How to Reduce the Cost Of Feeding Tilapia

It is easy to look at the rearing of tilapia and think that it is easy money. If you buy young fish, they are very inexpensive. Here in Brazil, they are sometimes given for free to encourage farmers to raise their own food. If you buy them slightly larger, they cost more. We buy two month old fish, which are about 50 grams. This ensures they will be unable to swim out of the cages that we put them in. These cost more but have decreased the growing time by two months.

To the right is a picture of one of our lakes full of fish. In this photo you will see several cages. The 2m X 2m can hold up to 600 fish, and the 3m x 2m can take up to 900 fish. These are fed by rowboat.

The chart below will show you just how much food is necessary to feed 1,000 fish.

Tilapia Feed Chart

Size of feed pellets
Weight of fish (grams)
Age of tilapia (weeks)
Number of feeds per day
Daily amount per 1000 fish
Powder
0.5-2
1
12
225g
Powder
2-3.5
2
10
440g
Powder
3.5-5
3
10
680g
1.7mm
5-7
4
9
600g
1.7mm
7-12
5
8
760g
1.7mm
12-20
6
7
1.1kgs
2-4 mm
20-30
7
5
1.5kgs
2-4 mm
30-50
8
5
2.0kgs
2-4 mm
50-75
9
5
3.1kgs
2-4 mm
75-100
10
5
4.4kgs
4-6mm
100-115
11
4
4.8kgs
4-6mm
115-140
12
4
5.7kgs
4-6mm
140-170
13
4
6.2kgs
4-6mm
170-200
14
4
7.4 kgs
6-8mm
200-240
15
3
8.8 kgs
6-8mm
240-280
16
3
9.1kgs
6-8mm
280-325
17
3
10.6kgs
6-8mm
325-370
18
3
12.2kgs
6-8mm
370-420
19
3
11.9kgs
6-8mm
420-475
20
3
13.4kgs
6-8mm
475-535
21
3
12.6kgs
6-8mm
535-595
22
3
11.3kgs
6-8mm
595-660
23
3
12.6kgs
6-8mm
660-725
24
3
13.9kgs
6-8mm
725-795
25
3
11.4kgs
6-8mm
795-870
26
3
12.5kgs
6-8mm
870-945
27
3
13.6kgs
6-8mm
945-1025
28
3
14.8kgs
6-8mm
1025-1110
29
3
16kgs
6-8mm
1110-1200
30
3
11.6kgs
 
 
 
 
 

What size can you sell tilapia at?

You can see that the amount of food to feed the fish steadily increases as their weight increases. It is necessary to ensure enough money is put aside to cover the cost of feeding them for at least 5 months to see a good profit. Anything less than that will possibly not be worth the hassle of having them.

Once they hit 500 grams (just over a pound) they are small but a size that will sell. If you decide to grow them larger, the restaurants will be interested in them. These should also command a higher price per kilo.

Commercial fish pellets

We have heard of people who get tilapia and feed them on bread and anything else they happen to have around. This isn't going to bring your fish to their correct weight as fast and it could damage the quality of the water. Commercial fish food is a better choice for rapid, healthy fish growth. The higher the protein content the better. Commercial fish feed has a balanced blend of the correct nutrients for the size of the fish.


Saving money on feed costs

As I have already said, feeding tilapia is expensive and it is many months before you will see a return on your investment. That said, there are things you can do to save money on your feed bill. If you have plants or algae in your lake, the young fish can survive on this.

Delayed feeding is being used when there is an available source of algae in the water. This delay will save you a few weeks of food.

The other option we are trying here on our farm is, every other day feeding. This will be our first harvest of fish using this method. The first impressions are positive, we have had a test weigh and were pleased with the results. According to other articles I have read, using this method can result in a 10 percent reduction in weight over the same time period.This is where the duckweed comes into its own. The high protein on the 'non-feed' days, keeps the protein levels up. They tend to graze at the duckweed, whereas with the pellets, they attack with vengeance.

