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#11859 03/17/05 12:24 AM
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There's much talk about tilapia these days. Some folks thing they are going to save the world, some don't know how to pronounce the name of the fish. I also have an opinion or two about the fish. This bit focuses on stocking tilapia as a corrective measure. They can also be stocked as baitfish even if you aren't taking corrective measures.

In many ponds/lakes that have been left unmanaged for years, things happen and usually there is high cost for corrective measures. Be it vegetation issues of underweight/overpopulated bass, there is a significant problem to be solved. Tilapia can be the solution in the short-term and long term.

Here's a short-term example: You acquire a pond or lake or suddenly decide to take active management steps with one that has been neglected. The water has been clear, weeds grow like the plaque, no plankton production for years, overpopulation of small bass, and the big ones you still brag about or hear about are dead and gone or can't be caught. Bluegill are present and have the capability to rebound with the right conditions...a plankton bloom and reduced predation. But bass are overcrowded and may stand in the way of a bluegill rebound. Since tilapia reproduce as often as every 6 weeks, are mature at 3-4 inches, have the right body shape for easy consumption (as opposed to monster bluegill, and can produce 1000's of lbs of brood per acre per year , they are a miracle drug. Say you treat your weeds with sonar, they die and become a food source for filamentous algae...you are growing food for tilapia. Say you fertilize to create a bloom to get ahead of filamentous algae after a herbicide application...you are growing food for tilapia. Say you feed with artificial pellets...you are feeding tilapia. You are hence feeding your predators by having a fish that converts a nuisance into a fat bass.

Here's a long-term example: Our experience is that tilapia populations encourage growth of plankton by constantly consuming bottom growth and suspending nutrient rich organic matter. In all of our survey experience on ponds and lakes, those that had a natural plankton bloom, for whatever reason, had tremendous populations of both bass and bluegill. Tilapia stocking may increase production of plankton indirectly, which would create a very desireable condition. These forage fish should not be stocked just once, unless you flat out decide they are not what they are hyped up to be. If your results are desireable the first year, you should stock them every year. They'll build equity in your pond until fall then they will cash out like the lottery!

I welcome comments.


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Todd - How good are tilapia at eating filamentous algae? Lets assume you had 450 to 500 linear feet of filamentous algae (1/3 ac pond) that lines the banks down to a depth of 3ft deep. 1. How many tilapia at what size should be stocked to get the filamentous algae under control or at least make a good dent in the amount present?

2. Filamentous algae comes in several general types and no doubt they have several different flavors. I know for sure that the textures are different; some fine & slimey (Spirogyra, Oedogonium), some coarse like sheep's wool (Cladophora, Pithophora). In your experience are there types of filamentous alge that tilapia do not eat?


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I have kept blue tilapia (aurea) in a fish tank at my house.

I still have a small 2" juvenile.

I had a 13" adult in my 75 gallon.

It preferred to eat stuff other than the algae and elodea in the tank.

Now I had a 5" juvenile in an outdoor patio pond and it liked lettuce and duckweed. There was still algae in the container.

I think they eat more bugs, zooplankton and plants than algae.

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I catch my tilapia out of Lake Julian in Skyland, NC.

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Bill,

What you describe is what I had in a small pond that I reported on in the recent Pond Boss issue.

I stocked about three pounds of Tilapia (from Todd) in a completely algae covered pond which had high nutrients from cattle. Did it as a lark, so to speak. By summers end, the algae was completely gone. Absolutely remarkable.

I understand that many question or do not believe that Tilapia eat algae...and perhaps they don't in every situation.

However, I can tell you guys, question all you want, but meanwhile I've had my ponds cleaned out of algae by Tilapia...I've seen it first hand and I'm among the believers. No more chemicals, no more ugly mats of pond scum.

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I can't wait to play with tilapia this year but I am wanting to play with them as production fish/pets. I want to put them in troughs and three tiny ponds with the largest pond 1/4 acre. I'll feed them in one or two and the troughs. Any idea on how I can controll their numbers so they will grow big enough to eat?

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What species of tilapia did you stock?

Thanks

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Brian,

Based on my experience (one growing season in three ponds), you need predators if you want them to grow....LMB, HSB or something. In the one pond I stocked without predators, strangely the Tilapia did not grow out....they multiplied like crazy and when they died (see picture in Pond Boss magazine) they were all about 6 to 8 inches. In the ponds with predators, I caught many 2 pounders and one estimated at near 3 pounds. My unscientific conclusion was that the predators keep the numbers of small Tilapia fish down so that there is more food for those remaining.

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I have stocked the Mosambique tilapia and have watch them eat a variety of things.

The smaller ones like to suck the algea off the leaves and branches in the water.

The larger ones (over 12 inches) have been seen almost grazing like cattle on the chara. Tearing off large clumps and eating it.

