Aquaponics and Tilapia

I have agri land in Central Gujarat with good access to water, but a lot is left to be desired regarding soil. Its leased out for last 25+ years since all of us in the family dont live there anymore. Last few years I have toyed with the idea of coming back to India and taking up farming full time, but I want to do it only after a strong homework.

While here in southeast US for last few years I have gotten the opportunity to see a well balanced aquaponics systems first hand; and I have to say that it has impressed me a lot. the ones I have seen couple it with Tilapia, and to me that fish tastes great since it doesnt have the usual “fishy” taste. But my Indian friends here seem not to like Tilapia too much saying it doesnt have any taste. Is Tilapia widely farmed/fished in India? and can anyone tell me how big is the size of Tilapia market in india? I cant seem to find out any other fish which will be sustainable in a aquaponics system within the climatic conditions of my land.

My other question is how wide spread is aquaponics/hydroponics within India? I have relatives who are farmers and I have talked with bunch of my acquaintances, but I cant seem to find anyone with even a prototype system up and running. What are the reasons for this?

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Tilapia tastes good and can be well used for both Indian Curry and Fry…

Absolutely I think so too. However while growing up in Mumbai in 1990s I never even heard of this fish; none were in our markets. Hence, my question was how widespread is availability of tilipia nowadays in markets in India? is it a mass market product now or a “niche product”? I eat tilipia pretty regularly here in Atlanta, and almost allof it is farmed varieties.

a) People like Tilapia is very comparatively less.

b) Gujarat is a place have majority of Vegetarians and a few minority section likes fish prefer sea fish.

So a commercial venture in Tilapia may not workable in Mehsana, Gujarat,.

for Mehsana region, best thing is diary farming,


Though Tilapia is not available widely, it is not new to India. It was introduced in 1952 and later banned. Now Govt of India is  encouraging Tilapia.

Please check these links … _Final.pdf

I had doubted that size of tilapia market in Gujarat might be financially unviable due to high % of vegetarians there. Most of the people I know who like freshwater fish are not from Gujarat/maharahstra region at all. Hence, I was thinking about aquaponics where I couple fish farming with vegetables. As I said before, the soil isnt the best and conventional farming done there hasnt been very good.

Diary farming in that region is a very well developed business already, and I’ll gain no first mover advantage if I shift to it too, and will have to compete with folks who have been doing it for 30-4 yrs, and compared to their first hand knowledge, I have nowhere near the core-competency necessary to operate a dairy farm.

in your opinion, which region of India has the biggest market for Tilapia? I am ruling out export market because in US the retail price ($5-7/ib) of the fish is such that it might not be a very profitable venture, espcially considering the frozen supply chain.

Thanks a lot for the links. From my own google search I didnt catch that there is a blog about aquaponics in India; that’s definitely interesting.

Before I start an attempt at making a Aquaponics greenhouse at my land in Gujarat, I am going to make scaled down modular prototype aquaponics system here in US in my backyard. In summer, we have almost the same kind of climate, and I have read that stabilizing a aquaponics system is a lot of hassle (fish death) and experimentation, and the data I gather from this backyard experiment will be very valuable at preventing losses later on. Dr. James Rakocy at univ of virgin islands is somewhat an expert in this field, and from preliminary consultations, I think he can troubleshoot it better while I am still in US then back in India.

Do you personally know about any aquaponics systems already in operation in India?

Hi Jay,

I can’t be of much help. Like you, I am enthusiast. Tilapia has become my favorite here in US. Its taste is comparable to best of the freshwater fish I had(Andhra Pradesh) in India. Trying to know more about Tilapia, revealed the above info. About the same time, I saw your post here. Replied happily :slight_smile:


no problem at all, you did point me in right direction. thanks a lot for your input. The draft policy by indian fisheries dept is highly inconvenient as it stipulates minimum area of pond size for tilipia farming…this is made not considering the intensive nature of Aquaponics, and due to sheer size requirements of pond/reservoir, looks like I’ll be better off also looking for some other carp type fish like Rohu or Katla in the aquaponics system. 

Grouper is more profitable than tilapia. The market price is less for tilapia fish.

Groupers arent freshwater species, and wont thrive in an aquaponics system. Also, I personally havnt ever eaten a Grouper, so that would be a too much into uncharted territory.

It is an excellent idea, which is gradually catching up. But you have to study well as how to maintain water temperature in shore containment. I think  it is some what hot in Gujrat during summer. So, you must take out all fish before  it get too hot for them.

In Australia one university has been doing one step ahead. They pump generator exhaust gas in water inducing carbondioxide, growing fast growing algae to make Biofuel and also farm fish in water. A marvelous way of helping mother nature to balance the carbon cycle, while producing food-    Carbohydrate to  Hydrocarbon to Carbon dioxide and again back to carbohydrate at an inexpensive way.  It is just technology,  converting  the structure of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen.  Wish we could do that all over India , wherever possible

Yes, green house is gradually catching up too. Since our farmers are not very cash rich and it will take some time for them to catch up.

