Environment Conditions for Raising Tilapia

Tilapia are able to withstand a wide range of environmental conditions, including high salinity, high temperatures, high ammonia concentrations, and low oxygen levels. This makes tilapia very suitable for aquafarming.


Although tilapia are freshwater fish, they can grow in elevated salinity conditions.

Salinity Tolerance for Growth
Nile Tilapia Grows well at salinities up to 15 ppt
Blue Tilapia Grows well at salinities up to 20 ppt
Mozambique Tilapia Grows well at salinities approaching seawater

Tilapia spawning is best in lower salinities. The fry perform better at salinities
less than 5 ppt.

Salinity Tolerance for Reproduction
Nile Tilapia Reproduce well at salinities up to 5-10 ppt
Blue Tilapia Reproduce well at salinities up to 5-10 ppt
Mozambique Tilapia Reproduce well at salinities up to 10-15 ppt


Tilapia are warm water fish and usually exposing them to temperatures lower than 50 to 52° F is lethal. Blue tilapia can tolerate somewhat temperatures down to 48° F. This limits tilapia commercial farming potential in temperate regions.

Tilapia Activity
Temperature Range
Feeding Stops below 63° F
Harvesting Stress and mortality from handling increases below 65° F
Reproduction Best above 80° F, no reproduction below 68° F
Growth Optimal from 82-85° F

Dissolved Oxygen

Tilapia are able to tolerate dissolved oxygen levels less than 0.3 mg/L, a level that would prove fatal to most other farmed fish.

Although tilapia can tolerate low oxygen levels, maintaining oxygen levels above 4 mg/L is preferable. This may require some aeration in high density cultivation situations.


Tilapia can survive in pH ranging from 5 to 10, but optimal pH is between 6
to 9.


The tilapia can tolerate high ammonia. Increasing ammonia concentrations increases the stress on the tilapia.

Ammonia Level
Effect on Tilapia
0.08 mg/L or above Depressed feeding
0.2 mg/L or above Some mortality occurs
1 mg/L or above Mortalities, particularly among fry and juveniles
2 mg/L or above Massive mortality


High concentrations of nitrate stresses fish because nitrate limits the ability of hemoglobin to transport oxygen within the body. Tilapia can tolerate higher nitrate levels than many other cultured freshwater fish.

For optimal cultivation, nitrate concentrations should be kept below 27 mg/L. To prevent nitrate problems in recirculating systems, chloride concentrations are often maintained at 100 to 150 mg/L chloride.


Popma, Thomas and Michael Masser, Tilapia: Life History and Biology, Southern Region Aquaculture Center, Pub. No. 283, 4p.

Broders, Adam, Matt Douville and Megan Slonski, Best Practices for Small to Medium Scale Tilapia Aquaculture, WPI, 2005, 102 p.


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  2. what is the best size to harvest and I have about 20 fish in a 45gal fish tank what size should the grow to
    thanks Floyd

  3. 1mg/L dissolved oxygen will stunt Tilapia growth and is not an optimum, in most cases the higher the better and it shouldn’t be kept below 3ppm. You should do further research before publishing this data.

    • Yes, you are correct. I checked some other resources and oxygen levels above 4mg/L are preferable for tilapia growth. Thanks.

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