Tilapia – A Companion Crop for the Home Gardener
Tilapia are known as “aquatic chicken” because they are easily grown and produce mild, white filets. Increasingly, as wild capture fisheries become depleted, there is a need to look for other protein sources. Aquaculture can help meet some of this demand. In the last ten years, tilapia have made their appearance in local supermarkets. Today, tilapia rank are the fourth most highly consumed seafood in the United States.
Tilapia can be farmed in sustainable fashion in small farm ponds. The fish are grown as a companion crop to common vegetables, such as lettuce and herbs. Waste from the fish are used to fertilize the vegetables. The organic material in the fish pond supports algae which help to filter and maintain water quality. The fish ponds can also fertilized with agricultural wastes which helps to reduce production costs.
Raising fish and vegetable crops in an integrated system is known as aquaponics and helps provide food in a sustainable manner. For the home gardener, this type of sustainable food production can be accomplished using fish tanks in outdoor sheds or small greenhouses that integrate hydroponic vegetable production or that are in proximity to traditional family gardens.