Aquaponics is gaining popularity in India, in terms of the understanding being expressed towards the science of its functioning. I speak from experience from recent interactions with entrepreneurs and farmers.

Independent urban/rural farm systems have been setup, in Goa, Bangalore, and Chennai. They are progressing well. You may these institutions on Facebook.

Now, the point on Tilapia and the reason behind its poor economics.

The rule of you are what you eat, extends to the fish world as well. The flavour of the fish is controlled by the water quality, aeration/DO levels, primary diet and environment(stocking density).

Tilapia in nature/ponds is at the bottom of the food chain and primarily behaves as a bottom feeder, feeding primarily on plankton, algae, decaying bio-matter etc. Those cultivated in fish farms in India are fed with algal blooms that are generated by pumping sewage, cattle manure or chicken intestines. In both cases the Tilapia seem physically healthy and show improved growth rates. However, these factors and poor bottom line feeding practices do not necessarily contribute positively to the taste of the fish.

In Aquaponics, features such as constant filtration, high DO levels and low stocking densities attribute to the tenderness of the fish and its high oil content which controls the nutritive value of the fish. Aeration in Indian aquaculture is still an absent practice in most farming operations. Levels higher than 8ppm are encouraged for good tasting fish. Furthermore, Aeration is to be determined based on stocking density, temperature, water pH, flow rates etc. This is one element that can completely turn around the quality or taste of the fish.

The fact that the fish feed investment plays a dual role of crop fertilizer and fish feed, allows for farmers to invest in the quality of fish feed, than look for cheaper alternates. Thus adding to the quality of the fish itself. This is why aquaponically grown fish rival some of the best tastes. Aquaponically grown Jade Perch, is said to bear resemblance in taste with wild Salmon. Tilapia grown in Aquaponics or RAS plants is also up there.

In our experience, the Middle East is an almost entirely seafood eating culture. They absolutely despise the taste of freshwater fish. However, 80% of our farm clientele in the Middle East comprises of the local population. This goes to show the characteristic of the fish grown under suitable conditions.

Thus taste is something that is controlled by the environment and need not entirely be attributed to the fish itself.

Also the economics of Tilapia grown in Aquaponics should be marketed by the first movers. Creating awareness with the consumer to break the norm associated with the species.

Even within the Tilapia fraternity, it should be understood that Nile varities versus the Mozambique are better tasting as they develop a more taste driven fat/muscle ratio.

So it comes to down to changing the perspective of the consumer and does involve some effort. This however is not as Himalayan a task as it may seem. Considering people are looking to eat tasty food.

Arvind Venkat

Mr. Venkat, thanks for your insight. In the past couple of months we have made some headway into the dual problem of tilapia marketability as well as aquaponics cultivation system based in India. We ran few focus groups last month to gauge the response from the fish consumers in Western India, and we did both a blind taste test as well as an open test. While the results from blind test suggested that people “might” be persuaded into eating tilapia, however when they were told beforehand that they were consuming tilipia, the response has been very negative. Those factors are making us to look for a local fish variety like catla in aquaponics system. However, doing that will force us to optimize growing conditions from scratch, and will delay the project my several months.

As a side question, where do you procure sexed tilipia fingerlings in India? Its very disturbing that there have been no commercial hatcheries which are dealing in it in large volume. if you have scaled up your aquaponics farm to that scale that you have your own in house tiliapia hatcheries, then please give us your quote and we will be willing to pay a reasonable price for it.

Another surprising thing is lack of availability of fresh tiliapia in western India markets…we have been relying on frozen imported varieties for taste test to perform market research. As soon as I get detailed data on that from, I’ll be happy to share major conclusions from it.

In india we have very few people who actually have hands on experience with Aquaponics. Traditional mindset with agro methods is still the norm. However all the signs are ominous and indeed there is no better time to get into Aquaponics than now. Looking at the scarcity of land and water (esp ecially) it is high time serious entrepreneurs took up this new and exciting technology.

Personally, I have extensive knowledge of aquaculture operations and I have also worked in the agro sector as a farm manager. The single largest hurdle is marketing. Production is standardized for many cash crops in India however when it comes to selling the end produce it is disgusting chain of middlemen and intermediaries who eat up most of the profits.

The solution lies in “building a scalable project with a direct access to the end customer”. Don’t worry about what the market for tilapia and how many people eat it or not. The value addition with a simple fish deboning machine is endless / priceless !! The key is to start small scale – build a community / following of customers – reach the customer directly at their doorstep – listen to them and adapt the growing pattern according to season and customer demand.

If u would like to talk to me my number is 9920010817 / –
All the best to you and yes, indeed you are on the right track my friend.


Please check my today’s post on the same subject and comment.

Please contact me at Looking to discuss about your question.

Hi all
Kindly check the link below for Aquaponics.
Aquaponics 101
With best regards