Golden Freshwater Clam

Tilapia strains

Tilapia has been farmed ever since the Ancient Egyptians began to keep Nile tilapia in ponds along the river. Today, the tilapia farmer can choose among many different strains of tilapia that has been developed to suit aquacultures. The use of traditional genetic selections methods is still the most common way of developing new tilapia strains and improving old ones. We might however see an increase in more high-tech genetic engineering in the near future. 

When choosing a tilapia strain for your fish farm there are many things to keep in mind.

  • Is the producer reputable? It is important to stick to reputable tilapia breeders since it is very hard to determine when quality of tiny tilapia fry at the time of purchase. Ideally contact several different breeders and compare them to each other before you make a decision. Do not hesitate to seek the advice of more experienced tilapia farmers, aquaculture organisations and similar.
  • What is the growth rate of the strains you are offered?
  • How large will the fish become? Generally speaking, you need a 2 pound fish (roughly 900 grams) to produce skinless 7-9 oz fillet (roughly 200-255 grams).  
  • How is the temperament of the strain? Docile strains are preferable since they lower the risk of losses due to handling stress and similar.
  • How is the climate in your part of the world? Even in the tropics, many regions experience “winters” where the temperature drops down to 22 degrees C (72 degrees F) or even lower. This will hamper both growth and spawning rates in your tilapia, unless you go for cold tolerant strains. If the climate is subtropical or temperate, cold tolerance becomes even more important. One example of a strain specifically produced to endure cold temperatures is the ND41 tilapia. It can trace its ancestry back to the really cold tolerant Blue tilapia, Oreochromis aureus.  
  • Do you wish to utilize brackish or marine waters? Perhaps you wish to cultivate tilapia together with shrimps to yield a second harvest? Tilapias are considered freshwater fishes, but there are species and strains that are remarkably tolerant to salt. Some can cope with brackish conditions and a handful will handle a marine degree of salinity. You can for instance try the ND56 tilapia. This strain tolerates salinity up to 35 ppt, which is the same as the average salinity of sea water.  
  • How prone is the strain to Streptococcus infection? Contagious streptococcus infections can easily cause mass death in a growing unit.
  • What is the colour of the strain? In some markets, red tilapia is much more sought after as a food fish than the other colour variants.
  • Do you wish to prevent uncontrolled breeding, food competition and stunting by raising male tilapia only? Some strains contain no females or just a low number of females, while other strains need to be treated with hormones to convert the females into males.