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Blue versus nile tilapia (aureus vs. nilotica)

I've been doing some researching on the internet and can't really find any differences between the two varieties except that in the blue, the males get a bright blue head. Are there any differences in the toleration of lower/higher temperatures, oxygen, size etc? I live in Phoenix so there will be some (LOTS) of heat in the summer, I'm not sure if I will need to heat the pond (I am planning on making it about 800 gallons- 5 'X 7' X 3') in the winter. I don't know if one or the other of these two fish would offer any advantages to me. I am brand new to this so thanks for your help!

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I don't know quite what your climate is like but I had blue tilapia here in central Florida and in a flood and drain system even in a simple plastic film greenhouse, For the past two years in a row, without supplemental warming, tilapia would not have survived.

I know people who have kept them alive by adding well water over night in the winter (our well water comes out at 72 F.)

A raft system might be more temperature stable than flood and drain media but usually requires some extra daily attention. A constantly flooded media situation might help stabilize temperatures during the extremes while still being low maintenance so long as the flow rates and grow bed to fish tank ratios are adequate.

As to the differences, I'm not really sure. Blues are basically legal here so that is what I went with before deciding that catfish were an all around better choice for our situation. The channel catfish can handle the heat well and they grow fast. The also grow bigger faster than mixed gender tilapia while being able to survive freezing water without dieing and they even keep eating and growing in water cooler than tilapia will eat in.
Thanks for your reply! The coldest we get here are highs of about 55 and lows of 28 (for like 1-2 hours), that's very rare, though I can see how during January we might have to have a heater of some kind. I thought since it's going to be in-ground that might help regulate the temps a little better.
I was hoping to ease into aquaponics. First get the pond set up, and have regular pond filtration and learn how to take care of fish and recognize problems for a year or so, and then convert it to an aquaponics set-up down the line. This way I'm dealing with less sets of variables at one time.
So as far as you know the two species are roughly identical in performance and requirements?
so far as I know, they are similar but there are other members here who know more details. I expect you will have to research what is legal to keep in your state.

If you go with a regular pond and filter. You will either have to keep the stocking very low (like a fish or two per 100 gallons) and feed levels low so that ornamental pond plants can take care of the nitrates, or you will need to do regular water changes to keep the nitrates at reasonable levels.

Now I applaud starting small but it would probably make more sense to have at least one grow bed to cycle up (cycle up probably takes about the same amount of time as for a pond filter) and though you might still need to keep the stocking very low, you would save buying an extra filter that requires cleaning every other day and you might also reduce the need for water changes a little bit if you can grow a few veggies. Having plants on the system doesn't detract from taking care of the fish. Gravel beds simply replace the filter. Trying take care of a tank of fish without the gravel beds isn't easier and unless you have a free source of very high quality water, I wouldn't recommend doing the fish first without the plants.

If anything, I would say get the plants and bacteria going fishless and then once you learn the temperature range you are working with, you can figure out the appropriate fish later.
I thought that the Blue tilapia would survive a little colder water than the Nilotica's. I am no expert, but am pretty sure I read that somewhere.

Rachel said:
Thanks for your reply! The coldest we get here are highs of about 55 and lows of 28 (for like 1-2 hours), that's very rare, though I can see how during January we might have to have a heater of some kind. I thought since it's going to be in-ground that might help regulate the temps a little better.
I was hoping to ease into aquaponics. First get the pond set up, and have regular pond filtration and learn how to take care of fish and recognize problems for a year or so, and then convert it to an aquaponics set-up down the line. This way I'm dealing with less sets of variables at one time.
So as far as you know the two species are roughly identical in performance and requirements?
I found this to be very helpful when comparing the different variety of Tilapia.
http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/tilapia/breeding.php
TCLynx Thanks for that advice. I am definitely a complete newbie here, so I especially appreciate everyone's patience.
As far as upcycling goes... could I use chicken poop to get that going? I've got plenty of that.... I also have a 10g guppy tank, would putting the tiny filter pad into a 800g pond overnight do anything at all? Are you saying that with a grow bed I will eliminate the filter entirely or just be supplementing it? I would like to stock as densely as possible. I don't necessarily mind some water changes as I'm sure the gardens would be big fans of that. I'm not sure how much water we're talking though.
My husband has already expressed that if I'm going to do this that he really wants it to look good and doesn't want pipes and plastic barrels etc. since it's going in the middle of the yard. So if I add grow beds, I have to figure out how to camouflage them. I just know this is going to be a lot to wrap my head around, and I'd really like to keep it as simple as possible.


Thank you Jeff, that link was great! It seems like if it's easier to cool the water in summer than heat it in the winter, than the blues would be a better choice, the niloticas if the opposite is true....
If done right, gravel beds can definitely totally replace filters. But if you are going to do floating raft beds for the system, you will probably need some separate filtration and possibly solids removal.