All are easily pellet trained.

My 2 cents.

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Bill,

We had a 1 acre pond, covered with spirogyra after a herbicide application for arrowhead and primrose. Stocked 20 lbs tilapia then 20 of my best florida bass fingerlings in June. Filamentous algae was was gone in 2 months, bottom is sand, raised 900 lbs tilapia. I don't claim anything other that what I've seen. If you're in the mood to experiment then send me some samples, will see if they eat it.

Todd


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I have heard rumors that Mozambique tilapias will feed on blugill eggs and compete for nesting sites is this true?

What water temperature do you recommend to stock tilapia in a lake?

What is the lowest temperature they can handle before they completely die off?

Does the water temperature in a lake affect how often they reproduce?

My lake is currently at 62 degrees and warms to about the high 70's low 80's in the late summer it then cools off to approx. 55 degrees in the winter. The lake is approx. 100 acres in So. California.

I want to stock tilapia for all the reasons explained in the first post. How many adults should I stock say 1 -2 lb. tilapia?

How many 2 - 3" tilapia should I stock if I go with these smaller ones in lieu of big ones?

I have a bass population with the bulk of our bass between 12 - 16" currently, no shad, and a fair number of small bluegill with most better than 5" long.

Thanks - great info!!

Dave

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I have heard rumors that Mozambique tilapias will feed on blugill eggs and compete for nesting sites is this true? I don't know if they will eat bluegill eggs, but doubt it. Sure they compete for nesting sites.

What water temperature do you recommend to stock tilapia in a lake? It is safe at 63F stable.

What is the lowest temperature they can handle before they completely die off? 55F

Does the water temperature in a lake affect how often they reproduce? Yes.

My lake is currently at 62 degrees and warms to about the high 70's low 80's in the late summer it then cools off to approx. 55 degrees in the winter. The lake is approx. 100 acres in So. California.

I want to stock tilapia for all the reasons explained in the first post. How many adults should I stock say 1 -2 lb. tilapia? 5-10 fish per acre.

How many 2 - 3" tilapia should I stock if I go with these smaller ones in lieu of big ones? 10 lbs per acre at least.

I have a bass population with the bulk of our bass between 12 - 16" currently, no shad, and a fair number of small bluegill with most better than 5" long.

Thanks - great info!!

Dave


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One item that hasn't been asked or mentioned.......

If tilapia are successfully stocked and their population rapidly increases (as expected), and the predator population has a reactive population increase (in size and/or quantity): Assuming no harvest of the expanded predator population, what happens to these preditors during the winter when their primary prey (the tilapia) meet their Maker in the fall when water-temps fall below 55F?

I posed the above question to Bob Lusk today at the BASS 102 Conference in Conroe. His response (if I interpretted him correctly) was that maintaining a predator:prey equilibrium would become manditory if tilapia are introduced into the scheme (that means harvesting predators). Otherwise, one could end up with a predator population that could decimate the overwintering stock of bluegill after the tilapia have checked-out for the season.

Any comments on this line of thought?

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Kelly, I've been thinking that reducing predation on BG during the tilapia "season" would cause/allow them to expand their numbers sufficient to feed predators over the winter. It kinda begs the question about "season" two. Kicking smoking was a real character builder and I wonder about kicking the tilapia habit.

I also worry about biomass problems in an area of scant rainfall. If these guys spawn like they are reputed to, can they foul their nest?

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As a fisherman, I was always taught that in fall bass gorge themselves on baitfish whether it be tilapia or shad, or trout for that matter. In the winter feeding slows because of cooler temperatures and thus, reduced metabolism. This is why fishing is so much tougher in the winter... Just a thought, any comments.


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Maybe I'll do an experiment in a 1/2 acre pond this year with large bass, coppernose, and tilapia, to see what happens by winter. Seems there is a concern that the stocking of tilapia will indirectly lead to an unbalanced predator/prey relationship. This concern is valid if one chooses to stock tilapia only one year, but not valid if tilapia are stocked every spring. If bluegill aren't doing if for your bass, tilapia may, by consuming an alternative food source and spawning tremendously. Assuming tilapia are a better forage than bluegill (as asserted by Dr. Joe Lock in an aricle entitled "Trophy Bass Production in East Texas Ponds and Small Lakes"), we should stop worrying about the bluegill wellfare. I would be willing to bet that bass don't lose much weight in winter, with temps below 55, because their metabolism slows and they don't need much food. With tilapia consumption from November/December (in this part of Texas), they produce a very large egg mass and are actually more fecundative during spring spawning season.

To view the article by Dr. Lock, see my website...www.overtonfisheries.com. Look under the tilapia link or LMB link.


