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Perpetual tilapia Breeding for aquaponic systems

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”

Stephen Covey

red tilapia in breeding tank with frys

Perpetual breeding is the simple way

Have you ever tried to run a breeding program to maintain a constant supply of tilapia for your aquaponic system? If you have tried it you know it’s difficult because you have to provide each stage of fish with different care and it can become lot of work especially if you have no experience with fish keeping or breeding. Some people even do a completely separate breeding operation and sell extra fry. This takes time and energy away from the main task of growing food and when it’s a one man operation it make the task impossible, that is why most people buy fingerlings when they need them. But it comes a point in time when it is more feasible to grow your own fish, here are some of the reasons you may what to go that route. So it is best to find a program that allows you to breed the fish effortlessly. Ensure your aquaponic system design has a plan so you don’t have to rely on outside sources for fish that is a cost and a liability as they may run out and you don’t know if what they are feeding the fish can be harmful to you.

There are two ways a fish farmer can increase fish production:

The first is to increase the size of the fish farm. The second is to increase the weight of fish produced in the same amount of time. There are two ways a fish farmer can increase yields: The first is by altering the environment, such as feeding more or better feeds, and/or improved water quality management. The second is by growing a higher quality fish. If both approaches are used, yields and profits can skyrocket.

Why should you breed your own fish for aquaponics?

A lot of the information out there for tilapia breeding is based on tilapia farming and not for aquaponic systems. I have a novel approach that has been perfected over time for breeding tilapia for uses in aquaponic systems. There is a certain size when this will become feasible but it definitely is not for a one fish tank backyard system but I am sure there is information in here to benefits all aquaponic growers in here.

Steady nutrient source and income

When growing fish with plants you want to keep the fish manure in your system at a steady amount or at least the fluctuation that comes with each fish harvest manageable, we harvest fish at the end of the month and have found this not only to work well with the plants but also the best on our cash flow.

Methyltestosterone technique (Hormone sex reversal)

This method involves adding methyltestosterone to the juvenile diet. This effectively makes females develop as males whilst the males are left unchanged. No residue from the chemical is left in the fish at harvest as it disappears after 30 days, but this technique still faces ethical and safety issues and we hope you got into aquaponics in order to get away from this industrial mindset and you want to grow healthy food.

Other factors

1. Storage of product; freezing the fish after harvest cost more money than keeping fish alive but because of the drop of in fish weight gain it is best to harvest and start a new batch.
2. Maintenance; because the fish amounts are small the actual maintenance is lest and spread out in manageable sizes throughout the work week. At the overall management of things like oxygen demand is easier as a tank with 70lbs of fish soon to harvest is very different from a tank with 10lbs of breeders.
3. Minimize risk; if something happens to one batch of fish you just loss that small amount and next month you can harvest again.

breeding cages of red tilapia

Some facts about Tilapia fish

How does tilapia reproduce?

They dance by swimming in circles the females will lay eggs then swim in a semi circle moving just enough for the male to hover over the eggs and fertilize them then the female will swim around again and scoop the eggs up in her mouth.

How many eggs can a tilapia lay?

They can lay anywhere from 100-1000 eggs at a time and she’ll spawn every 4-5 weeks or so if conditions are decent enough in the tank So… in the average home aquaponics system, even a single female could have a tank filled to the brim with young tilapia in no time at all…

How long does it take to raise tilapia?

With good care it takes about 240 days to reach 1 pound

How can you tell a male tilapia from a female?

You look on the underside of the fish the males have one hole and the females have two holes

Breeding tilapia like gravel to lay eggs in

Even in flat tanks, the eggs drift and are both poorly fertilized and difficult for the female to collect. You can compensate for this by giving the fish a substrate of some kind- something like a gravel bed where water movement is slowed and the eggs are sheltered.

The breeding process makes the male aggressive

Male tilapia show extreme aggression to the fish around them and will kill other males and other females.

Daylight hours affect the breeding process

Tilapias spawn less frequently and less successfully when provided with more dark hours than light hours.

How our breeding program works

Most of the suppliers of fish fry use chemicals and we have found that by grading of the fish at certain times we can keep unwanted breeding down to a minimum. But there are a few things you should know before start to implement a sorting policy to ensure an even growth rate. This post will tell you what you need to know to make sure you can grow fish in a way that will let you successfully and quickly reach harvest size without having to use hormones.

juvenile tilapia fish in tank

Breed the best forget the rest

Make sure you breeding plan is integrated into your daily maintenance program and lets you control and maintain the health of your breeders and in such a way to not cause much disruption. Any good system designed to feed a family indefinitely should let you control the breeding of fish within its design this is important to maintain the constant supply of fish. It should also have a way to efficiently get rid of the unwanted fish in the system.

Natural ways to stop fish from over breeding

If you’re looking for a constant supply of fish in your system that are not breeding unnecessarily and being stunted as a result, the best method to ensure you end up with that is by looking for these things:
1. Make sure your tank volume is small enough to let you drain your tank and sort your fish in 1 hour. If it does not, you will have trouble because you will not get your other daily task done on the farm.
2. Separate the male and female tilapia: This obviously works; however, it can be pretty time-consuming and only works as well as the person’s ability to correctly ID the sexes.
3. Ensure your timing of sorting of fish at an age where the size of the fish is a help in determining if male or female so keeping the bigger ones will be male and smaller female.
4. Introduce a few predator fish: The right selection will not bother your adult tilapia, but they’ll eat most of the young.
5. Increase adult fish density – Crowded tilapia rarely pull off successful spawns. Males prefer to have some room for their nest area. They will chase off anyone they consider intruders. In a heavily stocked tank, they are too busy chasing non-spawning fish away from their nest site to have much time to actually spawn.

Letting Mother Nature do the work for you

Any good maintenance program should let you sort fish without dumping any water from the main system; this is something that should happen at least 4 times in their life and in doing so if you were to dump a tank of water each time you would be wasting to much water to be sustainable.
Green water
When eggs are in the fish mouth the only thing they can eat is algal as filter feeding this will increases the quality and quantity of your breeders for a longer time. The fish are more comfortable as they can’t be seen by predators.

A breeding cage is the answer

If you want to grow lots of fish and food and have the time to do so the APM is a solution and our plan is simple. If you want a breeding plan that works the best method is to follow what we have done and works for us we are about to outline it for you. What we do is keep simple. You keep breeders in a cage and move that cage from tank to tank as necessary and keep the conditions in the tank as green water. By slowing down the water going into the breeding tank the algae gets to grow and this also become food for the fish in the other tanks in the system.