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Tilapia culture is one of the most profitable farming businesses that are quickly gaining popularity worldwide. Whether the practitioners decide to grow tilapia in a pond, a hapa, or a tank, they will surely benefit from its fast growth rate and mild-tasting flesh. However, just like other fish species, there are different varieties of tilapia that one can choose from, and it can be quite overwhelming, especially for beginners. It is necessary to identify which tilapia breed grows the fastest if the goal is to profit commercially by selling tilapia.
Among the several varieties of tilapia being used in fish culture and other recirculating systems, the following are notable for having the best characteristics, including their fast growth rate:
- Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)
- Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus)
In this article, we will discuss some of the factors that affect the tilapia growth rate, the difference between growing mono-sex and mixed-sex tilapia, and the tilapia breeds that grow the fastest.
Factors affecting the tilapia growth rate
The growth rate of fish varies from species to species. It is also challenging to identify which species grows the fastest because of its various strains. However, there are a set of factors that generally affect the growth rate of fish, mainly environmental and management. These include food and oxygen availability, water temperature, stocking, and water quality. It is important to understand all these factors before looking into which tilapia breed grows the fastest.
Food and oxygen availability
Food and oxygen are two of the most critical factors that dramatically contribute to the tilapia growth rate. Since tilapia is mainly herbivorous, feeding them an adequate amount of plant-based food will quickly help them reach their mature size. If they are cultured in ponds, the practitioner has to ensure that they have enough algae to facilitate growth. Meanwhile, if grown in tanks, they should be given organic plant-based feed available from local stores and Amazon.
Oxygen is also critical for fish, just like humans, because it helps them in survival and food intake. For pond culture, photosynthesis and atmospheric oxygen provide enough dissolved oxygen for the fish to consume food well and grow at the rate they are expected to. In tanks, however, the practitioner has to provide aeration to sustain the needs of the fish.
Since fish cannot regulate their body temperature, including tilapia, they rely on the water temperature to adjust theirs. This means that, for tilapia to grow fast, the water temperature should be maintained at 82 to 86 °F in general. Since tilapia is a warm water fish, it metabolizes quickly, given the correct temperature, and its respiration increases, which affects its growth.
It is essential to stock tilapia appropriately in a pond or tank because it directly contributes to its growth rate. If the stocking density is not proportioned to the pond or tank’s size, there is a higher chance that the fish will compete for food and living space, which can hinder their growth.
Another essential factor that facilitates the growth of tilapia is water quality. Since each variety of tilapia requires specific water parameters, it should be strictly followed to ensure that the fish achieves its expected size, which translates to higher production. Some of the critical water quality parameters include maintaining the correct pH, alkalinity, hardness, and DO.
Tilapia growth in mono-sex culture
If a mature male and female breeder are stocked in a pond or tank, they will immediately start spawning, given the right temperature. Since tilapia produces a lot of offspring, the competition for living space and food is quite tight, resulting in reduced tilapia growth rate or stunted growth. To solve this problem, raising mono-sex tilapia is suggested. This involves purchasing and growing an all-male batch of tilapia fingerlings, which are proven to grow faster than female fingerlings.
Tilapia growth in mixed-sex culture
In cases where the practitioner could not purchase an all-male batch of tilapia fingerlings, the grower would have to culture both male and female tilapia, which sometimes offers a higher yield if the correct species is chosen. In a mixed-sex culture of tilapia, the fish are harvested before they reach sexual maturity. However, the practitioner should avoid dense stocking and provide a suitable environment so the tilapia can reach the harvest size at four to five months.
Identifying which tilapia breed grows the fastest
There are different varieties of tilapia, and each has several strains that grow at a different pace depending on its genetics and environment. According to many practitioners, however, the Nile tilapia and Mozambique are the top fast-growing breeds that should be used for the commercial culture and recirculating systems like aquaponics. Below is a detailed description of each breed
Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)
Nile tilapia is a favorite of fish culture beginners because it is relatively easy to grow. It is believed to have been used for farming 3,000 years ago because it is a frequent subject of paintings in the tomb of a wealthy Egyptian. They can now be found in some areas of the United States with warm temperatures, although they are primarily farmed in Asia.
Among all the other tilapia breeds, it is considered to have the fastest growth rate because it grows roughly 1 to 2 pounds in 7 months. It also thrives in varying environmental conditions and water quality. For maximum growth rate, the water temperature should be 88 to 97 °F, and it should be fed three times a day. The ideal pH for this breed is 5.5 to 9.0, according to research published in Scielo.
Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus)
The Mozambique tilapia is a native of Africa introduced to the United States for aquatic plant control. It is usually olive-gray with a yellow belly, and unlike Nile tilapia, it cannot withstand cold temperatures.
The growth rate of Mozambique is 2 pounds in one year. Although it’s quite slower than the Nile tilapia, it is the better alternative for areas where the Nile culture is prohibited. This breed should be fed 3 to 5 times a day for faster growth. It should also be placed in the water with a temperature of 82 to 86 °F. Also, the ideal pH range for this fish is between 5 and 9.
Tilapia is a favorite fish to raise in pond and tank culture because of its fast growth rate. According to what we have discussed above, some of the factors affecting its growth are food and oxygen availability, water temperature, stocking, and water quality. Since tilapia also produce a lot of offspring, learning about their growth in mono-sex culture and mixed-sex culture will also help practitioners understand the relationship between stocking density and growth. In terms of which tilapia breed grows the fastest, Nile and Mozambique topped our list.