Tilapia Fish Farming in Aquaponics – a Full Guide

Introduction to Tilapia fish farming in aquaponics

Aquaponics is a form of gardening that unites raising fish in tanks (recirculating aquaculture) with soilless plant culture (hydroponics).  In aquaponics, the nutrient-rich water from raising fish offers a natural fertilizer for the plants and the plants help to cleanse the water for the fish.

A step by step guide to Tilapia fish farming in aquaponics

Aquaponics utilizes these two in a symbiotic combination in which plants are fed the aquatic animals’ discharge or waste. The fish waste is recycled and utilized for plant growth. The water is recirculated in a closed system minimizing the consumption resources. Along with the fish and their waste, microbes play a significant role in providing nutrition to the plants. These beneficial bacteria gather in the spaces between the roots of the plant and change the fish waste and the solids into substances the plants can make use of to grow. The result is a perfect association between aquaculture and gardening. Aquaponics is a big hope for sustainable organic crop production, aquaculture as well as water consumption.

Fish are the ones feeding your plants which makes them an integral part of the system. The fish used in this type of aquaculture are freshwater fish; the most popular one is tilapia since it can tolerate better diverse water conditions and grow fast.

So will be discussing Tilapia how and why it is the best to fish for aquaponics

Advantages of Tilapia fish farming in aquaponics

  • Tilapia is a favored fish because they are hardy with regards to aquaponics they are resistant to disease and parasites and can put up with lots of beginner learning issues.
  • They can handle a wide range of water quality and temperature challenges
  • They can stay alive longer in a toxic water environment with low oxygen and/or high ammonia levels.
  • Tilapia grows well in water temperatures between 60-80 degrees F and has a preference for the 80-degree end of the scale, but they are generally raised in temperatures between 72-74 degrees F to better serve up the plants.
  • They are also easy to breed; and they grow up to maturity faster than most other cultured fish. In the appropriate environments, how fast do tilapia grow, it can grow up to 2.5 lbs. in seven months.
  • Tilapia can be easily harvested when used in aquaponics farming. It is a good plan to cleanse the fish during harvest time. For this, it is convenient to put them in a separate tank. This will assist the tilapia’s digestive system to be appropriately cleaned. Usually, people withhold feed for 3-5 days when using tilapia for aquaponics ahead of harvest time. Make sure water is often exchanged during the time of withholding feed from tilapia. This will help to trim down the temperature and as well as advance water quality. Putting all these together will assist to easily harvest tilapia in an aquaponics system.
  • Tilapia can eat plants, insects, algae, worms, and, well, a bit of everything. This omnivorous diet means they can acclimatize well to entirely plant-based fish food, allowing the growers to potentially avoid using fish feed cutting down the expenses. 
Advantages of Tilapia fish farming in aquaponics.
Advantages of Tilapia fish farming in aquaponics.

In case if you miss this: Growing Medicinal Plants Hydroponically.

Species of Tilapia fish suitable for aquaponics farming

The choice of a species for culture depends primarily on availability, legal status, growth rate, and cold tolerance. Many states forbid the culture of certain species. It is important to be aware that there are different species of tilapia. You can select the right one for your set up based on the way they look or the way they behave.

Following are the species of tilapia you can include in your aquaponics system if situations allow:

  1. nilotica, has the highest growth rate under tropical conditions

Florida red tilapia grows nearly as fast as T. nilotica and has a striking reddish-orange appearance.

  1. aurea develops at the slowest rate under tropical conditions; however, this species has the greatest cold tolerance and may have the highest growth rate in temperate regions at temperatures less than optimum.

The scientific name for the Nile tilapia is Oreochromis niloticus.

One of the merits of raising Nile tilapia over Mosambiques is its capability to withstand cooler water temperatures. Another is their delayed sexual maturity coming into their breeding cycle at 5 or 6 months of age in its place of 2 to 3 months.

Blue Tilapia

The blue tilapia is, unsurprisingly, blue. It also has a pink underbelly and although it looks comparable in shape to the other tilapia; it takes much longer to grow.

This species of tilapia is not the most tolerant of temperature changes but it can stay alive even in saltwater

The scientific name for the Blue tilapia is Oreochrmomis aureus. They were basically introduced to the Gulf States in the ’80s for weed and insect control. For aquaponics growers, the Blue Tilapia is the most advantageous of the genus just because it can survive in much cooler water than the other species. In fact, they can stay active in temperatures all the way down to 48 degrees F though they will not grow fast or thrive at that very cold temperature.

Blue Tilapia is considered to be the best tasting of all of the Tilapia species. It produces very white, semi-firm fillets and has a great mild taste.  If Blue Tilapia is legal in your place, these are the best tilapia for aquaponics tanks. 

The Hawaiian Gold Tilapia

Its scientific name is the Oreochromis mossambicus and the Hawaiian gold tilapia is actually yellow-colored.

In fact, it is thought to be a variant of the Mozambique tilapia; purposely developed by the Hawaiians to be beautiful. This species is often considered to bring luck and good fortune.

Most importantly this fish is very tough. They can grow well even in temperatures between75°F and 98°F, poor water quality, pollution, and even low oxygen. They are also largely disease resistant. They can grow as big as 16 inches with a weight of 2.5 pounds!

It is also worth noticing that they consume diatoms, vegetation, and invertebrates hence they should be very easy to keep in aquaponics systems.

White Tilapia

The white tilapia is actually a hybrid version of the original blue tilapia.

