Tilapia are hardy, omnivores cichlids and a good choice to raise in a backyard pond. They can tolerate a range of temperatures, although they prefer warmer water, and eat practically everything, including water bugs and algae. They also grow rapidly, which is an advantage if you are raising fish to eat or sell. People concerned about conservation issues might want to consider raising backyard fish as an alternative to buying endangered wild fish species or fish raised by destructive commercial fish farming methods. Raising fish also saves, and sometimes makes, you money.
Set up the pond and include rocks, gravel and both floating and submerged aquatic plants.
Install a pond heater if there is a likelihood of the temperature dropping below 10 degrees C for short periods, or 18.3 degrees C for any length of time.
Add a few spadefuls of manure to the pond. Unlike many other fish, tilapia thrive on the algae, plants and bugs supported by a high level of nutrients. Break up the manure with the edge of the spade first, then scatter it through the pond.
Allow the pond to settle for a week to allow tap water to dechlorinate and bacteria to establish themselves.
Stock the pond with juvenile tilapia. The maximum your pond can hold without aeration is 4,000 individuals per acre of pond or approximately one fish for every 10 square feet. However, if you are breeding fish, stock at a lower level.
Feed your tilapia daily with as much food as they will eat in 5 to 10 minutes. They find natural food in the pond, but a small, heavily stocked pond probably won't have enough to sustain them. Generic fish pellets are fine.
Remove tilapia for consumption once they have reached maturity. Full size depends on the species, usually about 6 to 10 inches in length. Don't remove all the adults; leave some to breed.
Because tilapia are so hardy, they have become an invasive introduced species in some places. Check that it is legal to raise tilapia in your area and ensure that there is no way they can escape into the wild.
Tips and warnings
- Because tilapia are so hardy, they have become an invasive introduced species in some places. Check that it is legal to raise tilapia in your area and ensure that there is no way they can escape into the wild.