How much space do tilapia need?

Backyard farming for tilapia
This guide is intended to teach methods of home tilapia farming, including how to set up a backyard tilapia pond and cultivate it. As you read, keep in mind that five things are important for tilapia to develop quickly and healthily, including clean water, oxygen, food, light, and space for swimming. We have already written a detailed tilapia farming guide that covers these five needs, so we will stop repeating them here. On our main website, there are other posts that will enable you to understand the different grades of tilapia fingerlings and the genetic variations between the organisms. We advise you to use all of the services that we have provided and, if you have any questions, contact us by all means.

Modern Gardening or Aquaponics
The goal of this site, Backyard Tilapia, is to educate individuals who are interested in tilapia farming at home. It’s not about how to raise vegetables, but about growing and harvesting tilapia. That said, the disposal of tilapia waste and heavy nitrate water is one of the duties of any home tilapia farmer. Both aquaponics and conventional earth gardening have solutions to these problems and have their own merits for each of these techniques.

After the solid waste has been separated out, Aquaponics operates by recirculating the nitrate heavy water through hydroponic growing beds filled with growing media or floating rafts. Nitrates are used as fertiliser by the plants in the rising beds, slowing the build up of contaminants and delaying the frequency of water changes.

For many people, the primary drawback to aquaponics is the initial expense of building up a system large enough to accommodate the amount of tilapia they want to increase. One of the main advantages of aquaponics, from the viewpoint of tilapia cultivation, is arguably that there is less waste water to dispose of.

The bottom line is that— Aquaponics provides a great way to turn the ammonia created by tilapia into nitrogen for delicious fruits and vegetables if the room is small, and water conservation is a concern.

Modern earth gardens, when used for direct irrigation of crops, benefit from tilapia waste water. At a rate of about 3 percent of the overall volume each day, fresh water can be constantly added to the tilapia grow out ponds. The excess moves into a holding tank, where the garden is held to be watered.

Anything from a garden hose to an advanced irrigation system will be supplied by a small well pump inside the holding tank, connected to a pressure tank.

Of course, you can only do conventional aquarium-style water changes with smaller ponds by using a syphon hose to drain 20 percent of your pond water for your garden each week, and then substitute it with fresh water. The biggest drawback of direct irrigation has to do with the amount of water to be disposed of.

For every 500 gallons of pond volume per week, your garden would have to be wide enough to accommodate 100 gallons of water. The very low set-up cost is the greatest advantage of direct irrigation. The bottom line is that— If you have the space for a wide garden, and your area has plenty of water, direct irrigation is probably the best method of disposing of wastewater for you.

How to make an affordable tilapia pond
Nothing more than an above-ground tub filled with water is a tilapia pond. Kiddie pools, IBC totes, fibreglass hot tubs, and lined plywood troughs are examples for use in backyard tilapia farming.

Of course, more industrial pond options exist for commercial aquaculture or aquaponics, but that’s outside the reach of home tilapia farming. For every pound of their body weight, Tilapia needs half of a cubic foot of water, or 3.74 gallons.

So, you’ll need to get one that contains 72 cubic feet of water, or 538.56 gallons, if you want to keep 144 pounds of fish in the same pond. The exact size necessary is a lined plywood trough that is 4 feet wide and 8 feet deep, with 2.25 feet of water depth; and that is what we will use for the rest of this section in our construction examples. You can enlarge this pond to any size that you want, of course.

Only determine how many pounds of fish you want to harvest every six to nine months, depending on the species of tilapia fingerlings you pick, to find out how many cubic feet, or gallons, you would need, and then break that weight in half to get the cubic feet. To get gallons, then multiply the cubic feet by 7,48. For instance, you take 144 and divide it by two to get 72 cubic feet (144 / 2 = 72) if you want to have 144 pounds of tilapia in your pond at harvest time. Then you just have to take the cubic feet in order to get the gallons, and multiply by 7.48 to get 538.56 gallons (72 x 7.48 = 538.56).

It’s just a matter of finding the right container to carry that much water when you know how many cubic feet or gallons you need, with a little lip at the end, so that your tilapia doesn’t swim over the edge.

You multiply the distances, times the width, times the water depth, to get the cubic feet of a rectangular pond. Multiply the radius, times the radius (r squared), times 3.14 (pi), then multiply the result, times the depth of water, to get the cubic feet of a circular pond.

Determine the construction of your tilapia ponds
Using a kiddie pool is the simplest alternative to having a tilapia pond. A kiddie pool with a diameter of twelve feet filled with 24 inches of water holds 1696.46 gallons and is very cheap.

There are a number of disadvantages to using one of these small pools as a pond, however. Next, it begins to become very fragile as the vinyl ages, and it will break down the side finally. By lining it with thin plywood, or similar flexible material, you can support the sides after the pool is filled, but this will only give you the second season of use. Replacing the pool (or liner) every 24 months, or earlier, is the right thing to do.

The second possible downside to using a kiddie pool as a tilapia pond has to do with whether the vinyl leaching chemicals harm the fish in their water or not.

Some fish are highly susceptible to vinyl-leeched chemicals in their water, but tilapia is not on that list. A vinyl kiddie pool is as nice as any other, as far as your fish are concerned. But what about the fact that your tilapia is intended for use by humans?

If you were farming tilapia at home to make extra cash by selling the fillets, you might think to yourself that there is no way for a kiddie pool to pass the FDA’s food safety regulations; which, of course, if you decided to market your processed tilapia to buyers, you would be required by law to obey. But this has nothing to do with low levels of vinyl leaching contaminants into a reservoir, it has to do with ordinary business activities and the fact that only products are licenced by the FDA; they do not necessarily disapprove of something.

We tend to think it our patriotic duty to immediately believe that something else is disapproved if we see a large government agency, like the FDA, making a list of approved ingredients or materials, but this is clearly not the case. The reason that tilapia processing in 45 gallon trash cans has never been approved by the FDA is because it is not natural to do that.

There is no need for trash can manufacturers to seek FDA approval because nobody wants to grow tilapia in a trash can. For kiddie pool makers, the same goes. The FDA does not allow them, since they are not meant to be used as reservoirs. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use them as reservoirs, it just means that no government scientist has done a study on the impact on fish intended for human consumption of vinyl kiddie pools.

Don’t ignore the fact that you can actually make daily water adjustments, and that in the first place, any vinyl contaminants will never get the opportunity to build up. But the decision is yours as far as using a kiddie pool goes.

By the way, a bit of study was done during the writing of the above two paragraphs in an effort to find a single scientific paper on the effects of spending six to nine months exposing food fish to the low levels of chemicals contained in vinyl liners, and none were found.

There is a lot of fear-mongering and rhetorical questions, like everything else, but no scientific evidence. Kiddie pools are used by more than a few of our clients, and their fish is good and tasty.

Now, after all the talk about kiddie pools, in our situation, we’re not even going to use one. Instead, we are going to make a plywood lined trough.

Compared to other types of ponds for home tilapia farming, a lined plywood trough has several benefits: it’s almost indestructible. It can be built for any scale.

It makes it very easy to harvest tilapia. It is relatively cheap to build. And it can easily be produced with readily available FDA approved materials, just in case you want to grow into a small commercial tilapia farm. So we will take you through the steps needed to build a simply lined plywood tilapia pond in the next section.

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