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Ohio Tilapia Culture

While aquaculture is growing in Ohio, tilapia farms are still a minor contributor to the overall state fish production.Ohio Production




For more information, see Ohio Aquaculture Industry Analysis

Some Ohio tilapia farms:

Ripple Rock Fish Farms
6805 Old Stagecoach Road,
Frazeysburg, Ohio, 43822

Sugar Creek Fishery
7799 Sugar Creek Rd
Lima, OH 45801
Phone:(330) 554-7151

Regulatory Issues in Ohio Regarding Aquaculture

By: Laura Tiu, Aquaculture Specialist, OSU South Centers

Aquaculture is a form of agriculture in Ohio.

Ohio Revised Code 1.61. “Agriculture” defined.

As used in any statute except section 303.01 or 519.01 of the Revised Code, “agriculture” includes farming; ranching; aquaculture; apiculture and related apicultural activities, production of honey, beeswax, honeycomb, and other related products; horticulture; viticulture, winemaking, and related activities; animal husbandry, including, but not limited to, the care and raising of livestock, equine, and fur-bearing animals; poultry husbandry and the production of poultry and poultry products; dairy production; the production of field crops, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, nursery stock, ornamental shrubs, ornamental trees, flowers, sod, or mushrooms; timber; pasturage; any combination of the foregoing; the processing, drying, storage, and marketing of agricultural products when those activities are conducted in conjunction with, but are secondary to, such husbandry or production; and any additions or modifications to the foregoing made by the director of agriculture by rule adopted in accordance with Chapter 119. of the Revised Code.

In a recent survey of State Aquaculture Coordinators, the 17 states that define aquaculture find it has a number of benefits:

  • sales and use tax exemptions
  • building code exemptions
  • right-to-farm laws developed to create a legal buffer between farms and encroaching suburbanites
  • allows for sovereign submerged land leases
  • protects farmers who follow BMPs from environmental lawsuits
  • provides for an ombudsman to resolve issues with regulatory agencies
  • disaster assistance from USDA
  • access to land, water appropriations, and discharge exemptions provided to agricultural operations
  • provides a seat on the state’s Agricultural Commission and representation by Farm Bureau
  • makes theft of farmed fish punishable
  • allows exemption from wildlife regulations on take method, season, limit, and size
  • allows producers to file for agricultural land tax rates
  • provides for coordinated fish health monitoring efforts

Aquaculture permits in Ohio.

Fee: $50.00 – $100.00

Ohio Revised Code 1533.632. Aquaculture permits in Ohio.

Permitting for production of aquaculture species is provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife.


The Aquaculture Law Digest is accessible on-line as ODNR Publication 61.

Permits are annual from January 1 – December 31.

Transportation and Baitfish permits information available on the same webpage.

Fish Importation into Ohio

Aquatic fish health is regulated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture

Find more information on this website: http://www.ncrac.org/Info/StateImportRegs/ohio.htm#Importation

Storm Water Discharge permits – Ohio EPA

Fee: $200.00 – $500.00

As of March 10, 2003, if your construction project disturbs 1 or more acres of ground, you must get a permit to discharge storm water from your site. If your project disturbs less than 1 acre but is part of a larger plan of development or sale, you also need a permit to discharge storm water from the site. This includes excavation of ponds.

For more information: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/storm/construction_index.aspx

NOI form: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/portals/35/documents/NOI_form2_fis.pdf

NOI costs: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/permits/gpfees.aspx

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit

Specific language from Federal Register 40 CFR part 451, Vol. 68, No

162 August 24, 2004:

On June 30, 2001, EPA finalized a new rule establishing regulations for concentrated aquatic animal production (CAAP), or farm raised fish facilities. The regulation will apply to approximately 245 facilities that generate wastewater from their operations and discharge that wastewater directly into waters of the United States. This rule will help reduce discharges of conventional pollutants, primarily total suspended solids. The rule will also help reduce non-conventional pollutants such as nutrients. To a lesser extent, the rule will reduce drugs that are used to manage diseased fish, chemicals used to clean net pens, and toxic pollutants (metals and PCBs). The final rule applies to direct discharges of wastewater from existing and new facilities that produce at least 100,000 pounds of fish a year and discharge at least 30 days a year and facilities that produce at least 100,000 pounds of fish a year in net pens or submerged cages.

