The tilapia is a tropical fish and it undoubtedly best suited for tropical areas where the water is warm all year round. It is however possible to breed tilapia in colder areas as well. In a colder area you might need to heat the water during parts of the growth season but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is impossible to make tilapia farming commercial viable. Tilapias need at least a 4-5 month long growth period. After that they can be harvested in the autumn. In this period you can get the fish to reach 0.5 pounds (220 grams) if you stock 4000 per acre pond. This requires supplemental feeding. Every extra month you allow before harvesting will increase the size of each fish dramatically.
The tilapia should ideally be kept in water with a temperature of 28-30 degrees C (82-86 degrees F), this might however not be practical in colder areas. Luckily it is possible to farm tilapia in colder water even if this will affect the growth rate. If the water temperature is kept above 20 degrees C (50 degrees F) the reduction in growth speed will not be too dramatic. However, if the temperature is allowed to drop below 20 degrees C (50 degrees F) the growth rate will decrease considerably. It is therefore recommendable that you heat the water to keep it above 20 degrees C (50 degrees F) during the entire 4-5 month growth season if the water temperature drops below 20 degrees C (50 degrees F) in your area during this period. Make sure to find out during how long you would need to heat your ponds and what it would cost before deciding to farm tilapia to make sure that farming tilapia is commercially viable in your climate.
Tilapia will survive temperatures below 20 degrees C (50 degrees F) if you don’t mind the reduced growth rate, they should however never be kept in water colder than 13 degrees C (55 degrees F). Temperatures below this will make them much more susceptible to disease and if the temperature drops even lower it can be fatal for the fish.
If you want to breed tilapia in a colder area it is important to choose the right species or hybrid of tilapia for your conditions. Blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus) is by far the most cold hardy tilapia species and is hence the most suitable species for cooler areas. There are several hybrids of Blue tilapia available that have the same resistance to cold but come with additional qualities, such as a faster growing rate than the pure species. Blue tilapia is also sold as bait fish to anglers which creates a market to sell small Blue tilapia if you want to. Blue tilapia can be kept in both fresh and brackish water.
A common problem when farming tilapia in warmer regions are that the tilapias start to breed which cause higher fish density and slower growing fish. There are a number of different solutions to this problem including farming mono-sex tilapia to get the maximum yield per acre. This is much less of a problem when breeding tilapia in colder region and if you have a growth period of no more than 4-5 months you don’t have to worry about this (if you use 1 month old fry) since you will harvest the fish before they reach sexual maturity. However, if you plan to cultivate the tilapia past the age of sexual maturity you might want to look into the different ways to eliminate this problem, such as mono-sex tilapia and cage or tank culture. You can read more about his by browsing this site.
It is no undoubtedly easier to farm tilapia in the tropics, but living in a colder area doesn’t make it impossible to farm tilapia. Just harder!