Duckweed ponds
Duckweed ponds

Using duckweed as a tilapia food

Here on our farm we are using duckweed. This is something to watch as a potential tilapia feed, as many people and animals are eating it in Asia. Its high protein content make it a powerhouse of a plant. It doesn't offer a complete range of nutrients needed to provide the tilapia with a balanced diet but as a supplemental feed it is ideal.

We feed our tilapia every other day with duckweed.This is sustaining them without pellet food for a day, giving them extra protein, and cutting our food bill by half.

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Comments 20 comments

Pao D Panlilio profile image

Pao D Panlilio 4 years ago from Caloocan

great hub im not in the tilapia business but i raise them as feeders for my aquarium fish, but i feed them the cheapest dog food with high protein content


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

This is quite an interesting read on the raising of tilapia. I do love to eat this fish, but not sure raising them would be up my alley. Voted up.


naeemebrahimjee profile image

naeemebrahimjee 4 years ago from London

This is a very interesting hub. As a person with a keen interest on fish this really caught me eye.

Excellent job.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 4 years ago from Brazil Author

Hello Pao D Panlilio,

How interesting. My husband used to sell them as aquarium fish many years ago. I personally had never heard of them before arriving in Brazil. You are right about the high protein content, it is important for growth.

Thank you for your input.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 4 years ago from Brazil Author

Hello Teaches 12345,

Well you never know, I am sure in Florida the temperature is perfect!

Thanks for the vote up.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 4 years ago from Brazil Author

Hello Naeemebrahimjee,

Thank you, I am pleased you found it interesting. Thank you for stopping by.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

I found this hub very interesting. We like eating tilapia fish and learning about how you are raising them for sale drew my attention. Sounds like you are leading an interesting life! Once the fish are ready for market, what happens next? Have you written another hub about it? Up votes and tweeted.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 4 years ago from Brazil Author

Hello Peggy,

Thank you for the tweet and vote.

When they reach the correct size, we either sell them locally or we call in a buyer who pays less but buys all of them. He brings a team of 4 people who will put them into ice water in a 500 liter water tank, which kills them and then they begin gutting, scaling, and weighing. There is caçhaca being drank, lunch of BBQ tilapia and rice and at the end of the day, money changes hands.

If we sell locally, a neighbor puts them on the back of his motorcycle in bags and takes them to local shops. He has managed 40 kilos on the back. He always looks a bit unsteady going down the sandy drive but he is accustom to driving in it.

I haven't written a hub about that but I should. Thanks for the idea.


treeman 2 years ago

Thanks for the great info and chart. We are currently raising 4000 in ponds at our school in Ohio. Your chart perfectly matches the data from our ponds and tanks. Best info we found on the net.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 2 years ago from Brazil Author

Hello Treeman,

What a wonderful school project. You can incorporate so many interesting learning avenues from this.

So pleased you found and enjoyed the page. Keep us informed of the progress. If you are writing about it, let me know and I will drop a link to it on this page.

Thanks again.


Treeman 2 years ago

The fish are eating and growing. The eagles and ospreys have found our ponds. We put 300lbs of duckweed in the hardest hit pond to make it harder for the birds to see the fish.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 2 years ago from Brazil Author

I understand your thinking regarding the duckweed however it could very quickly cover your pond completely. This will cause a problem for your pond and your fish. It will use too much oxygen and without aeration in your ponds your fish will suffer.

I have seen nets suspended above ponds to keep the great egrets, herons etc. away. I have also seen CD's strung on line across the ponds to scare them off.

Fish cages are also another option although the more fish you have in a cage, the higher the risk of disease. In the photo above we had two sizes of cages. 3meter x 3m and also 3m x 2m. The 3x3 had a capacity of 900 fish and the smaller a capacity of 600.

If you have to get rid of your duckweed, this too could be a money maker for your school. There are people who sell it through Ebay. Also people who have aquariums buy it. It is a great food not just for the tilapia but also for chickens, as it is said to produce more white meat .I also imagine pig farmers would be interested in it.

