Saturday, June 23, 2012

More on Tilapia Farming

Even though I just got home from being out of town for work all week I’m itching to head down south this time. 

I discovered a website called Tilapia Mama down in San Diego  Tilapia Mama holds classes once a month for $5.00.  Yes, you are reading that right.  Five dollars.  Tilapia Mama will show you how to make your Backyard Fish Farm (BFF) using either 55-gallon barrels or the 275 gallon totes.  I want to use my 650 gallon stock tank.  According to the website you can raise 12 fingerlings in a 55-gallon barrel with each fish growing out to a pound.  In other words, 12 pounds per 55 gallons.  This means my stock tank should be able to grow out 140 pounds of fish. 

I had read that it was illegal to raise tilapia north of the Tehachapi’s.  Tilapia Mama explained that it is legal if you are raising them in a closed system and you are not selling them commercially.  No, this will be to keep us as self sufficient as possible so I guess we are legal. 

Tilapia Mama figures to get started it will cost about $150. including the barrel.  Here's her suggested shopping list:

1. MyBFF starts with a used 55-Gallon food grade barrel.
Do not cut the barrel. Alternative: Buy a new barrel. 
(Sources: hydroponics store, In San Diego, Brit Cool is a dealer on for 55 gallon barrels and 275 gallon totes). 

For more information on how to put MyBFF together and the protocol for how to use it: Attend Tilapia 101 Workshop on the first Saturday of every month, from 3 to 5 pm.  Barrel must NEVER have had any soap in it.

 Alternative: Next, get the following essential items:
2. Air pump, rated for 36" deep - Petco brand
3. Ammonia Test Kit
4. Aquarium heater, 300 watt

Costco (or any drugstore)
5. Vitamin C (for organic dechlorination)
Home Depot
6. Chlorine Test Kit  (or get it at a pool supply store)
7. Five-gallon buckets (2)
8. Two-gallon bucket (1)
9. Pool Thermometer

San Diego Pet Supply (15th and
Island Ave
, downtown San Diego)

10. Twelve (12) of Tilapia Mama's fingerlings from San Diego Pet Supply, open 7 days a week. They sell the fingerlings for between $1.00 and $3.00 depending on the size of the fish.  

MyBFF Optional Items
These items are useful, but optional: 
Optional: Net Laundry Basket (for keeping the small fingerlings together in the MyBFF barrel)Optional: Kiddie pool (for growing duckweed)
Office Depot
Optional: Large Binder Clips   to to(to attach the net laundry basket and for the hoop greenhouse) Item # 963439  
Optional: Dip nets (for handling fish and duckweed)
Home Depot
Optional: Hot water heater insulation (to help keep the barrel warm)
Optional: Canvas drop cloth (to cover the insulation for a more durable covering)

Optional: Plumbers hand pump
(effective for transferring water by hand)
Optional: 1/2 inch PVC (for hoop greenhouse  over to cover MyBFF backyard fish farm)

San Diego Pet Supply (15th and
Island Ave
, downtown San Diego)

Optional: Pellet food to supplement duckweed. Tilapia food must be safe for human consumption.
Optional: Dip nets (for handling fish and duckweed) 

Hydroponic Plants
See Cornell University Method for Hydroponic LettuceResource: Cornell Lettuce Handbook  
For more information on how to do it: Attend Tilapia 101 Workshop  
Home Depot (for Cornell University Method Hydroponics)
.6 mil plastic for bed liner
1/2 inch PVC for hoops
3/8" rebar
hole saw
4 x 8 rigid insulation for rafts
mixing tub (to raise duckweed) 

Nursery or Garden Supply
pH test kit
128 cell trays
Peat Moss/Vermiculite/Dolomite Lime
Epsom Salt


  1. Glad to see you made it home safe...heard there were lots of accidents on I-5 this week. Love this post...talapia are my next "food" project. There's a fellow in the county north of me (Glenn) that has a small operation. I've already gathered the things I need...just have to put it together and get the fish (he has fingerlings). BTW: The solar guy was a bust! Not what I had in mind at all...I want OFF GRID! Did get some of the plumbing handled and cleared the area around the cabin...about a 500 foot branches, no needles. Thank goodness my brother went up with his crew to help...and the skip-loader!

    1. 500 feet! Great defensible space. These solar folks don't want to deal with off grid. In fact, most of the salespeople are trained in a two week training class and have never really had any solar experience at all.

  2. I'm curious about the legality. Is this because of the potential of being an invasive species?

    1. That's what I was told, which is why it didn't make sense that you couldn't keep it in something enclosed. This didn't make sense because Hanford has a community garden where they are growing tilapia and Sanger High does this as part of their ag curriculum.

    2. In Florida they had problems with people keeping lion fish in aquariums and then when a hurricane would hit the fish found their way to the ocean. That's the only rationale I can think of.

      Good article, thinking of making the drive to San Diego next month.

  3. Interested to see how your setup progresses. Are you going to be posting pictures?

    1. I will put up pictures when I put this together. I probably won't get to it until the end of summer since summer is my busy work time and often I'm away for weeks on end.

  4. Very nice and informative blog posting. Among all the fish, tilapia fish is Awesome! Farming this fish is very profitable and easy. I like this fish very much for it's unique taste and value.
    Tilapia Fish Farming