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Tilapiais rich in protein and low in fat and cholesterol and can therefore be considered a healthy part of one’s nutrition.  But aside from this, tilapia can also be a good source of income due to its demand in the market.  Michael Dela Cruz, Sales Supervisor of Santeh Feeds Corporation for Northeast Luzon, cited the fish’s active reproduction that makes it a viable livelihood.

A tilapia becomes sexually mature in just three months that is why it reproduces fast and gives a steady supply of tilapia fry,” he said.

“Within four to six months, each tilapia will weigh from 200 to 300 grams that is why it can already be harvested,” he added.

One only needs ₱310,000 startup capital for a tilapia pond business to be able to earn at least P110,000 per hectare every harvest, which can be done two to four times a year depending upon the culture management.

“This includes ₱20,000 for pond rental and ₱290,000 for feeds, fingerlings, caretakers, and other equipment that will be needed in pond preparation like lime and fertilizer. After five months, one can harvest 6 to 7 tons in one hectare based on the survival rate of 60 percent and it can be sold for ₱70 per kilo.” said Marivic Panahon, area sales manager for Central Luzon of Santeh Feeds Corporation.

However, there are some things to keep in mind to ensure the success of the business.

First and foremost, the soil of the tilapia pond must be clay loam or sandy clay for proper water retention. A soil pH level of 7 is ideal so liming will no longer be necessary.

There must also be a year round supply of fresh water with 6.5 to 9 pH level for a smooth water exchange.

Moreover, inputs such as fingerlings, feeds, and fertilizers must be accessible.

Preparing the fish pond

Once you find the perfect site, create or choose a fish pond that is 1 hectare wide and 1 to 1.5 meters deep.

Then dry it and apply 150 to 200 kilograms of tea seed per hectare. The tea seed kills predators of tilapia fingerlings.

After which, put 100 grams of lime or apog or 50 grams of ammonium, sulphate, and lime mixture in every squaremeter to stabilize the pH level of the soil and water.

Also, sprinkle 100 kilograms of fertilizer like 16-20 or ammonium phosphate.

And after three days, fill the pond with water with a depth of 60 to 150 centimeters.

Tilapia species

Tilapia is an introduced species in the Philippines.  They originally came from Africa. Although there are several species in their area of origin, only several species were introduced at one time or another.  But at present only one is widely promoted – the Nile tilapia.  Because of their tendency to reproduce in three months, even before they are big enough to be harvested, they can easily become overpopulated in a fishpond situation and their growth rate is affected.  However by feeding them with hormone-treated feed once they start feeding, it is possible to produce an all-male stock or so called sex-reversed tilapia.

There was also past attempts to produce fast growing tilapia by crossing different strains. This resulted in the production of the GIFT or Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia. The GIFT program was later discontinued but genetic improvement was continued by BFAR and the resulting breed was given the name GET-EXCEL.  This is now the stain being promoted by BFAR and is available in many hatcheries in Central Luzon as well as other provinces through the Philippines.  In sourcing tilapia fingerlings it is best to get those from BFAR certified hatchery to make sure one does not get fingerlings that come from so called “wild stock.  Since the tilapia is not native to the Philippines we actually do not have any wild stock.  The tilapia that have escaped and established themselves in the natural environment are more properly called “feral tilapia”.

The Nile tilapia is primarily a freshwater species but can survive and grow in low salinity brackishwater fishponds (less than 10 ppt).  For fishponds with higher salinity BFAR has developd two strains which can survive and grow in saline fishponds.  These are BEST or Brackishwater Enhanced Selected Tlapia which is available in the National Freshwater Fisheries Center in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, and the Molobicus which is available from the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center in Binloc-Bonuan, Dagupan City, Pangasinan.

There are also red tilapia hybrids that originally came from either Taiwan, Thailand or Florida.  These red hybrids grow well in both freshwater and brackish water.  However, the red tilapia is not known in the wet market.  They are always sold live in restaurants where they are displayed in aquaria.

“You can buy tilapia fingerlings from Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources o BFAR, freshwater fish farms, hatchery, at nursery operators all over the Phillippines which can be found in the province of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Laguna, Bohol, Tacloban, South Cotabato, and Davao region,” Dela Cruz said.

There are also other strains such as the BEST or Brackishwater Enhanced Saline Tilapia, while Central Luzon State University Freshwater Aquaculture Center has its own select strain called FAST or Freshwater Aquaculture Strain Tilapia.

In addition, Aquabiz android app, which is downloadable at Google Play (Android) and Play Store (IOS), contains the listing of hatcheries around the country.

Tilapia pond management

When all the assets are ready, it is time to start the pond operations.

For stocking, make sure to use size 17 to 22 or 0.8 to 1.2 grams of tilapia fingerlings. Do the process in the morning at a separate grow-out pond or you may allot 20 percent of the total pond for the nursery using a fine net.

Let the fingerlings stay at the nursery pond for 15 to 30 days before transferring them to a grow-out pond.

You can stock 10,000 to 30,000 fingerlings in each hectare or 1 to 3 pieces per squaremeter; 40,000 to 80,000 or 4 to 8; and 90,000 above or 9 for extensive, semi-intensive, and intensive, respectively.

Dela Cruz also has a few reminders in managing the pond.

  • Keep the water parameters at optimal level;
  • Change the water once a month or more to avoid mortality caused by oxygen depletion and bad bacteria;
  • Install water pump or aerator when conducting intensive culture to maintain the needed dissolve oxygen of fishes;
  • Feed tilapias with proper amount of Tateh Extrufloat feeds and correct number of frequency within the 5 months of culture based on the recommended rates in accordance to the fishes’ body weight; and,
  • Stop feeding 24 hours before the harvest.

There are two ways to harvest tilapias, according to Dela Cruz. One is selective harvesting where gill nets and cast nets, among others are used. And second is total harvesting wherein the water in the pond is drained and the tilapias are collected and farmed out in a catch basin with the help of seed nets.

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