Although Tilapia is considered a hardy fish, they do have certain limitations and natural behavior that you should know about. Knowing this information, will undoubtedly, increase your level of success in raising them to maturity. Additionally, we feel that our customers should understand the environment in which our Tilapia are raised, and attempt to duplicate as many conditions as possible. This will make the transition to your system, less stress on the fingerlings.
Since wild tilapia fingerlings spend most of their time in shallow water, feeding on algae and plants, it is important to duplicate this in our hatchery environment. Until the fingerlings reach a length of 3 inches, they are kept in water, with a maximum depth of 16 inches. It is important our customers know, that the fish we ship should not be placed directly in a deeper tank, such as an IBC tote. This will stress the fingerlings to the point of death. We recommend having a separate nursery tank, such as an aquarium, to house the tilapia in, until they are of size. Another inexpensive method of a nursery tank is utilizing a 55 gallon drum, turned on its side, with the very top cut off. As a final statement on this topic, stress is the #1 killer of fingerling tilapia, in our opinion.
The second topic is water conditions. The water temperature we keep our fingerlings at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This does not mean that the fish will arrive to you at that temperature. To acclimate them to your system's water, we recommend the following procedure. Open the top of the bag by removing the tie(s) that fasten the bag closed. Place the bag in your tank's water, however do not allow the water contents or the fish, out of the bag. Observe how much water is in the bag. Next, allow 1-2 cups of fresh water, from your tank, to enter the bag of fish. Repeat this every 30 seconds, until the amount of water in the bag had doubled to what was originally in the bag. Once this is complete (the water in the bag contains at least 50% water from their new environment), release the fish, along with the water in the bag, into their new environment. As a note, we do not recommend the traditional way of acclimating fish, by way of placing the bag of fish in the new environment's water for an extended length of time. This is because the Tilapia fingerlings you have received, have been in the bag for over 12 hours. The water quality would be degraded or quickly degrading, and time is of the essence.
Aside from water temperature, we recommend you monitor the other water conditions such as PH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Tilapia enjoy a PH level of 7.5 or higher. Ammonia and nitrite levels should be kept to a minimum, to avoid weakening the health of the Tilapia. High nitrate levels rarely effect the health of the Tilapia, but may produce the side effects of algae growth.
The food we use to feed our Tilapia is one of two products. Purina Aquamax brands of feed, or Rangen's formulated food for Tilapia. You do not have to use one of these brands, however, it is a question we always get asked. The fish you receive will, nonetheless, need a smaller size food. The 1/2 -1 inch size fingerlings are on a food that is 3/64 inch (1.2mm) in size, 50% protein, 17% fat, and 3% fiber. Our 1 - 2 inch fingerlings are on a 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) size food, 50% protein, 16% fat, and 3% fiber. It is not necessary to keep this same diet, as the fingerlings can transition easily to most types of foods. In addition to the commercial foods, our Tilapia get whole or blended (fine ground) duckweed or spinach. We feel this improves the overall health of the fish, along with their energy levels. Additionally, it has been studied that a green diet of Tilapia improves their beneficial Omega 3 content.
Nile Tilapia prefer brackish water condtions (slightly salty, as is the mixture of river water and seawater in estuaries). Maintaining a slightly salty water will improve the health and growth rate of your Tilapia, while decreasing their chances of contracting sickness and parasites. The only way to accurately measure salinity is through a meter which measures the PPM (parts per million) of salts. We maintain our hatchery and growout systems at 600-800 parts per million. This is approximately a 1/2 pound of salt per 100 gallons of water. At this rate, plant life, such as in an aquaponics system, is unaffected.
We wish you much success in the raising of your Tilapia.