Raising Tilapia in Your Backyard
The Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center Foundation gives these timely and relevant tips on growing tilapia.
By: Henrylito D. Tacio
Tilapia is now widely distributed around the world.
It has become the mainstay of small-scale aquaculture projects of poor fish farmers in the developing world. According to Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, the executive director of the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD), tilapia is now cultured in more than 70 countries.
Fishery experts have dubbed tilapia as “aquatic chicken” because it possesses many positive attributes that suit the fish for a varied range of aquaculture systems. For one, tilapia tolerates a wide range of aquaculture systems. For one, tilapia tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions and is highly resistant to disease and parasitic infections.
Other good traits of tilapia include excellent growth rates on a low-protein diet, ready breeding in captivity and ease of handling; and, more importantly, wide acceptance as food fish.
Next to milkfish (more popularly known as “bangus”), tilapias are among the widely cultured species in the Philippines. The culture of tilapia in freshwater ponds and cages has been a commercial success.
Currently, there are an estimated 15,000 hectares of freshwater ponds and 500 hectares of cages in lakes in lakes and reservoirs producing over 50,000 metric tons of tilapia.
Tilapia was first introduced into the country in the 1950’s. Today, there are four species raised in the country: Oreochromis niloticus, O. mossambicus, O. aureus, and Tilapia zillii.
The Philippines now ranks fourth among the top ten large tilapia producers in the world - after China, Egypt and Thailand. Other top producing countries, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), are Indonesia, Uganda Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, and Sri Lanka.
Tilapia production grew by 5 percent during the last 14 years, noted the industry strategic plan for tilapia. This served as a major determinant in the gross supply of tilapia in the country. Tilapia surplus stood around 2,000 to 5,000 metric tons during the same period. At 2020, the surplus is expected to reach around 10,000 metric tons.
Tilapia products - fresh and frozen fillets, whole and gutted fish-have become commodities in the international seafood trade. However, the Philippines cannot supply the international market with frozen whole fish since our price is much higher than those coming from Thailand and Taiwan.
Here are some tips from the Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation Inc.:
Select a site where water is accessible throughout the year. It should be well exposed to sunlight, which hastens the growth and multiplication of small aquatic plants called algae (”lumot”), which serve as food for the tilapia. More important, it should not be flooded during rainy season.
The size of the pond should be determined by the number of fish you want to raise. A good guide is 2-3 mature fish per square meter of water surface. The depth of the pond should be one meter with water not less than three-fourths meter deep. Manage the water so that it will not flow continuously through the pond.
To ensure that no fish will escape, fine-meshed bamboo or fence should screen ponds that have waterways connecting them to canals or outside water. Both the inside and outside end of each waterway should be screened. Use big bamboos for inlets and outlets for small ponds.
Since the pond is newly constructed, you have to apply fertilizer. Do this one week before the stocking. Apply chicken manure on the pond bottom with water depth of about 6 centimeters at the rate of one kilo for every 10 square meters. Fertilize the pond once a month to ensure good production of algae. You can either use commercial fertilizer or organic matter like manure, compost, ipil-ipil leaves, etc. If you do not have organic matter, apply every month one-half kilo of urea and one-half kilo of 15-15-15 for every 100 square meters of water surface.
Securing fish fingerlings
Obtain your first supply of young tilapia from any reliable fishpond owner. One source of tilapia fingerlings is the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation Inc. in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur. If fingerlings are unavailable, you need about 20-30 pairs of good breeders to star reproducing in your tilapia pond of 10×20 feet. If fingerlings are available, you will need to plan on about 5 to 6fingerlings per square meter of water surface area. The most common breeds of tilapia available are: Nilotica, Mozambique, and GIF (genetically modified).
Source: Marid Agribusiness, July 2007