Tilapia, also called St. John's fish, have been raised as a food source since the time of the Egyptians. Tilapia include the tiger, spotted, zebra and Nile varieties. The Nile species remains one of the most available and easy to care for species, often kept in large fish ponds for breeding purposes. All species of tilapia have very sturdy constitutions, which allows them to survive in harsh environments, except for extreme cold conditions. Aquarists have had success in keeping Tilapia in indoor tanks by using some extra precautions and following some simple rules for housing, feeding and general care.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Tilapia fish manual
- Aquarium tank (proper size)
- Sand and gravel
- Plants (Java fern, Anubias, duckweed)
- Pump and filter
- Cover light
- Meal food
Obtain the correct size tank for the given amount of fish you wish to raise. A general room of thumb dictates at least a 40 gallon size for small and medium tilapia species, and 70 gallons and more for larger species. For stocking density, figure approximately 0.113kg. for every gallon, and calculate the maximum amount of fish allowed for this figure. For 1/2- to 0.454kg. stocking densities, acquire an oversized pump, filter and aeration system.
Line the tank bottom with a thick layer of sand and gravel. Place decorative rocks in the tank, but do not overcrowd it with obstructions since tilapia are hearty and active swimmers. Choose plants like Java fern, Anubias and duckweed, which do well with the tilapia. Use small rocks to anchor the root systems of all the plants to keep the fish from digging them up, which is one of their annoying habits.
Place a cover light over the tank, allowing the bulb to stay on and heat the surface water. Place a thermometer in the tank that is equipped with an automatic thermostat control to keep the water at a constant temperature. Set the thermostat control between 25.6 and 26.7 degrees Celsius, or according to your species preference, but do not let it fall below 74 degrees.
Place a good quality aerator in the tank to provide plenty of oxygenated air. Tilapia are hearty, active swimmers and need plenty of oxygen to survive. Deprived of adequate oxygen, the fish will become lethargic, making them more prone to disease and illness.
Feed the tilapia meal food from a pet supply outlet. Refer to your fish manual for the exact meal food if it recommends certain types and blends for a particular species. Be sure to thaw out any frozen food before introducing it to the tank. To ensure a constant food supply if you will be away from the tank for any length of time, plant duckweed in the tank, anchoring the roots with rocks. Change out the old duckweed if it has been fed down to bear stems. Grow small colonies of duckweed in separate tanks, so you can harvest it and transfer to the fish tanks, as needed.
Remove (or do not place) smaller exotic freshwater fish in the same tank with the tilapia. Tilapia attack and eat any smaller fish. If you want to mix other fish with the tilapia, use catfish, barbs and the less aggressive cichlids. For best results in raising tilapia as a food source or for breeding, keep them quarantined together in the same tank.
Use a skimmer to screen the top water layer of the tank every day to remove broken plant material, decayed or uneaten food and any free floating algae. Skim the bottom of the tank for silt and refuse. Clean any algae on the decorative rocks and tank sides. Make sure the tank filter element is cleaned or changed on a regular basis, as dictated by need. For large fish in smaller tanks, the cleaning ritual will be increased, so monitor the condition of the tank every day. Remove dead fish immediately, or in the case of ill fish, remove them and quarantine them in a tank that has the proper environmental conditions.
Tips and warnings
- You can add vitamins along with the meal food, as long as you know the type and dosage you need to apply. Do not overfeed the fish, as this will result in uneaten fragments and dirty water. Check the acidity-alkaline measurement of the tank water with a pH kit. Use the proper chemicals to bring the tank into balance according to the recommendations in your manual.
- If you are breeding tilapia, remove the eggs from the female and place them in separate tanks or large containers. Follow the breeding recommendation in the manual to hatch the eggs into fingerlings.
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