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Raising Tilapia Fingerlings (What You Should Know)

Raising Tilapia Fingerlings

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Tilapia is perhaps one of the most common fish species raised in aquaponics systems not only for its taste but because of its hardiness. It thrives in different environmental conditions and manages to grow even if the tanks have poor water quality. Since it is a favorite of aquaponics practitioners, the demand for this species has continually grown throughout the years. For this reason, some enthusiasts are raising tilapia fingerlings on their own instead of purchasing from aquaponics stores.

When choosing to grow tilapia fingerlings, the grower should first be knowledgeable about the difference between tilapia fingerlings and fry, the three methods of raising fingerlings including the open pond, hapa, and tank method, the various tilapia grades such as food, pond, and aquaponics grade, and how sex reversal, hybridization, and manual sexing works in producing an all-male batch of fingerlings.

This article will provide the above information by specifically discussing tilapia production, grading fingerlings, and the production of an all-male fingerling for a better harvest. 

What are tilapia fingerlings

To fully understand what tilapia fingerlings are, we should first differentiate it from tilapia fry. These two terms are not interchangeable because they pertain to a particular stage in the fish’s development. Before the tilapia reaches the fingerling stage, they are genderless and measures one half and three quarters. It is in this stage that they are called fry. Once their sexual organs are developed, and they have grown their scales and fins, they are already considered fingerlings. 

It usually takes 21 days before tilapia’s gender to be determined, marking their transition into fingerlings. They should receive adequate nutrition by feeding and being grown in an appropriate rearing environment to achieve fast development. If not, the fry would take several weeks to grow and reach the size of a fingerling, which is a determinant of their grade.

Grading of tilapia fingerlings

Knowing the three different grades of tilapia fingerlings is essential to identify which should be used for a particular purpose. Some tilapia are best for commercial production, while others are excellent for pond cleaning. There is also a tilapia grade that best fits recirculating systems, and learning about this translates to better production. Below is a detailed description of the tilapia fingerling grades.

Food grade

The food-grade tilapia is also known as the fast growth rate fingerlings. They are usually the best choice for farming and commercial production because of their accelerated growth. 30% of tilapia are food-grade, and they are predominantly male.

Pond grade

This grade of tilapia fingerlings is known for its slow growth rate. It would take years to reach the harvestable size, and almost half of them do not grow larger than six inches. They are excellent pond cleaners since they consume algae instead of larger plants because of their size.

Aquaponics grade

The aquaponics grade tilapia is known for its mixed or medium growth rate. They thrive in tanks, especially in backyard fish farming, and they can provide the needed nutrients of plants all year round. They can be harvested at different times and, at the same time, serve as a sufficient source of nutrients in growing aquaponics crops through the waste they produce. 



Got Tanks?

Tilapia fingerlings production

Fingerling production is a rigorous task, but some people choose to go through weeks of patiently rearing to ensure that they acquire good fingerlings for their aquaponics system. Using good quality fingerlings results in a bountiful harvest, which is the aim of most practitioners alongside gaining high plant yield. The following methods can be used to start fingerlings production.

Open Pond Method

The open pond method is the most common way of producing tilapia fingerlings. A pond is constructed and fertilized before the broodstock, or the mature fish used for breeding are stocked to spawn. Usually, the sex ratio is one male fish to three or four female fish. Harvest of fingerlings is traditionally done on the 15th or 21st day after hatching. 

Hapa Method

The hapa method uses a rectangular net to hold the fish for rearing. The ideal size of a hapa is 3 meters wide and 3 meters long. It should also be at least 1.5 meters deep for better impoundment. Hapa is quite productive as it lessens the loss of fry; however, managing it is more demanding.

Tank Method

Using tanks to grow fingerlings is more expensive than the other methods mentioned above. But despite the cost, it is relatively easy to manage provided that it is constructed well. In choosing this way of fingerling production, a circular tank is suggested, whether made of concrete, plastic, or metal. The diameter should be 1 to 6 meters, and the depth of the water should be 0.5 to 1 meter. These tanks can easily be sourced from local aquaponics stores.



Got good pH?

Male fingerling production

Male tilapia fingerlings are often preferred when it comes to commercial fish farming because of their fast growth rate. If the aquaponics practitioner’s goal is to equally produce a high amount of crops and fish, choosing to raise an all-male batch of fingerlings is suggested. It is important to note that tilapia fingerlings are genderless in the initial stage of their life, so obtaining an all-male quantity is possible through the following methods.

Sex reversal

Sex reversal is considered to be a complicated way of producing male fingerlings because it takes a lot of time and research. The newly hatched fry will be reared in tanks or hapas depending on the farmer’s preference, and they are given hormone concentrated feed in three weeks.


Hybridization is often preferred in producing male fingerlings because of the higher chance of succeeding in this method. In this technique, hybrids undergo manual sexing and sex reversal treatment, which can only be done through adequate knowledge of these processes. To understand more about hybridization, click here to read about the production of predominantly male tilapia fingerlings published in Science Direct.

Manual Sexing

Manual sexing is done by separating male from female fry through inspecting their external genital openings. The success of this process depends significantly on the farmer’s skills in sorting, so there will be instances that it is not a hundred percent accurate. To learn more about manual sexing, read the journal on techniques to regulate sex ratio and breeding in tilapia.


Since tilapia is considered one of the most common fish raised in an aquaponics system, rearing fingerlings on their own is now considered by some farmers to ensure that they get the best quality for their unit. But before engaging in rearing fingerlings, learning about the different methods of production, such as the pond, hapa, and tank method, is necessary. Understanding the three tilapia grades is also vital to ensure that they are using the appropriate type for their system and how to produce all-male fingerlings for a better harvest.

The Campbells love finding sustainable and fun ways to increase their independence from traditional brick and motor supermarkets. Aquaponics provides a full lifecycle food source for families and a great hobby. #aquaponicslifestyle

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