Information: http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/guide/aquaculture/index.cfm

Form: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/portals/35/permits/cafo_fedrgstr_form2b.pdf

Water Withdrawal Facilities Registration

The Water Withdrawal Facilities Registration Program, as established in H.B. 662 by the Ohio General Assembly in 1988, implements one of the objectives of the Great Lakes Charter in Ohio. Section 1521.16 of the Ohio Revised code requires any owner of a facility, or combination of facilities, with the capacity to withdraw water at a quantity greater than 100,000 gallons per day (GPD) to register such facilities with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Water. The Water Withdrawal Facility Registration (WWFR) Program will provide information of great importance to the citizens of the state. Water, one of our most basic and precious natural resources, needs to be studied more intensely and water resource planners need reliable information to plan for the future. The state’s economy depends on water and economic development will continue to place increased demands on this critical resource.

Water withdrawal forms: http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Water/wwfr/default/tabid/4265/Default.aspx

Fish Processing

Your aquaculture permit allows you to sell fish live or whole on ice. If you want to process your fish product, you fall under additional regulations.

On-farm retail: If it is 100% retail from the farm (no wholesaling), it does not fall under the federal or state seafood HACCP regulation, just the local health department.

Every “processor” must conduct a hazard analysis to determine whether they have likely food safety hazards that they must control. This processing falls under Federal HACCP regulations. For more information go to:


For HACCP questions in Ohio:

Diane R. McDaniel
Assistant to District Director
1600 Watermark Drive
Suite 105
Columbus, OH 43215
(614)487-1273 Ext 15
(614)487-9658 (fax)

Kentucky Tilapia Aquaculture

Tilapia: A Potential Species for Kentucky Fish Farms

Kentucky Fish Farming, 12(1): 6

William A. Wurts, State Specialist for Aquaculture
Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program

Several species of tilapia and their hybrids are farmed throughout the world.  The blue tilapia (Tilapia aurea) is a species that has been grown in the United States.  Another commonly cultured species is Tilapia nilotica.  There is evidence to suggest the Egyptians raised tilapia in ponds over 3000 years ago.  Tilapia are also called “Saint Peter’s Fish” because it has been said that they were the fish Peter caught when Christ told him to cast out his nets in the Sea of Galilee.

Tilapia have several attributes which make them attractive as a culture species:  high tolerance of poor water quality and crowding, good performance on commercial catfish feed (32% protein), a high degree of disease resistance, and a mild flavored, white flesh.  Because of their tolerance for poor water quality and crowding, tilapia are well suited to cage culture and recirculating systems.  Research has also shown that in addition to controlling filamentous algae, tilapia stocked in channel catfish ponds can help control off-flavors by eating blue-green and other large planktonic algae.

Tilapia have a good growth rate.  A 2- to 4-ounce tilapia fingerling can reach ¾ lb by the end of a temperate growing season.  Tilapia performance is best in a temperature range of 72-90º F.  Growth and feeding slow when water temperatures drop below 70º F.  However, tilapia are cold intolerant and die when water temperatures are lower than 45-55º F.  Blue tilapia will survive in lower water temperatures (above 45º F) than most other species of tilapia.  The pond production season in Kentucky would begin in late April and end before the middle of October.  Therefore, tilapia harvesting and marketing would be seasonal and within a week or two of the same time each year.  Indoor culture of tilapia in recirculating systems could extend the growing season.

Aquaponics at Kentucky State University Aquaculture Research Center


Information supplied by Angela Caporelli (AGR) email: angela.caporelli@ky.gov:

“KY requires a “Propagation Permit” through KY Fish and Wildlife. This lets you raise transport and sell fish within the state. If you are transporting out of state your would need transport permits from those receiving state and transit states.

KCARD has helped some fish farming enterprises put together business plans for fish farms and there are several resources through the publications available through the Southern Regional Aquaculture Center. Or SRAC publications.

There are several culture techniques employed in KY with the most being pond culture.  We do have some re-circulating systems, aquaponic systems, cage culture some reservoirs ranching and water discharge systems. . All depending on what you want to raise, they can be species specific.  We raise here: catfish, paddlefish, freshwater prawn, tilapia, large mouth bass and hybrid striped bass,  a little bit of trout and red claw crayfish.”

The best resource for contacts is KY State University, they are one of the top five aquaculture schools in the US and are a wealth of knowledge.


Wisconsin Tilapia Culture

“Raising Tilapia in Wisconsin is usually associated with aquaponic systems where the fish are fertilizer for the plants – it is difficult to compete with overseas fish that are selling at stores for less that it can be raised here in Wisconsin – that said some in aquaponics have found a niche market for fresh fillets – the largest of the tilapia grown in the United States goes for live Asian Markets in the largest cities and Canada.” Source: Ron Johnson

Tilapia usually need to be grown in heated environments to survive the long winter season in Wisconsin. Some progressive farms are now growing tilapia in Wisconsin using innovatively designed systems. Future Farms grows tilapia in a heated structure that uses duel loops of recirculating water. The water is heated by methane gas that comes from manure that is available from the nearby Baldwin dairy.

