do this but there are a few problems with this method.

The first issue is that tilapia can begin to breed at 4 months. They build nests which are depressions in the the sand. See photo below.This makes the bottom uneven for netting purposes and allows the fish to pass below the fishing net. It also leads to erosion of the banks.

The second is, this increases the amount of fish in the lake which are competing for food. So the original stock we paid for are getting less food and hence growing less. We have been advised that this leads to stunted growth in fish.The answer to this is to net it frequently to remove as many fish as possible. We are doing this several times a week at the moment and putting the fish we catch into cages. We have noticed the fish are smaller but once they are in cages, they continue to put on weight and although not as big, equally as heavy and they are sold by weight not by size.

We have also introduced peacock bass and other predator fish into the lake. They will help control the numbers by eating the young ones.

Protecting Your Hands

If you are working with tilapia, you'll need gloves. When caught in a net, they splay their dorsal fin. This will damage your hands if you aren't wearing a suitable pair of gloves. Also, to secure the fish before removing it from the net, I insert my index finger into its mouth and with my thumb in the gills. This locks the fish in my fingers allowing my other hand to work the line free. Tilapia have a serrated mouth, and removing one fish isn't a problem. But try 20, 50 or 100 and with them thrashing and trying to escape, the skin on your thumb will be raw by the end of the day!

Do you like to eat fish?

Which type of fish do you like?

See results

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

  • Are you familiar with an organization called 'Staying Alive is Not Enough'? There is a meme on Facebook that talks bad about Tilapia. It says Dioxin is found in Tilapia. Can you refer me to studies which disprove this?

    No, I am not familiar with the organization you mention. However, untrue memes on Facebook and other social media need to be addressed as people read them and it starts a knee-jerk reaction.

    If you are familiar with the website Snopes, they have written an article which provides links to the FDA, a Harvard professor of nutrition, and the US National Institute of Health which sheds a more balanced approach to the information about tilapia.

    Unfortunately many people today, prefer to have their information in bitesize pieces and don't want to do the research or read potentially lengthy medical journals. The adage of 'everything in moderation' still holds true today.

© 2011 Mary Wickison


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      19 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Ale,

      I have changed the settings on the page and you can contact me.

      If you look at my profile, you will see a link to contact the author.

      I look forward to hearing from you.

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      Hi there. We live in Ceara and we have a small tilapia farm too. Can we meet to share experience?

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Kaung,

      I am pleased my experience on our farm was useful to you. Good luck to you in your fish farming.

    • profile image

      Kaung Myat 

      2 years ago

      Thanks to your idea, Author. It will be very valuable information for me. Thanks a million.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Gary,

      Yes, it is something we considered doing. The biggest downfall is where we live, our UV index is in the extreme category. Plus we get strong winds so only very hardy plants can withstand that. Also where we live, is rural and the local market is only strong for products they have been consuming all their lives. It is very hard to introduce new veg without a sustained advertising campaign. We raise 10,000 tilapia and we don't have workers here. It is just myself and my husband who is 67 and an amputee. The extra work would be just too much for us.

      I do agree, for someone who is younger, it is something which could be very profitable.

      Our farm is now for sale because we are finding it all too much.

    • profile image

      Gary O. 

      2 years ago

      Why are you wasting the best part of the fish?

      Have you never looked at Aquaponics?

      You can grow, 60,000 fish, and so many tons of produce, and the produce is free, as the fish have given them everything they need to grow.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      3 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      Yes and no. We did for a few years. Four years of drought and counting have made us rethink our plans. We now are coconut farmers. We have planted 400+ dwarf coconut trees for the coconut water. We have another year to go before they will be producing.

      One thing about us farmers, we need to stay flexible with our plans.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I was just reading on your profile that you raise these fish for a business? How fascinating....my goodness, the things I don't know. Volumes! :) Anyway, from one small farmer to you, bravo!

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      4 years ago from Brazil

      Hi JrPierce,

      You're very welcome, I am pleased it was of use to you.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • jrpierce profile image


      4 years ago from Ellijay, Ga

      This is very informative. I have been wanting to learn more about raising tilapia. Thanks for the information.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      4 years ago from Brazil

      Hello Kago,

      I'm so pleased it has given you the inspiration to try a few different things. As for the grass, I don't know what is available there but I would say one which doesn't require a lot of water and is hardy. If it is going to have a lot of foot traffic or possibly vehicle traffic across it, the more robust the better.

      If you decide to try fish farming, take a look at a page I have here on Hubpages about duckweed. That can cut your feed bill by half.

      Good luck with your plans.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Wow, wow, woo...my husband and I bought a small farm near a small town in Botswana, Southern Africa. We've wondering what we will do with it since 2012. Now that we came across this info you shared we'll definitely put some of it into practise..esp the camping idea..the farm is situated near a hotel that doesn't do camping etc as well a tourist area. Thanks a million times im so interested in the tilapia idea as well..we could supply the hotel, lodges nearby. Remain blessed. Oh wait by the way what kind of green grass or landscaping is ideal and cheaper for use on farm grounds after levelling...thanks again.

    • Blond Logic profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Wickison 

      8 years ago from Brazil

      Thank you, it is new to us but we are eager to learn and always up for a challenge.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie Marie 

      8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I wish you the best of luck with your tilapia farm. This was a really interesting hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://toughnickel.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)