Is there a market for Tilapia in South Africa?

Tilapia is a common name that refers to a wide range of fish species form the Tilapia. There are, in fact, two species that are in indigenous to the South African area. This would be the Oreochromis mossambius and the Tilapia rendalli.

As of right now, there are no commercial farms for Tilapia in South Africa even though there is a huge demand for the low priced fish. This means there is a huge gap to be filled by back yard Tilapia farming. A small back yard setup can turn over around R20,000 per year.

Is Tilapia Back Yard Farming Profitable?

Aquaculture, specifically Tilapia farming, can come available in a variety of sizes. You can have everything from a large commercial setup to a small backyard pond.

A small backyard trough that is 1.2 meter wide by 2.4 meters long and a depth of 0.7 meters can produce around 65kgs of Tilapia or around R2000 per year.

When it comes to Tilapia farming bigger is better. To be profitable it is best to start with at-least 10 of these troughs. This will make around R20,000 per year which is a lot more profitable.

It is true that both commercial and back yard setups will require some of the same equipment, however, the more expensive equipment and methods will not be needed.

For instance, in a backyard setup, you would not need:

  • An oxygen generator
  • Cyclone filter
  • Drum filter, or an ion exchanger

Which means that the overall cost for a backyard setup is going to be substantially lower. That being said there is some equipment that will be needed to a backyard setup that you wouldn’t find in a commercial operation. Such items might include anything from air stones to filter pads or even bio balls.

Whether you are going to start a commercial operation or a backyard setup, there are five things that Tilapia are going to need to thrive:

  1. Clean water
  2. Oxygen
  3. Food
  4. Light
  5. Room to swim.

Without these key components, you are going to be unsuccessful in your venture. The production of Tilapia has been one of the fastest growing aquaculture species in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that there are 9 million kgs produced every year by over 100 different farms.

So, you can see that there is clearly a market for the fish.

It should be noted that much of this production comes from commercial facilities. However, do not let that deter you because backyard Tilapia farming can turn a profit. It can take almost 240 days for a Tilapia to grow into a 450g to 550g harvest sizes, which really isn’t that long when you consider it.

If the species grows even bigger they will be more profitable. That being said backyard farmers have to take into account their operating and startup costs. This is basically going to come down to the type of equipment and the size of the operation that you are going to be running. You won’t have to worry about any employee costs since you are probably going to handle the operation yourself, which is a major plus.

Along with this, if you are going to sell the fish, you will have to probably acquire a license and register as an LLC, which is going to further take away from your budget.

How To Get Started With Back Yard Tilapia Farming In South Africa?

Tilapia farming is a fairly simple concept, but it can require some specific equipment depending on the type of setup that you are going to use.

A backyard Tilapia pond will simply be nothing more than an above-ground container that is filled with water. Some people have used kiddie pools, IBC totes, fiberglass hot tubs, or even lined plywood troughs to construct their farms.

In order for Tilapia to thrive and grow they require one-half of a cubic foot of water or 14 liters for every full grown Tilapia of 0.45kg. This means that if you intend to keep 65kgs of fish in the same pond, you will need a pond that is capable of housing 72 cubic feet of water or roughly 2000 liters.

This would equal a 1.2 meter wide by 2.4 meters long plywood trough with a water depth of 0.7 meters.

Producing 65kgs of Tilapia in a year would not be very profitable. At R35 per kg the above trough would make around R2000. After equipment and maintenance costs i’d be very surprised if you make any profit at all.

If you are looking to turn a profit, you are going to want to be able to produce at least 450kg to 900kg per year. If 1.2 meter by 2.4 meter will produce 65kgs of fish this means that you would need at least 9 to 10 of these troughs to make a decent profit. This would require a space that is 25 meters long by 12 meters wide just for the troughs. You would probably want the space to be a bit bigger so that you would have plenty of room to move around.

9 to 10 tilapia troughs will make around R20,000 to R30,000 per year, or R2625 per month.

Other items that you are going to need are filters at the intake of the water supply to trap solids. You might also need a pump to feed the water to set up along with a number of alkaline or acidic products to help correct the pH levels.

An aeration device can also come in handy to help with oxygen circulation, but might not be entirely necessary. Tilapia survive in water that contains a pH level of anywhere from 7 to 9. In addition to this, you need to make sure that the water temperatures are suitable for the fish.

Best Climate For Tilapia Farming?

The success of your Tilapia farm is going to come down to several environmental factors. First, it should be noted that Tilapia are warm water fish, which means exposing them to environmental temperatures lower than 11 degrees Celsius is going to be lethal. Blue Tilapia can usually survive at 8.8 degrees Celsius, but it is not recommended to expose them to sure temperatures.

Feeding usually stops at around 17 degrees Celsius and optimal growth and reproduction usually takes place at around 28 degrees Celsius. As for the water temperatures, you want to aim for around 23 degrees Celsius.

In these temperatures, the species will be able to easily breed and grow to a mature level much faster than other cultured fish. If you meet these conditions, you might be able to produce a 1.1kg fish in just seven months. During certain times of the year, you might need to install a heater and thermometer in the pond to monitor and control the temperature.

The heater will require electricity, so this might require installing a new electrical outlet or running an extension cord. Depending on the size of the pond, you might require more than one heather. Just make sure you do the proper sizing to ensure that the right amount of heat is distributed throughout the farm.

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