Grow beds can actually look very nice, especially when filled with plants. I personally think that rubbermaid stock tanks look quite lovely as do blue barrels but I'm odd.

Anyway, if you are really wanting to raise lots of fish to eat, you need to do quite a bit of research to learn how to best support them.

I would not advise using chicken poop for cycling up an AP system where you intend to eat the food out of it since warm blooded animal manure can carry pathogens if not properly composted. However, seemingly contradictory to that statement, you might find my blog post about Pee-Ponics. Taking the urine from a healthy person and sealing it up in a bottle for a period of time till the urea converts to ammonia tends to kill off most of the likely pathogens like e. coli and the resulting Hummonia is a pretty good ammonia source for cycling up a bio-filter. The tiny filter pad probably won't provide much of a kick start but it can provide a little seed bacteria to start the colonization just that much quicker, but even if you don't have starter bacteria, the process takes about the same length of time.
According to everything I have read the blues will take a little colder temperature. Both will become lethargic at about 60-65 degrees. I try to maintain the temperature above 70 you cannot do this here in Indiana in the winter outside. I bring whatever fish that are not large enough to harvest inside for the winter and finish in tanks in my basement. Before you get any fish make sure they are allowed in your state. I have raised both blues and Hybrid crosses. The hybrid crosses have a much faster growth rate than the pure blues. Even if you are going to sart small I would recomend adding grow beds to the system.

Rachel said:
Thanks for your reply! The coldest we get here are highs of about 55 and lows of 28 (for like 1-2 hours), that's very rare, though I can see how during January we might have to have a heater of some kind. I thought since it's going to be in-ground that might help regulate the temps a little better.
I was hoping to ease into aquaponics. First get the pond set up, and have regular pond filtration and learn how to take care of fish and recognize problems for a year or so, and then convert it to an aquaponics set-up down the line. This way I'm dealing with less sets of variables at one time.
So as far as you know the two species are roughly identical in performance and requirements?
I have decided thanks to all of your input that I will definitely start with some sort of grow bed set up as well.

I have checked the AZ game and fish site. I can't find any info on there about tilapia aside from the fact that we have 4 kinds here in the rivers because they were introduced in the 60's. It doesn't mention them as a pest or threat. I will do further research (any AZ folks know for sure?) but from what I can tell they are not prohibited. I still haven't decided on the best fish to start with. Eventually I'd like to set up some breeder tanks and make crosses.... would it be a bad idea for me to start with a 50/50 mix of blues and niloticas?

Onto the engineering!
Hi Rachel,
It seems like folks have hit on the pertinent differences between the two species. . . Blues will be more tolerant of lower temperatures generally, but honestly I have a healthy pop. of Niles that can handle just as much temp stress as the T. aureus I've played with. I actually like Niles more because their growth rate is generally better. I'm willing to risk temp. stress with fish that will grow almost twice as fast as my aureus hybrids. My all time favorite is Red Varian Nile tilapia- they're pretty and I've never had fish that put on such gorgeous weight and fillet weight. I've found they always feed (even when pretty stressed) and make my aureus hybrids look like sissies when it comes to weight gain.

Remember that most species of tilapia in the US are mutts with a pretty impure genetic background. (I read a study that traced all mossabicus in the US (I think) back to 28 breeding pairs imported from Africa, and the same is true for many of the other "pure" strain tilapia varieties, especially "blue" tilapia. most of the tilapia already have some degree of hybridization, so unless you plan on going for a very specific breeding program (and are willing to pay for purebred broodstock) just get as many different tilapia types as you can and see what does the best in your system. I've been breeding now for a couple years and generally Darwin has been my master breeder, and I now have some nice low temp. tolerant Niles, Red Variant Niles and RMWhites (this is what works for me- each system will be different- they're all different little ecosystems with unique requirements).
Oh yeah, my Niles will take temps down to 55 with little stress, and can handle 55-50 for a day maybe before they start dying (all of my breeding pairs have survived these temps- and most of their offspring have too). This is without any other serious stress factors. My RMWhites will do about the same. Supposedly they survive down to 50 for a bit more extended duration (although I've never tested them seriously). But they stop feeding between 60-55, and their feeding leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to my RVNiles. So they're pretty worthless at those temps anyway. I'd rather have a fish that dies than one that won't gain weight. The RVNiles I've taken down to 60 several times with no visible ill effects besides slight lethargy. They still feed much more voraciously at these temps than my RMWhites. I wish I could look at cortisol levels, but that's expensive. There's a lot to be said for home aquapons breeding "stress tolerant" fish as opposed to "temperature tolerant" fish. There's a lot of evidence that indicates that this can be done, and is probably being done on a number of informal levels. . . I really think that home breeders will unlock a number of genetic improvements which will hopefully be identified and spread.
I think you should go with your gut on this one. I like the blues best, but youve picked the best breed of chicken so I'd say you will be fine.

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