Tilapia is a highly prolific and money spinning fish, but observers and actors in the Nigerian fish industry say that tilapia has not been given the desired attention over the years by fish farmers, compared with other fish specie.
The fish, which is naturally found in wild waters, but can be conveniently reared, is said to be relatively cheaper to rear than other types of fish such as catfish.
Yet, many Nigerian fish farmers are running away from it due to several reasons identified by experts in tilapia farming.
Mr. Benjamin Ajogwu, is a fish farmer and the Farm Manager of El – Cazz Ltd, which produces catfish, tilapia and poultry, among other farm animals in Yelwa village in Nasarawa State. He says that prominent among the factors scaring farmers away from tilapia production are lack of reliable source of parent stock, taste, market and low technical capacity among fish farmers across the country.
The farmer said that unlike catfish, which good fingerlings and juveniles are easily available, good tilapia stock is difficult to find, adding: “Good mother brings forth good children, tilapia stock can be got from the wild.”
Explaining further, the farmer said: “Not many fish farmers know how to rear tilapia. So, they rush for catfish. Other factors that attract them are better taste and market for catfish.”
Ajogwu maintained that tilapia farming is capital intensive, but added that one could start on a small scale and after acquiring the requisite knowledge, expand the business.
He said tilapia can be reared in earthen or concrete ponds among others, but the best habitat for the fish is natural water way with inlet and outlet.
“For you to get the best output, you have to feed them very well with floating feeds three times a day. Some people use other feeds and wastes but that causes water pollution, leading to health issues.”
The farm manager advises that even as tilapia is very strong and have minimum health challenges, the farmer must do the right thing and watch out for signs of ill health, adding that the ponds must be protected against birds and reptiles.
He said good tilapia species mature in six months if well fed. A 1kg sells at about N600, while the farmer spends about N400 to raise it to table size.
“So, the business is lucrative. Even as people fear the market for tilapia, the demand is high. At worst, you can roast and sell. There is no way you cannot break even,” he said.
Another tilapia farmer, Mr. Joshua Inimiye, urged fish farmers to dismiss their fears about tilapia farming and invest more in the business to ensure food security in the nation.