One of the great things about aquaponics is that this method of tech gardening allows you to grow meat and veggies together symbiotically. Obviously, this means you’ll need to restock your fish tanks regularly, especially if you want to dine on fresh fish accompanied by homegrown fresh produce. Yes, you can freeze fish, but it’s never the same as the freshly filleted version. Something that will be really important if you’re selling your fish to discerning consumers.
Breeding Tilapia At Home
While you can buy a fresh crop of fry from established fisheries that specialize as breeders, with a little guidance and some self-earned experience, you can breed your own. This will mean setting up a breeding environment, and then having a separate tank for growing the infants to a size that is safe to put them in with bigger fish.
Besides keeping your own aquaponics endeavor readily stocked with new nutrient providers, you might find that creating a fish perfectly suited for your climate or growing environment will make your operation much more efficient. Breeding your own gives you the power to cross one type of a species with another to improve their heat tolerance, or any number of other desirable factors one finds is needed. Breeding your own tilapia, or any other kind of fish well suited for aquaponics, also means your fish crops are less expensive, and more sustainable. The less people in your supply chain, the better.
Where To Start?
First, you’ve got to know your species, and which distinct traits each one has. Next you need to have at least one male and a couple females, because you want to make sure you’ve got breeding going on, which might not work out well with only one of each sex. Speaking of sex – how do you tell them apart? Some fish breeds have identifying marks, but many times you can’t count on that, so investigate their bellies. Look just in front of their tail. Two holes – its a female, one hole – its a male.
The Breeding Tank
Here’s a great in-depth introduction to putting together not just the tank, but what happens when you add fish. This guy doesn’t even worry about sexing to get started. A lot simpler than chasing fast moving fish around with a net until you’ve selected what you need.
OMG We’ve Got Eggs!
It’s not the time to go out of town. You need to monitor events closely.
With tilapia, the female will hold the eggs in her mouth for a day before depositing them in the dominant male’s hideout to get fertilized. Once he’s accomplished that, she scoops them all back up, and things progress quickly. Within a few days you’ll see fry begin growing on the outside of the eggs, which are slowly absorbed by the growing babies. ‘Sac fry’ is the next stage of development they reach as the yolk sac becomes smaller because it’s their nutrition source.
In about a week’s time you’ll have completely developed fry that have no sac visible and are ready for swimming freely. All this time they’ve been inside the female’s mouth. She hasn’t had anything to eat since she laid the eggs.
Time To Harvest
You have to separate the fry from the bigger fish, so have your fry tank ready and waiting.
You probably already guessed it, but the fry are only self-sufficient until they have completely absorbed the egg sac. Here’s some pointers on feeding them and maintaining the fry tank…
Naturally, there’s more to know about breeding tilapia at home. You want warm water at about 80°F, and long daylight hours, so run lights to give them 12-18 hours of sunshine. These conditions tell them it’s time to breed, but don’t keep them in a breeding environment for long stretches, because you’ll have scrawny undersized fish. They don’t do a lot of eating while it’s mating time. This is why you keep cooler water temps and less daylight hours in general for aquaponic fish tanks, to keep that horny switch from being triggered.
Population in the breeding tank also needs to be fine tuned. It’s best to have a single male to several females. Too much testosterone competition will cause overly aggressive behavior, and the males can do bodily harm to females in this kind of situation.