Tilapia Nest

It’s been seven weeks since we received our small fingerling Tilapia and they are still growing like weeds.  Back then they could fit in a small plastic bag, but now they are too big for a 55-gallon aquarium.

It’s all too obvious that the tank is not big enough, because our Fluval 306 canister filter cannot keep up with all of the effluent, even though it is designed to clean a 70-gallon tank.  We are now considering a Fluval FX-5 canister filter, which is rated to handle up to 400-gallon aquariums.  Apparently the number of gallons is not as important as the number and size of fish in the tank.

Two days ago, I noticed that there was a “dent” in the gravel in the front-right corner of the tank.  Initially, I thought the gravel had been moved during a water change, but then yesterday I saw one of the tilapia repeatedly picking up gravel with its mouth, one or two pieces at a time, and dropping it a few inches away.  Eventually the “dent” began to look similar to a bird’s nest and two tilapia were guarding the area, chasing away any intruders.

When there was no one to chase, one of the tilapia would often wag its tail in the face and on the side of its partner, as the partner ignored all of the effort expended by the other.

They also performed a dance, spinning around each other as they hovered over the nest.

I estimate that they were about four weeks old when we received them, so they are about 11 weeks old now.  Various sources indicate that White Nile Tilapia are sexually mature at 4.5 to 5 months of age, so we still have about eight to ten weeks to wait before they can reproduce.  Of course, if my estimate is off by a couple of months, we may have some babies swimming around very soon.

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11 Responses to Tilapia Nest

  1. fishtanx2011 says:

    Very interesting, I’ll enjoy seeing how this works out. Did you consider other fish like Bluegill or Catfish for your project?

    • Yes. We considered a number of fish, including Bluegill, Sunfish, Catfish, Crappie, Bass, Yellow Perch, and Koi. But we decided to go with Tilapia, mostly because of their fast growth, ease of delivery, and incredible ability to survive poor water conditions…and my many mistakes.

  2. Lazytoliving says:

    This is so neat! I plan on following! Also, thanks for checking out my blog 🙂

  3. Donna says:

    This is very interesting. You know I’ve never seen Tilapia that wasn’t fileted? I guess I’ve been in Alaska too long. I’ve seen lots of huge Salmon though. So, I read somewhere on here that you used fish water to sprout the seeds. So would water from my fish tank be good for my garden? (when it is thawed out that is – it is still under several feet of snow)

    • Hi Donna! It should work great, but it really depends on what you put in the water. Since we will eventually eat the Tilapia, we don’t add any chemicals unless they are safe for human consumption (like Vitamin C). This should make it safe for our plants as well. Let us know if you give it a try. We’d love to hear how it works for you.

  4. Lora K. says:

    sounds like you got spawning going on. watch out for those babies. you may want to have a separate tank just for growing out the babies. if not, the big fishes will end up eating them. have fun.

  5. 1812 says:

    I was not familiar with Aquaponic gardening, and wish you all the best!
    Thank you for liking my post, “Palmer Amaranth, A Solar Storm And Thongbai Khamsri.”‏

  6. Hi! this is fairly typical tilapia behaviour leading to mating. Will be interesting to see when they do lay their eggs (they are mouth brooders). If they are too crowded, they will breed early and small, causing stunting. But watch out becasue they will also eat the fry when in a tank. In commercial aquaculture, the newly hatched eggs are taken from the mothers’ mouths and incubated separately in big tubes with circualtion and aeration that simulates the mouth of the mother.


    • Hi Meryl! Thanks for the info. I’ll try to find a way to thin out the herd so they don’t breed too early. We already have a few runts. Sure don’t need any more.

      We have a 29 gallon tank, so we’ll move the newborns over there ASAP. They’ll be gone in a day if Bacon is near them.

  7. 1of10boyz says:

    Knew a family back in the 1980s that was doing hyrdoponics. They had some of the best tomatos I have had. The task for them was much tougher as we were over 6100 ft in elevation so it was by no means easy growing. Good luck with your project.

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