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Tilapia Farming at Home! for food, for profit,for fun! (and all you need is a wet thumb!)

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From our very own backyard, of course!  :))
Tilapia is a tropical fish native to the Middle East (thank God we don't use it as fuel for our cars!) Speaking of Him, it has been said that Tilapia was the fish used by Jesus regarding the miracle of the "multiplication of the fishes". It is so true, I thought of changing my name to "Little J".
Tilapia are very clever fish, the females realized a long time ago that if they kept their fertilized eggs in their mouths, their survival rate in the wild would be greatly enhanced. Thus, they are known today as "mouth brooders". They keep their eggs in their mouths until they hatch, and take them back into their mouths any time danger arises for a few days after they hatch. After that it's "adios muchachos, you are on your own".
In the wild, their survival rate is about 1%. The average "litter" is about 100 to 3000 "fry" (babies) depending on the age of the female. A full grown female will carry 2000 eggs or more. That means that about 1 or 2 % of the offspring will make to adulthood.
This is a batch of hybrids about 2 weeks old. They are in a 29 gallon tank.This is from one of the young breeders, a full grown one can produce many more times the number of babies.

One in a hundred?

Yes, in the wild. Under controlled circumstances, as in your aquarium, we are talking about a 99% possible survival rate!

OK, now we are talking big Louisiana fish fry material here eh? You got it!

All it takes is a little "fish diplomacy". When the female is "pregnant", you will see that she is swimming around with her mouth full, and she will not eat.

Mark that day on a calendar, wait 7 days and get her out of there and into the "delivery room". Tilapia, like any other fish, just doesn't like it when you chase after it with a net. Yet you want to get her out of there and into a place where she can comfortably "deliver" the babies.

What to do? well, you have to catch her in a net. You do this by S-L-O-W-L-Y following her around the tank until she zigs when she should have zagged and she ends up in your net. You S-L-O-W-L-Y lift her out of the water and run to your delivery/nursery tank. You release her into the delivery tank and make sure to check the net for eggs/fry she might have released while on the way. Just drop them into the tank, she will pick them up after a while.

That means a clean floor, no sand, gravel or anything else in this aquarium. You also want to wrap the water intake to the filter with a little piece of netting, this will prevent the fry from getting sucked up into it. Sponge filters also work very well for this purpose.

Soon (in a day or two), she will not allow them into her mouth anymore. It is time for her to get back to work. Care must be exercised at this stage. She WILL eat her young if you let her stay in the tank with them too long! I suggest removing her when it is clear that the fry can swim around by themselves.

Carefully catch her in a net and put her back in your big aquarium. Make sure that she gets a few decent meals before the male breeds with her again, remember, she has not eaten in a week!

There, wasn't that easy!

Now all you have to do is take care of the little ones by feeding them finely-ground, high-protein, fish food and by keeping the aquarium clean. They almost double in size the first day so feeding small amounts frequently is best. Don't forget water quality!

When they are fingerlings about 1 inch long you can place them in a larger tank. At this size they can travel well so if you want to sell fingerlings this is the right size. If you want to raise them to market-size you can wait until they reach about 1 ounce (3-4 inches) and place them in a large grow-out tank.

Bigger females in one of the pools outside in the greenhouse. 3 of these females had a combined "litter" of about 800 hybrids on April 21 through 23, 2008.

Notice the "chicken wire" netting around the tank? it prevents them from taking a leap of faith and jumping out of the tank. For some reason they seem to want to go out for a walk without a leash!

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