Future Farm Food and Fuel, LLC
2047 County Road E
Baldwin, Wisconsin 54002

51st and Bluemound Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53208
(414) 302-9495

R&D AquaFarms Inc.
4836 West Fisk Ave.
Oshkosh, WI 54904


Fish farming is regulated by both the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP)

WDNR is responsible for environmental permits and importation of nonnative fish species (including tilapia)

DATCP is responsible for fish health and registration of fish farms – here are links to information from both agencies – http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Animals/pdf/2012FishFarmApplicationPacketv2.pdf


Kansas Tilapia Culture

“This section reviews some of the aquatic species that constitute the existing and future Kansas aquaculture industry. Species suitable for foodfish, sportfish, and baitfish are discussed. Not every species listed is appropriate for every production system or producer. The salient features associated with each species listed are appropriate for every production system or producer. The salient features associated with each species are briefly summarized.

In addition to aquaculture species, a discussion of exotic species, genetic engineering, and fish diseases is also presented. The treatment of these subjects is not exhaustive but should provide a general awareness ofcmrently cultured aquatic species, species of future interest, as well as some of the problems and opportunities impacting the Kansas aquaculture industry.

In considering species suitable for Kansas aquaculture, several key factors must be addressed:

1. The quality and quantity of economic and natural resources available in the state.
2. The technical and biological limitations’of production.
3. The marketability ofthe cultured species.
4. Production economics.

Some of Kansas’ best hopes for aquaculture growth and expansion lie with regionally popular and readily marketable species. These include catfish, hybrid striped bass, tilapia, grass carp, crayfish, baitfish, and possibly salmon and trout”  Source: Kansas Aquaculture: Strategy for Development


Tilapia can be legally raised in Kansas. The State of Kansas has only one regulation effecting fish farming and that is a prohibited species list.  None of the plants or animals on the list may be possessed without a permit from the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

New Mexico Tilapia Culture

“Aquaculture, or fish farming, is a fast-growing industry in the U.S. This growth is due to several interrelated factors. First, commercial fishing is rapidly depleting wild stocks in the oceans. Second, edible fish and seafood per capita consumption has risen from 12.8 lb in 1980 to 15.9 lb in 1989, and is expected to reach 20 lb in 2000 (although current trends indicate a leveling between 16 and 17 lb). Finally, there was an estimated fish and shellfish trade deficit of $4.9 billion in 1990. The combination of these three factors has led to increased demand for fish and seafood products that cannot be met by the greatly depleted wild catch fisheries. Aquaculture, therefore, is growing to fill the market void created by the increased demand and wild stock depletion.

New Mexico has unique environmental and biological resources that could be used to develop a viable aquaculture industry in the state. Approximately 15 billion acre-feet of saline water (2 ppt and greater salinity) are available for use in New Mexico. Saline water resources cannot be used for traditional agriculture or for drinking water, but can be used for aqua-culture. The wide array of climatic conditions found throughout the state can support a diversified and strong aquaculture industry.”

IV. Non-Native Non-Indigenous Species with Aquaculture Potential in New Mexico

“New Mexico has a large number of fish species with aquaculture potential. There also are several non-native non-indigenous, or exotic, aquaculture species with proven potential that could be raised in New Mexico. These species include tilapia, the Chinese carps, and penaeid shrimp. This section will discuss, in general terms, the culture methods and markets for these exotic species.

It is important to note that culture of exotic species in New Mexico is controlled by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. An “Application for Importation of Exotic Species” must be made to and accepted by the Department prior to importing or beginning culture of any non-native non-indigenous species.

Tilapia are similar in appearance to bluegill. Tilapia were imported from Africa to many parts of the world. Production of tilapia is centered in the southern U.S., the Caribbean, and Central America. In the U.S., tilapia also are cultured in colder climates using indoor recirculating systems or geothermal spring water.

Tilapia are a warmwater fish. They are disease resistant, tolerant of poor water quality, and grow well in most aquaculture systems. Culture methods ranging from open ponds to cages to water recirculating systems have been used to rear tilapia successfully. Tilapia also have been cultured successfully in saline water.

Tilapia will reproduce in most aquaculture systems. Reproduction is both a benefit and a hinderance to production of this species. It is a benefit because fingerling production is simplified. It is a hinderance because tilapia spawn frequently. The high spawning frequency slows growth and the increased fish mass due to the fry in the culture unit leads to stunting in the population.

