Fish is a popular dish, valued for its unique nutritional qualities. Tilapia is one of the most popular farmed fish, as it’s hardy, easy to grow compared to other fish species, breeds easily and can be cultivated in ponds or tanks if you can keep the water at optimal levels of warmth.
The advantage to starting aquaculture (fish farming) is it brings you much closer to aquaponics, where fish waste is used to provide the nutrients needed for hydroponics, which is the growing of plants without using soil. In return, the plants filter the water the fish use. Here’s how to get started with tilapia farming.
What you’ll need:
1. The site
There are different types of ponds, but most farmers prefer earth ponds for commercial fish farming. When selecting a pond site, look out for the availability of fresh water supply and a soil type that holds water. Choose a place that’s relatively level. The space should not be prone to floods to avoid dirty water from getting into the pond.
You also want an area with soil with little to no rocks or gravel. If you can start the pond in a warm area, you’ll be off to a good start. However, you can line your pond with black plastic wrap to retain heat. The optimal temperature range for a tilapia pond is between 25oC and 35oC.
The pond should also be in an area with sufficient sunlight to encourage algae growth, and built with a slope to make drainage easier.
2. Water supply
The fishpond must be near an uninterrupted source of clean water like rivers, streams, lakes or boreholes. You want your pond to be at least 0.7 metres deep, or just over two feet deep. Apart from considering the quantity of water, make sure that it’s of high quality for better fish production. Cover your inlets and outlets to keep out predators and insects. Also, keep in mind that tilapia is an invasive species – it doesn’t mix well with other fish.
Start your pond with finglerlings from a reputable dealer for the best results. Male fingerlings grows almost twice as fast as females, so stock more males. Tilapia tends to breed easily, which can lead to overcrowding that can then stunt growth. Keep an eye out for this.
The recommended rate is five fingerlings in a pond per metre squared. Under the right conditions, fingerlings can reach maturity in six to eight months.
You can also consider keeping some adult fish to produce fingerlings and restock your fish crop. Alternatively, instead of buying fingerlings, start with a pair of breeders for 200 square feet of the pond. It will take the fish about 10 weeks to produce fingerlings.
To provide the fish and aerobic bacteria with sufficient oxygen, keep the water surface in motion using a fountain or bubbler. You can also grow plants to boost aeration, but ensure they don’t get out of control.
Tilapia feed on algae, water insects or manufactured fish feeds. You can purchase pellets made of maize, soy, rice and vegetable products, and the fish will gain weight rapidly. You can spur algae growth in the pond by adding fertiliser or chicken droppings. Moreover, algae help attract insects, providing additional food sources.
Feed the fish in the morning and afternoon, and don’t let uneaten food remain in the pond for too long as it can become toxic and change the chemistry of the water.
5. Control parasites, diseases and predators
Keep your fishpond clean to control parasites and diseases. Seek help from an aquaculture professional on the right medication to use to treat sick tilapia.
To prevent predators from accessing the pond, use a wire net fence around and over it, and around the inlet and outlet pipes. Keep the system clean to keep the water fresh and reduce incidences of disease.