Lets look at how to start a tilapia farm in your backyard. Tilapia grows nicely in the tropics and is hardy, easy to grow and has a high commercial value. The fish is a delicacy in West African countries like Togo, Nigeria and Ghana.
Ghana imports several metric tons of the fish monthly to satisfy the local consumption. Owning a Tilapia farm is a very lucrative business venture and may people are starting this new business.
The fish is a bony fish with white fillets and an oblong flat shaped body.
The delicious fish is good to eat and served in restaurants, bars, hotels and other outlets. The fish attracts a good price in the open market and when sold wholesale.
The backyard Tilapia farm is not capital intensive but strict provisions for the care of the fish is important.
Unlike catfish that can breath atmospheric air because of a crude lung. Tilapia will die if exposed to atmospheric air for a short period.
However, to successfully grow Tilapia in your backyard you need a lot of fresh water and a good pond.
Why grow Tilapia at your backyard
The size of the Tilapia farm depends on the purpose and capacity of the fish farmer. Backyard Tilapia farms need little maintenance or monitoring and are fun.
Tilapia fish are much more difficult to grow than catfish because they require constant monitoring and perfect conditions to grow. Tilapia fish farming can double as a form of recreation, leisure or business venture.
Have a business plan
The business plan should have provisions for finance, location, source of water supply and electricity. Other issues are feeding, stocking, cost of building your ponds including security.
The budget is to get a true picture of the cost implications of starting the business.
Once you have decided to go into Tilapia fish farming you need to set your priorities. The first step is to build your fish pond and install additional equipment.
You then find a fish breeder and buy some fast growing Tilapia fingerlings. The easiest and most efficient type of pond to stock your Tilapia fish is the above ground pond.
The size of the pond dictates the amount of fish you want to stock. You can also learn grow out and breading techniques to enhance your farming experience.
Financing your project
You need to get adequate finance for your Tilapia farm project. The cost implication involves price of acquiring the fingerlings, feeding them, electricity, pond construction and availability of water.
Building your pond at your backyard eliminates the cost of landed space. You can source finance from friends, colleagues, soft loans and personal savings.
You also need to draft a budget that takes into account all these variables.
It is important to know government regulations concerning fish farming in your area. The rules differ from country to state and even local government areas.
Luckily in Africa government encourages private initiatives and farming business. Some countries even have special research institutes that have high quality stock and training programs.
Tilapia is invasive specie so great care is necessary if introduced to an existing habitat.
Equipment needed for your Tilapia farm
The first and most important equipment is the pond or fish tank. The tank can be made from blocks or a ready made plastic pond.
The fish farmer can choose either an above ground or earthen pond for your Tilapia farm. The pond is constructed to retain water with a PH level of 7 and an inlet/outlet. It should be fitted with an aeration device and is deep enough for the fish to grow.
Some other equipment’s you might need are bio-filter, aerators and a good pumping machine. Other considerations are fish nets, fish feed and a generating set.
The business plan dictates the type of equipment you buy. You can choose to go into grow out Tilapia or Breeding business.
Setting up your Tilapia Farm
Tilapia will grow in different types of confinement which include dugout ponds and above ground ponds. Other types of ponds are glass tanks, plastic tanks, cordoned stream and immersed cage system.
For easy handling and efficiency use a plastic tank or block tank to grow your fish. Make sure your tank is properly aerated and has an inlet and outlet.
Once your pond is ready the next step is buying the fingerlings. You can source your fingerlings from local breeders or government establishments.
You can either buy fingerlings or fry to stock your pond. Fingerlings are easier to handle and a little costlier than fry. Fry need expert tendering to grow only experienced handlers can manage them.
Placing the fish in the pond
After purchasing the fingerlings you can’t just throw them into the pond without getting them acclimatized. The temperature and PH level should be similar to the one the fish presently grow.
The fish farmer can place the container of fish in the water for about ten minutes before gently releasing them into you pond. Another method is to slowly add water from your pond into the container till they have similar temperature.
Clear clean water is the most important aspect of Tilapia fish farming. Unlike catfish Tilapia will die quickly out of water so correct water change is crucial for the survival of your fish.
Growing your fish
Tilapia grows best in temperatures ranging from 80f-90f degrees. Lower temperatures of 75 f degrees will have a sluggish response in your fish and poor food conversion.
Much lower temperature of 55f degrees can kill your fish. Other important parameters that impact positively on your fish are PH level of 7-7.5, Nitrite 0.3mg, zero chlorine and 5-7ppm dissolved oxygen.
With proper care and optimum conditions of good water and feeding they reach adulthood in seven months. Tilapia breed easily in ideal conditions but they are also cannibals and would likely eat their young.
Selling your grow out
There is a large market for Tilapia and market women can buy your stock. You can either sell wholesale or retail or both depending on your marketing strategy.
You can grow a small quantity for personal use and sell the remaining fish. Tilapia fish farming is good business and dedicated farmers smile all the way to the bank.