The white tilapia is similar in appearance to the Hawaiian gold tilapia except that it is a grey / white color.

The big distinction with this type of tilapia, other than the color, is that it can handle temperatures as low as 50°F before it will die. Of course, it does prefer warmer waters and will be in a state of hibernation at low temperatures. 

Requirements of Tilapia fish farming in an aquaponics system 

Tilapia is easy to maintain fish and doesn’t ask for much. They only have few countable basic needs such as clean water, oxygen, food, light, and room to swim and this must be considered well for tilapia farming for beginners. Provide tilapia these things, and they will stay healthy and grow fast. The art of raising tilapia in the aquaponic system is to understand each of these needs, and then find a way to provide them in adequate quantities. 

  1. Clean water

Providing your tilapia with clean water can be both a new water introduction and existing water maintenance.

New Water Introduction

Every time you introduce new water into the aquaponics system, it has to be of the same quality that you would drink yourself. Because Tilapia they absorb water through their skin and gills by osmosis. Whatever is in their water will be absorbed into their bodies.

The water should come from a safe municipal source or a clean private well.

Avoid using 100% reverse osmosis water for tilapia farming purposes. A carbonate hardness of between 150 and 350 ppm is suggested.

A sudden change in temperature, pH, or other water chemistry originating at the source is frequent. This can stress tilapia, causing weak immune systems, and could even disturb the balance of established biological colonies. The size of the transfer container depends on you, but it is recommended that it should be able to hold at least 20 percent of the volume of your system

As you are filling your transfer container(s), you should make sure that the water you are going to add to your tilapia system is at the same temperature as the water to which your tilapia is already accustomed. Plus or minus a couple of degrees is acceptable, but if the difference is too great it will shock them.

You also have to make sure that newly introduced water is at the ideal pH level, and that it is at the same pH level of the water already in your system.

What is the ideal pH level for tilapia? The easy answer is 8.0, but there are some general situations that make 8.0 impossible. Many plants, in an aquaponic system, favor a pH closer to 6.0 and since the fish and plants share the same water, so a pH level of 6 or 7  becomes the ideal. The extreme pH range for tilapia is between 3.7 and 11, and the pH range for its optimal growth is between 7 and 9.

While aquaponics can considerably decrease the frequency of traditional water changes, or eliminate them entirely, the action of adding water lost to evapotranspiration is effectively a water change in itself. Fresh, clean water contains many trace minerals that are beneficial to both the tilapia and the plants. Use a good nitrate test kit regularly, just to be sure that your plants are keeping up with your fish.

Tilapia does not require filtration to thrive as long as you are willing to change their water every day. Filtration and treatment are employed to convert or reduce toxic compounds accumulated in aquaculture water, thereby reducing the frequency of water changes.

The grow bed/media in the aquaponic system is your biofilter, unless you are only using floating rafts. In aquaponic systems that only use floating rafts, we suggest that you incorporate a biofilter somewhere in your plumbing. For example, after your solids separator, or between your sump and fish tank. Your grow bed/media should be designed to put off conditions for anaerobic bacteria growth, as these conditions are also deadly to plants. In other words, ensure good water flow, and avoid stagnation of water.

The basic aim of the aquaponics system is to grow vegetables. If you plan on consuming the fishes and you want them to be healthy and taste good, then do not permit any solid wastes to dissolve in your grow beds. Always make use of filtration to eliminate as much of the undissolved solid particles as you can, before they make it to your plants.

You should not miss this: Organic Turmeric Cultivation in Polyhouse.

  1. Oxygen requirement for Tilapia fish farming in an aquaponics system

Oxygen is an imperative factor in aquaponics the method used to break the surface tension, known as surface aeration, which an economic decision. Consider using aerators to keep the dissolved oxygen in an adequate amount you must be checking the amount of dissolved oxygen with help of BOD meters. 

  1. Feeding Tilapia fish in aquaponics farming

The golden rule is if your tilapia can’t eat all of their food in under 5 minutes, feed them less.

Tilapia is omnivores, but they have very strong tendencies towards being vegetarian. They feed on algae, and other aquatic plants or you can also provide them organic fish food easily available in the market. Feeding also depends on the growth stage for example fry are given a complete diet of powdered feed (40 percent protein) that can be fed constantly throughout the day with automatic feeders. The initial feeding rate, which can be as high as 20 percent of body weight per day under ideal conditions and is progressively lowered to 15 percent by day 30. 

  1. The light requirement for Tilapia fish farming in aquaponics system

Keep your aquaculture system in sunlight this is the best way to fulfill their light requirements or if there is no access you can supplement grow lights in your system. At least 18 hours of light must be provided since the longer that tilapia has a light, the longer they will stay active; the more they will eat, and the faster they will grow. 

  1. System to swim in 

Tilapia tolerates crowded conditions better than most species of fish, but they do have their restrictions. Increased numbers of tilapia can simply deplete the shared oxygen supply faster than it is being replaced overcrowding causes stress that leads to slower immune system response and poor resistance to disease. In addition, lowered oxygen levels making tilapia even more susceptible to pathogens. Tilapia aquaponics tank size depends on the type of system you use and the number of plants you are raising.

In case if you are interested in How to Make Money from Hydroponic Store Business.


  1. Very good article and encouraging article on Aquaponics. Some information on what vegetable crops suitable in this system also might have been suggested to give it a wholesome finish.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here