How to Build a Tilapia Pond in a Backyard

Written by kim dieter
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How to Build a Tilapia Pond in a Backyard
Tilapia in a backyard pond (fish in a yellow pond image by Miguel Montero from

Digging a tilapia pond can be a fulfilling project that allows for fish spawning, rearing and harvesting in your own backyard. Tilapia are a highly popular table food and are enjoyed the world over as a lean and tasty fillet. However, there is more to pond excavation than digging a hole in the ground. Adhere to a few critical steps before you dive into a project of such magnitude.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Construction permit(s)
  • Auger
  • Backhoe (optional)
  • Native aquatic plants
  • Life ring
  • Safety signage

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  1. 1

    Contact your local city, county and/or state departments of environmental protection or conservation districts to determine if a permit is required. City officials can also verify whether electrical or gas piping is buried in your allotted area.

  2. 2

    Locate an area where standing water is visible and aquatic plants like cattails, rushes, willows, or pond cypress are thriving. If a wetland area exists, this also indicates a pond may be possible. Check with your local county soil survey or conservation district to determine if your soil is suitable for a pond construction. If you're unsure that the location is right for a pond, dig a test hole. Keep in mind that even a test hole could require a permit.

  3. 3

    Dig a test hole to the pond's projected depth, using an auger or backhoe, to determine the depth of the water table. Ideally, the visible water level should be 2 or 3 feet from ground level. Since water levels will change seasonally, the test hole should be observed for one year, noting significant fluctuations. Cover the hole with a grate or fence around the hole as a safety precaution. Consider changing locations or building a shallow waterfowl pond if deep muck soils are revealed, as it yields poor water quality and weak side slopes.

    How to Build a Tilapia Pond in a Backyard
    Augers easily dig test holes (augers, used to dig deep foundations for a building image by Stephen Gibson from
  4. 4

    Plan your design. Dig to less than 8 feet of depth if you plan on raising more than a 400 pound-per-acre volume of fish. If less, dig to at least 10 feet of depth. Grade the banks of the pond no steeper than 3 to 1 (3 feet horizontal for every 1 foot vertical). Tilapia will nest in the littoral zone, or shallow area, of your pond by digging shallow holes in early Spring.

  5. 5

    Contact at least three excavation companies for advice and estimates and select a contractor to dig your pond. Consider visiting several of their past projects to judge the quality and level of expertise. Dig your pond to your desired specifications.

    How to Build a Tilapia Pond in a Backyard
    Excavators can dig out your pond (excavator. image by Stanislav Komogorov from
  6. 6

    Plant the area surrounding the pond with native aquatic plants for shoreline retention and erosion control. Other benefits include privacy screening, space definition, climate control and wildlife habitat.

    How to Build a Tilapia Pond in a Backyard
    Vegetation prevents erosion (wasserpflanze image by Angelika Bentin from
  7. 7

    Post signs that show the depth of the pond as well as where life preservers and the nearest telephone are located. Check with your homeowner's insurance company to see if this new liability requires changes to your policy.

  8. 8

    Contact a local lake management company that specialises in stocking fish. Based on the size and depth of your pond they can recommend the maximum number of fish that can survive in the pond. They may also suggest stocking forage fish for food for your tilapia.

    How to Build a Tilapia Pond in a Backyard
    Tilapia (white tilapia image by Lucid_Exposure from

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