Tilapia is a variety of mild white fish available all year-round. It is rich in high-quality protein, low in fat and a good source of vitamins and minerals essential for human health.
An understanding of the natural feeding habits of tilapia is important in order to produce an acceptable and nutritionally adequate diet and a proper feeding regime to ensure optimal growth and survival of the fish.
Proper Feeding of Tilapia
Tilapias are also daytime and surface feeder. It means they eat at the water surface and eat more during the day. At night there is little or no feeding activity.
Tilapias are able to utilize below the optimum and still produce good growth. The use of sub-optimal protein levels in tilapia feeds will lower feed costs and improve economics.
Forms/ Types of Feeds
1. Mash or powder form
This is given to fish weighing less than 0.2g. to 5.0g./pc. This is known as the fry mash
This is given to fish weighing 5.1g. to 30.0g./pc. This is also known as the starter crumble.
This is given as soon as the mouth of fish is big enough to swallow the smallest size of pellet.
a. Juvenile Pellet. This is known as the grower pellet. It is given to fish weighing 30.1 to 90.0g./pc.
b. Adult Pellet. This is known as the finisher pellet. It is given to fish weighing greater than 90.0g./pc.
4. Dough or ball form
It is prepare by adding water to the feed while mixing until sticky mass is formed. In the absence of pelleting machine, feed maybe prepared in this manner.
Feeding Ratio: the amount of feed being fed daily to the fish. It is also expressed as percentage of fish biomass.
Feeding Schedule: specific time and frequency at which the feed allowance is given to the fish.
Special Pointers to achieve optimal growth:
- Tilapias prefer smaller pellets and dislike hard pellets. As a rule of thumb, small fish should be provided with small feed particles while large fish should be provided with large feed particles.
- Feeding rates are affected by water temperature. Fish of all size eat less and stop taking feed as water decreases or increases beyond their optimum range. Optimum production temperature is approximately 28 degree Celsius with a range between 25-30 degree Celsius.
- Always feed the fish at the same time and in the same part of the pond. Fish will learn where to go to get their food.
- Do not overfeed. Too much food will not be eaten but will decay and will use up oxygen during decaying process.
- Monitor the dissolved oxygen (DO) of the pond regularly. Ponds with low DO concentrations, fish will eat less and they will not convert food to flesh efficiency.
- Do not feed the fish for about 24 hrs. before harvesting or transporting. When the fish eat, they void the waste into the water. Combination of food and wastes makes the water turbid and increases the stress that is already placed on fish by the breeding and harvesting process.
- Always have routinary pond cleaning and stock inventory. Aquatic macrophytes remove inorganic nutrients and limit phytoplankton growth.
- Keep daily record of feeds given and of fish mortality. It would determine the efficiency of a feeding program and would help one to interpret if the business was successful or not.
- Avoid overstocking the pond. It deteriorates water quality, increases metabolic waste build up that leads to poor utilization of supplemental feeds.