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I have a tilapia with a mouth full of eggs, whats the best way to save them? I have her in a 10 gallon tank with a grate on the bottom so she can't get to them once she spits them out. Is this what I want to do?

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Mine won't eat for the first week of holding eggs, but they do eat once the eggs start to hatch. My brooding females will take a little feed and garble it around with the eggs, presumably to let the babies start eating while still in the pouch.

Bill E said:

She will not eat while holding.

Tom Hickey said:

Very cool. I did have one other question. Should I feed her? She was not eating which is how I noticed she was with babies.


Dr. Brooks, thanks for the link, and I suppose I have you to credit for this tumbler that I have used since I first learned the soda bottle/air lift method last fall. I learned from Glen Martinez, who learned from a tilapia hatchery in the Philippines. As far as Glen knew, the man from the Philippines invented it, but I guess not...

Your tumbler works insanely good, and so simple. I have another clever and even simpler method that I picked up from Morning Star Fisheries in Florida. They use sort of an SLO type drain, where the pick-up point is a horizontal slotted PVC tube laying on the breeding tank floor. The mothers brood the eggs in natural fashion, and when the eggs hatched and are released, the babies try to hide in the small slits in the PVC pipe, where they are swept away by the current in the pipe, and delivered to a secondary tank that has a screened overflow, They are moved from that catch tank every few days to prevent overlapping generations preying on the younger fry.

Dr. George B. Brooks, Jr. said:

Tis the season to breed tilapia. So I thought you might find this paper on how to hatch tilapia eggs helpful. However, just to answer some pre-questions:

1. Yes it works.

2. Yes it really is that inexpensive. Naturally the cost has gone up some since 2002 when this paper was written but it can still be done for under $15 (not including the air pump)

3. Yes it is completely scaleable.

4. Yes it will work on a variety of other egg types as well.

Here is the link to the paper. Enjoy:

Thank you Jon. I had heard a few places were using the idea but I did not know where. Philippines huh? Cool. I will definately give your suggestion as a way of collecting fry in a more natural manner a try. I think it could have some real advantages for the home user. The tumbler idea was more designed for folks needing to produce a lot of fry in a controlled manner for a low cost. Also when you take the eggs from a female she immediately kicks back into breeding mode increasing the number of fry that can be produced in a given amount of time.

Agreed, completely. I use the tumbler mostly because I don't pay close attention to when the females should be moved, so I sometimes net females that just layed, and other times ready to wean. The MSF method doesn't kick out as many fry per week as tumbling, but takes almost no effort or attention.

I forgot to mention the other thing that led to the development this simple tumbler, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. Thanks to a couple of fantastic teachers, Joyce Baldwin and Ed Mendoza, we took a bunch of kids from the Gila River Indian Community all the way to win at the International Science Fair, host a session on education at the World Aquaculture meeting in 2005 and earn scholarships to Northern Arizona University. It is amazing what a child can learn from watching tilapia eggs develop. Here is an early article on our work back then.

Link to article:

Good advice Jason. I use a chemistry lab squeeze bottle that a get from a local lab supply store to flush the eggs.

Decided to build one. Had not done so for years. Took me 14 minutes and $8 dollars from memory. Used a plastic bucket instead of a 10 gallon tank, though I did find new tanks at Petsmart later in the day for $13 each. Here are some pics.

I'm having an issue with eggs that disappear.  I have some young Tilapia, they were acquired in late Feb. and only 1 to 3 inches.  Now the biggest are 6 or 7 inches, and I have seen eggs in their mouths 3 or 4 different times in some fish.  After about 5 days, the eggs disappear, and no fry are seen swimming around.

The biggest fish never has been seen with eggs, and I'm assuming it is male.  It is the stoutest looking one, and is the most aggressive.  I have seen it building nests and rubbing up against the other fish.  The fish that I have seen with eggs are generally longer in proportion compared to the one I think is male.

I have a 55 gallon tank with a divider that sections off about a third of it.  I have four fish in the 2 thirds side.  When I see the eggs, I transfer the mother over to the 1 third side.  I have never seen the mother drop the eggs when I transfer.  Sometimes, the mother is seen for several days still tumbling the eggs in her mouth after the transfer.

I don't know why they do not appear to hatch.  Can anyone offer advice?



Thanks for the reply Keith.  I think I'll just let them try on their own a few more times.  I don't really want more fish, I just want to be able to not sabotage them when I need them.
Keith Langdon said:

Most of us aquarium breeders will put the mother in a bare tank with a couple PVC pipes a sponge filter to let her take care of things. If she is a young mother the first couple broods may not work out.
Others will strip the eggs and put them into the afore mentioned egg tumblers. Once they hatch the go into a bare tank with sponge filter.

If the eggs did not get properly fertilized and don't hatch, the mother will eventually swallow them.

most tilapia species are mouth brooders so you should not interupt

I agree with Chip. leave it to its natural process. I have unfortunate experience of making my own tumbler for the eggs for a couple of time, but ended up with unhatched eggs. But now, I let the mother do her job, and this time I have lots of fry. I follow Chip advice. :) 

Chip Pilkington said:

Respectfully, leave her alone.

People frequently try to intervene and end up disturbing a very successful, natural process. Tilapia know how to have and then care for their young. There have been many unfortunate experiences posted by folks trying to "help."

She needs to get to those eggs - she will collect them and eject them over and over again. The tumbling process is beneficial to the eggs. You may have seen youtube vidoes of people building "tumblers" to simulate this. Many attempting to artificially hatch eggs have sad results as well. Moms know best - let her take care of her babies.

After they hatch, I generally don't take mom out for a few weeks. By that time they can eat finely ground pellets.

Good luck. It's a fun process and very rewarding.

Just for the record, natural breeding is great. No argument and I would never dissuade anyone from following that method. However, many who use artificial tumbling have great results as well

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