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Tilapia rank second to carp as the most farmed freshwater fish in the world. They’re a popular choice because of their ability to adapt to poor water conditions and their wide range of food sources. More importantly, tilapia are prolific breeders, providing enough harvest both for home consumption and commercial purposes. But, how quickly do tilapia reproduce?
If the conditions are right, one female tilapia will spawn between 4 weeks to 4 months, depending on the species. Even if the survival rates are very low, you’ll still get a tank full of tilapia fry within a very short period of time. If you’re planning to breed tilapia for your aquaponics system, this extremely fast breeding rate can be both a blessing and a curse.
How Long Does It Take for Tilapia to Breed?
Under the right conditions, a female can breed right after the last batch of eggs is hatched. During the incubation period, the female tilapia will carry the fertilized eggs in her mouth. After 48 hours, the eggs will start to develop tails. Ninety-six hours after this, they’ll form their heads. Over the next seven days, the fry will start leaving their mother’s mouth.
However, not all tilapia will spawn right away. Some tilapia may not have any inclination to breed, which may lead some breeders to think that they’re impotent. As mentioned above, optimal breeding conditions have to be present to facilitate reproduction. These include:
- Making sure they get enough light for at least 12 hours every day.
- The water has to be between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A substrate, such as a gravel bed, must be placed where the female tilapia can lay eggs. Remember, they mouth-brood their fry. They need to place unfertilized eggs on the substrate for the male to fertilize before they take the eggs back into their mouth to brood or incubate.
How Many Eggs Do Tilapia Produce?
Tilapia usually produce between 200 to 1000 eggs each time. Some species can produce up to 1,200 eggs every spawn.
A female tilapia has an egg sack that can hold around 4 eggs per gram of their body weight. The egg production process is involuntary. When the sack fills, the female starts to bloat and decides whether or not she’ll breed or evacuate the egg sack. It isn’t clear which exact factors influence this decision, but experts believe that perceived threats and other environmental conditions have a significant impact.
What Things Can Speed Up Tilapia Breeding?
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you want to speed up your tilapia breeding process:
- Make sure that the water is clean and free from chemicals like chloramine or chlorine. Never run hoses directly from the water source into your tank or pond. Sudden pH, temperature, or water chemistry changes can stress the tilapia, weaken their immune systems, and even upset the ecological balance in the system.
- The ideal pH level for tilapia is 8.0.
- Control the population. High fish density can stunt the growth of the fish because both parents and their offspring compete for food.
- As mentioned above, keep the temperature at 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the optimal temperature for egg development. At 60 degrees, they’ll eat less and start to weaken. At 50 degrees, they’ll die.
- Feed them twice daily with rice bran, termites, earthworms, or bread crumbs.
- Keep the fry separate from their parents and other older tilapia.
Remember, breeding too quickly can overwhelm your tilapia. If left unmanaged, your tilapia will stop growing properly. Male tilapia can also show aggression and kill other males and females.
What Things Can Slow Down Tilapia Breeding?
When the conditions are always right, tilapia won’t stop breeding because that becomes their foremost biological priority. This is bad news if you can’t manage a massive number properly.
There are two ways to slow down the breeding process of your tilapia:
- Keep the water cool. Tilapia are temperature sensitive, so they’re not going to breed if the water is too cold. Just make sure that it’s not too cold that they’re going into a stress-induced dormant state.
- Keep the tank or pond in the dark. Light is another indicator for breeding.
Do Tilapia Eat Their Babies?
Another reason to slow down the breeding process is that the population density in a tank or pool can bring out the cannibalistic tendencies of tilapia. When they’re hungry, tilapia will eat any food that’s readily available to them, including their young.
Conclusion: How Quickly Do Tilapia Reproduce?
Tilapia breeding can be a great source of both income and food, especially because this type of fish is quite hardy and breeds quickly. Depending on the species, a female tilapia will reproduce every 4 weeks to 4 months.
However, it’s also because of their quick reproduction rates that farmers have to be careful. Growing tilapia too fast can lead to an exponential increase that they may not be ready for. Observing proper breeding strategies and tips to control the population is always crucial.