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Dave, Most of us are in the same boat as for "concerns", but at least we're talking concerns over a forage base. Threadfins are somewhat difficult to establish, fatheads get wiped out...and I seriously doubt the Bgill has it's reputation at stake with Tilapia. The Tilapia's life cycle will only change a feeding period for 1/2 year..hopefully we'll work together to manage the results. I'm sure we'll all learn a lot thru this forum, but for now, I simply want to use all phases of the food chain. I know fertilization hurt you in the past, I won't go that route for now, rainfall is too unpredictable in our area. But, look on the bright side, those hot summers allow us this new unconventional option. More trial and error...

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Amen! That's the concept I have in mind.


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Todd O', What are your thoughts about pressure being taken off the bluegill base and thus actually improving it? If that is true, and I don't see why not, it appears that even with enhanced predator growth, my bluegill base should be supportive of it; even without tilapia restocking. If it wouldn't really work, I may have to eat more fish or quickly get more tilapia. At least the damn bass should get easier to catch if they're hungry.

It sounds like my biggest concern should still be increased biomass coupled with evaporation caused drawdown and resulting DO problems.

Heck, I have 2 one acre ponds. I'll probably try one of them. If it doesn't work, it'll just be another of my experiments resulting in more character building.

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I think tilapia take predation pressure off of bluegill, but that doesn't necessary ensure improved bluegill spawning and recruitment, because tilapia will compete for bed-sites. Best if you are stocking tilapia is to feed your standing crop of bluegill and get what reproduction you can from them in addition to what tilapia will naturally do. I've seen coppernose spawn in early april on very warm days, which would be great if you haven't already stocked tilapia by that time.


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I'm just amazed at the number of folks who swear that Tilapia will not do what I have seen them do....and in every case those same folks do not have nor have ever had Tilapia

I have seen them thrive on algae and chara. I have seen them clean up 50 plus year old nutrient rich ponds. I have seen them increase the bluegill population in all ponds and most of all have seen them increase the weight on LMB and HSB.

I attended half of the Bass 102 conference this weekend and visited with more disbelievers...some professional. Why are people so ready to use chemicals on their ponds and so skeptical of Tilapia. Seems like the thought process should be reversed. Copper can stay in your pond for a long time, Tilapia only one season. Other chemicals can stay in our bodies a long time....unlike Tilapia.

Yes, you have to stock every year to gain and sustain the benefits...but what is wrong with that? You are in complete control of the situation that way. Is it money? I think not, when folks are willing to spend hundreds and even thousands of $ on chemicals and other forage fish annually.

So why all the skeptics on Tilapia?

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Meadowlark, everytime I neglect to renew my membership in the Flat Earth Society, my head gets handed to me.

I have seen my bluegill overpopulate, foul their water hole and then die off. I have fertilized and increased the carrying capacity resulting in a DO crash and a die off. Kinda sickening to watch 5 lb. catfish die. Each time it was all my fault.

I am in an area of sparse/questionable rainfall. Tilapia spawn like they were being injected with Viagra and Spanish Fly. Biomass problems are a yearly concern. My yearly concern is a one acre pond becoming a 1/2 to 2/3 acre mess.

Hey, I'm going to try it one one of my one acre ponds. BTW, did I understand that they had somehow improved the bottom sludge situation in one of your ponds? I think I remember something about that in the PB Magazine article. Or maybe I just thought that was what it said.

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Dave,

Every situation is different and there aren't any magic pond solutions to everyone's situation...and as you know, we get lots of rain in East Texas.

Having said that, I'm still amazed at the outright disbelief at what I have seen and actually experienced. It doesn't sell chemicals and doesn't necessarily confirm the great theories of Pond management, but for me and my ponds Tilapia works, big time.

Yes, I saw visible evidence of reduced pond bottom biomass. Better yet is the scientific study that showed in Egypt, that Tilapia reduced the bottom layers of silt by "2 to 3 inches per year".

I guess if I was selling these things or had a relationship with someone who is doing so, I could understand the disbelief...but it isn't so. I only wrote what I saw in hopes that others could also experience these benefits. If folks choose to not believe, then so be it. They are missing out on a great pond management tool.

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Have 20 lbs of Tilapia on order with one supplier and 40 lbs on order with another. Will stock in a 1 acre LMB-Coppernose pond; a 5 acre LMB-Coppernose pond; a 2 acre HSB-Coppernose pond. All ponds have protein feeders and algae problems. Hope to start stocking by mid April. Will keep posted on results.

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Meadowlark, I understand tilapia to be filter feeders. However, you report that you occasionally catch them on a fly rod. What do they eat other than filtered plankton and green plants? Do they ever take commercial pellets?

BTW, I have never seen a grass carp take a pellet but did catch one on a piece of nightcrawler. I'm wondering if the tilapia will starve out the grass carp. No problem; if the weeds come back, I will just get more tilapia.

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