Many growers choose tilapia for aquaponics installations. Adding fish is the next step after completing construction of our patio aquaponics system and tilapia is a sensible choice. But where does one source tilapia in Jacksonville, Florida?

Small aquaponics installation, means fewer fish

Since the tank is only 55 gallons, we didn’t need many fish to start cycling the tank. The other consideration is when the tilapia hit a pound, pound and half in weight, we would begin to harvest (eat) the batch and 20 fish full-grown should not overload the tank. Also, since they would be mature, the strong of the 20 would start spawning fry for the next batch of fish. We’d spare the breeders to produce fry in the future.

Blue Tilapia or Oreochromis aureus is our go-to fish

There are many varieties of tilapia. The specific tilapia breed we selected are blue tilapia,Oreochromis aureus. The reason is two fold. Blue tilapia can survive temps that dip into the 50s, so these fish would be hearty enough for an install on the patio in Jacksonville, FL. Yes, temps even in Jacksonville dip into the 30s during the winter but we’ve installed a heater in the tank set at 65 which should kick in during those cold evenings. The other reason for blue tilapia is you are only allowed to have this specific tilapia species for installs in Duval County.

We searched the Internet for a local provider of fingerling tilapia and found Tilapia Depot in St. Augustine. I emailed a couple of times with no response and finally called. I mentioned it wasn’t a big install and needed about 20. Despite the fact it’s just 30 minutes down the road, he suggested he still ship them for an additional dollar each. Really? We finally agreed to hand over $25 in cash if we met him at a convenient time.

Detail of Purchase

In honor of the proprietor’s request, we won’t describe his setup of his business. We were just thankful for him to honor our small purchase and pick up locally. He selected and bagged the 20 fingerlings and threw in a half pound of food as part of the purchase. This is a great practice considering this starter food would be more than enough to grow out each tilapia to about 3-4 inches!

All the fry looked very vigorous and healthy with some being larger than an inch — up to two inches. He packed them in a square foam container and mentioned how, if he were shipping north, he’d throw a heat pack under the bag of water containing the fry and which should last at least 24 hours. Well, we only had 30 minutes back to our home so no heat pack needed.

Introducing Tilapia to Aquaponics Fish tank

Prior to opening the bag, we placed it in the tank in order for the fry to adjust to the tank’s water temperature. After about 5 minutes, we began adding tank water into the bag itself. We continued adding water for another three intervals at five minutes between. We finally released the fish into the tank including the water in the bag. Normally, this is not good practice but since the water in the tank is fresh from tap (added Aquasafe to eliminate Chlorine), there is no beneficial bacteria to begin tank cycling, so the water from Tilapia Depot’s tank would supply this initial bacteria.

Prior to startup of adding vegetables to this install, we need to ensure beneficial bacteria would multiply and be able to produce the nitrates to serve as fertilizer — this would take 30 days of continually feeding the fish with the pump running this water through the system. Bacteria should start growing and multiplying on the hydroton which serve as the media for the vegetables to be planted.