I have read it is consumed by people in some countries in the far east as well.

Let me know how you get on.


Treeman 2 years ago

300 lbs was not enough to let the duckweed take off even though we kept the 1400 fish in that pond well fed with high protein pellets. They ate their cover. In a different pond that has a history of total duckweed cover, the fish are eating it to the shore. If the duckweed starts to take off growing out of control we skip a feeding and the duckweed goes away. The fish in that pond are growing faster than any of the other four. It is working but duckweed can be terrible for a pond. It is like playing with fire, easy to get burned if you lose control.


Treeman 2 years ago

I was wondering if the chart is based on an all male population of fish or a 50/50 mix? Thanks The growers of tilapia in Ohio find the chart very helpful for projecting costs and finish weights.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 2 years ago from Brazil Author

This is based on an all male (or as near as possible) population. Female tilapia are a problem to have in the pond for a few reasons.

They can start to breed at 4 months (depending on the species). Because they are mouth brooders, where they hold the eggs and the small fry in their mouth, they don't eat and because of this they don't gain weight.

Plus, having them also causes the males to eat less. This was something we only noticed when we had them in shallow tanks where we could see them. The female was in a corner with one male, almost guarding her. All the others were trying to attract her and weren't eating as a result.

Another problem is, when they begin to reproduce there is too much competition for food and you may get stunted growth as a result. If you have enough space, keep thinning out the population. Although the fish may be smaller, they can still gain weight and that is what they are normally sold on.

This is one reason people like to use cages for their fish, the eggs fall through, and aren't fertilized. However, rearing in cages also has its disadvantages.


Treeman 2 years ago

Do you use hormones or hybridization to create your all male population


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 2 years ago from Brazil Author

Hi Treeman,

We only buy in the fish at 30-50g. The buyers use hormones though.

May I ask, how are you keeping your fish alive over winter, doesn't it get cold in Ohio?


Treeman 2 years ago

Yes it does. We spawned them inside in tanks and moved them into the ponds in May. We will need to harvest them before the ponds cool down. That is where your chart helped a great deal. It allowed us to estimate finish size at a certain date. This summer has been very cool and we lost some growing time. Next year we will start with larger fish and attempt to sex them before stocking in the pond. We also sold many fish to control pond growth. All the ponds are better except one. I later found out it is forty years old and is over the tipping point as it is changing into a wetland. It also is being fertilized by a large flock of geese. We also sold fish for people involved in aquaponics. It has been a wonderful experience for the students and we still have the harvest and marketing ahead of us. The school has committed to expanding the project. We are planning on moving into a 28x50 foot building. The students will be planning and building the hatchery. They are also using heavy equipment and survey equipment to build two more ponds. They operate dozers, track hoe, backhoe, skid loaders, tractor and material handler. We added a second teacher this year because we had more students wanting to enroll than we had room. Both program are at full enrollment already for this school year and unfortunately we are turning away students again. Many of the students go on for further education in wildlife, fisheries, forestry, enviromental science and engineering. Our school also is located inside a booming shale gas drilling area. Many students go to work in the oil and gas industry as gps techs, equipment operators, reclaimation and resource conservation.


treeman 4 months ago

The school's tilapia project keeps growing in scope. The students sold enough of the estimated 100,000 tilapia they raised last year to cover the costs and make a profit. Some of the brood stock are over five pounds. They put string with flagging tied to it to discourage raptors. Thanks for all the information.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 4 months ago from Brazil Author

Hello Treeman,

It sounds like your project is a success story. Do you have a website related to your school's project?

Regarding birds taking the fish, we use cages with a plastic mesh on top. The fish which are swimming freely in the lake are a strain on the lake and we are thankful that herons, egrets and kingfishers take them.

We also have predators in the lake, peacock bass and a fish call a triara, to minimize the numbers.

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