Cage culture, the practice of rearing fish in cages, can be applied in existing bodies of water that cannot be drained or seined and would otherwise not be suitable for aquaculture. These include lakes, large reservoirs, farm ponds, rivers, cooling water discharge canals, estuaries, and costal embayments. In the southern US, tilapia are among the most suitable fish for cage culture.
The most appropriate species or strains of tilapia for cage culture are Tilapia nilotica (Nile tilapia), T. aurea (blue tilapia), Florida red tilapia, Taiwan red tilapia, and hybrids between these species and strains. The choice of a species for culture depends mainly on availability, legal status, growth rate, and cold tolerance. Many states prohibit the culture of certain species. Unfortunately, T. nilotica, which has the fastest growth rate, is frequently restricted.
Tilapia can be cultured at high densities in mesh cages that maintain free circulation of water. Cage culture offers several important advantages. The breeding cycle of tilapia is disrupted in cages, and therefore mixed-sex populations can be reared in cages without the problems of recruitment and stunting, which are major constraints in pond culture. Eggs fall through the cage bottom or do not develop if they are fertilized.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Oklahoma State University.