Guide to Raising Tilapia in Aquaponics Systems

Guide to Raising Tilapia in Aquaponics Systems

Tilapia is known as one of the most practical fish species to use for aquaponics systems. They are edible, versatile, and can survive in a wide range of water conditions. Caring for tilapia is relatively easy because of their low-maintenance lifestyle. This guide will go over all that you need to know about raising tilapia in aquaponics systems.

Why is Tilapia Good for Aquaponics?

Tilapia is considered one of the best species to use for aquaponics systems. Below are the advantages of raising tilapia in aquaponics:

  •  Tilapia requires very little care and maintenance.
  • They are hardy fish and can survive a wide range of water quality temperature changes.
  • Tilapia is resistant to diseases and parasites.
  • Tilapia is resistant to diseases and parasites.
  • They can survive longer in a toxic water environment with low oxygen or high ammonia levels.
  • Tilapia is easy to breed.
  • Tilapia grows to maturity faster than most other cultured fish.
  • They are tolerant of overcrowding in the fish tank.
  • They are omnivorous and enjoy diets composed of animals and plants, thus eliminating the need for expensive fish food.
  • When cooked, tilapias have a delicious firm and white flakey flesh. 


Different Varieties of Tilapia for Aquaponics

There are several varieties of tilapia, but the three common types used in aquaponics are Nile, Blue, and Mozambique. These three types differ in size, shape, and color. Knowing the distinct characteristics of each fish will help you understand what type you will raise in your aquaponics system.

Nile Tilapia in Aquaponics

Nile Tilapia

Nile tilapia is a popular type of tilapia that is native to the African freshwater habitat. This fish has a deliciously mild taste and nutritional benefits (low fat and high protein). They can reach up to 24 inches long and weigh more than 5.5 pounds. 

Growing Requirements for Nile Tilapia:

Growth Rate: 1-2 pounds in seven months
Feeding: 3 times a day
Diet: omnivorous: phytoplankton, insects, larvae, and vegetables
Waste Produced: heavy waste producer
pH Requirement: 6-9
Temperature Requirement: 55°F to80° F
Days Until Harvest: 160 to 240 days

Advantages of Raising Nile Tilapia for Aquaponics
  1. Nile tilapia can withstand cooler temperatures.
  2. They do not require special feed because they feed on plants and animals.
Blue Tilapia in Aquaponics

Blue Tilapia

The Blue Tilapia, which is often blue gray with a pink-white belly, is a species native to Northern Africa and the Middle East. This tilapia species can live in saltwater and freshwater and is one of the preferred cold-water fish for aquaponics.

Growing Requirements for Blue Tilapia:

Growth Rate: 3-4 pounds in 3 years
Feeding: F3 times a day
Diet: feeds primarily on phytoplankton; adults are herbivores
Waste Produced: heavy waste producer
pH Requirement: 6-9
Temperature Requirement: between 47° F to 90° F
Days until harvest: 180 to 240 days

Advantages of Raising Blue Tilapia for Aquaponics
  1. Cold-hardiness, meaning they can survive in colder climates than a Nile Tilapia.
  2. Tasty meat.
Tilapia in Aquaponics

Mozambique Tilapia

The olive-gray tone and yellow belly Mozambique Tilapia is a fish native to Southeastern Africa. This type of tilapia grows much slower than the other tilapia species, but they also get much larger. 

Growing Requirements for Mozambique Tilapia:

Growth Rate: 2-4 pounds in 1 year
Feeding: 3 times a day
Diet: feeds primarily on phytoplankton; adults are herbivores
Waste Produced: heavy waste producer
pH Requirement: between 5-9
Temperature Requirement: between 82° to 86°F
Days Until Harvest: 240 to 270 days

Advantages of Using Mozambique Tilapia in Aquaponics

  1. They are great-tasting fish.
  2. They can survive in poor water quality conditions. 
  3. Mozambique Tilapia is adaptable to extreme environmental conditions.
  4. Mozambique Tilapia is very tolerant of saline waters.

Requirements for Raising Tilapia in an Aquaponics System

Tilapia don’t need much. In fact, they only have a few basic needs: clean water, oxygen, light, and room to swim. Give these things to your tilapia, and they will stay healthy and grow fast. Understanding these needs will help your aquaponics system become successful.

1. Clean Water

Providing your tilapia with clean water is essential for their health. When adding new water to your system, make sure that it is clean, free from chemicals or chlorine, and has the same temperature as the water in your tank.

2. Oxygen

Oxygen is also essential for aquaponics systems. Consider using an air pump and aerators to keep the dissolved oxygen at the ideal level.

3. Light

Tilapia requires at least 18 hours of light per day. You can provide the light requirements of your tilapia by setting up the fish tank in a partially shaded location or by using artificial light.

4. Room to swim

Tilapia can tolerate crowded conditions better than other fish species, but they also have limits. An increased number of tilapia can deplete the oxygen supply faster. Lower oxygen levels in the fish tank can cause fish stress and diseases.

FAQs on Aquaponics Tilapia

Here are some of the most common questions in raising tilapia in aquaponics systems.

Is tilapia a warm-water fish?

Yes, You will need to maintain a water temperature between 75°F and 90°F to have a healthy fish. Below this level, they will become dormant and will die. 

How many tilapia per gallon of water?

A fully grown tilapia will weigh 1 pound, although they can grow larger. The rule of thumb is that one pound of tilapia will need 3 gallons of water. So this means that in every 3 to 5 gallons of water, only raise one tilapia. 

Where can I Buy live tilapia?

You can purchase tilapia fingerlings online or visit your local pet or fish store to see if they sell tilapia fingerlings. In buying fish fingerlings online, make sure that you buy from a credible online aquaponics store like to ensure your fingerlings are high quality, chemical-free, and will arrive alive at your location.

What is the best tilapia variety for aquaponics?

Each tilapia variety has its characteristics that may suit your preference and goals. These different varieties have in common that they are all hardy fish species that thrive well in aquaponics systems. Your choice of the best tilapia variety will depend on fish variety availability and personal preference.

What is the perfect tank size for raising tilapia?

The perfect fish tank size will depend on the number of fish you are planning to keep, and the size of your grow bed. Most aquaponics growers start with at least a 500-liter fish tank, which will give you approximately 130 gallons and can grow at least 20 to 40 full-grown tilapia.

How long will it take to grow tilapia in Aquaponics?

Tilapia can grow in as little as 6 months to 1 year, depending on the variety. So your harvest time will depend on how many pounds you want them to be. 

Will tilapia breed in aquaponics?

Yes, tilapia is not bothered by much, including breeding in aquaponics fish tanks. I fed well; tilapia will breed shortly after being introduced into their tanks. Be sure to remove tilapia fingerlings from the fish tank to avoid them being eaten by the larger fish.