Markets for tilapia are growing worldwide. U.S. tilapia production in 1991 was approximately 9 million pounds and has increased steadily since that time. Producer markets are available in niche markets or, if production is large enough, in larger outlets.”

Source: New Mexico Aquaculture, Michael B. Sloane, Extension Aquaculturist

Regulations and Permits

Each state has different requirements for constructing and operating fish culture facilities. Permits for effluent discharge, water rights, building, propagation of game fish, and health must be obtained from the controlling state agencies. Depending on your facility and operational plans, additional permits may be necessary. In New Mexico, for example, it is illegal to import and rear live tilapia. An “Applications for Importation of Exotic Species” may be made to the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission to rear species prohibited in the state.

Virginia Tilapia Culture

Virginia has a diverse aquaculture industry that encompasses fresh water to salt (marine) water, to warm water to cold water and includes fish, shellfish and crustaceans. Tilapia is considered a warm water fish that can only be raised in enclosed building (barn, greenhouse or other structure) and in an enclosed production system (and these are usually recirculating systems). (Source: Robins Buck, Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

Blue Ridge Aquaculture located in Martinsville, Virginia raises nearly 4 million pounds of tilapia each year and is the world’s largest indoor producer of tilapia.


To be able to raise tilapia, you must obtain a permit from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and this permit is renewable annually. You can contact Mr. Ed Steinkoenig of DGIF at 804-367-0585 or ed.steinkoenig@dgif.virginia.gov

“Virginia’s Finest” Standards for Farm-Raised Tilapia (PDF)

Business Planning

For business planning assistance, go to https://www.virginiasbdc.org/ and then click/hover on Virginia SBDC Offices and State Map to find the SBDC Office that services your area; call them and make an appointment for a business consultant to be assigned to you for development of your Business Plan (this is either free or for a very nominal fee). Also, you can go to VA FAIRS at http://www.vafairs.com/  and look down the left side for all kinds of information but especially look at Business Plans under Assistance and the Virtual Business Center under resources; you could do a Business Plan here before calling on your area SBDC Office. (Source: Robins Buck, Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

Nevada Tilapia Culture


Tilapia are a restricted species in Nevada and can only be possessed alive in the state for purposes of commercial aquaculture, or certain other purposes.  This requires a Commercial Possession of Live Wildlife License from the Department of Wildlife.  Private possession of live tilapia for home or personal use is prohibited.  Fish have to be obtained from a commercial vendor approved by NDOW, which requires a Wildlife Importation Permit (there are no legal vendors authorized to sell live fish to a third party in the state).  You can find the information on permit requirements and applications on our web site at: http://www.ndow.org/law/licenses/

Approval to have live fish for aquaculture requires providing us with a plan of the proposed facility and your operations that will assure us there is no potential of escape of the fish to the wild, and an inspection of that facility before a license is issued.  Also, produced tilapia cannot be sold live in the state except to another entity which also has a Commercial Possession License for that species.  In other words, for commercial production you could only sell processed dead fish, or live fish to someone with a license (e.g. permitted restaurant or fish market).  For shipment of live fish out of state, you would have to check with the destination state for requirements as those regulations vary with each state.

Commercial Possession of Live Wildlife Licenses are issued by our three regional offices.  The contact information for those offices is on the application instructions at the web site address above.  If you have questions or need further information on permitting you can contact our regional fisheries supervisors directly; for northern Nevada (Reno area) that’s Kim Tisdale at ktisdale@ndow.org.  For southern Nevada (Las Vegas area) you can contact Jon Sjöberg (Tel: 775-688-1530) for now as the Southern Region supervisor’s position is currently vacant.

Source: Jon Sjöberg, Nevada Department of Wildlife

Missouri Tilapia Culture

There are several tilapia farms in Missouri that are raising tilapia for food and to supply fingerlings to other growers:

Tilapia are being raised in Missouri at Overlook Farm, Clarksville, MO

White Brook Tilapia Farm, Kansas City, MO has tilapia fingerlings for sale, including the following:
  • White Brook White Nile Tilapia™ (Oreochromis Niloticus)
  • Blue Tilapia (Oreochromis Aureus)
  • Hawaiian Gold Tilapia™ (Oreochromis Mossambicus)
  • Red Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis Niloticus)
  • Wild Color Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis Mossambicus)

Duda-Lang Farm, House Springs, MO raises tilapia for sale as part of an aquaponic farm.

S&S Aqua Farm, West Plains, MO raises tilapia in a closed, aquaponic system, along with vegetables.


Permission from the Missouri Department of Conservation is required to raise tilapia. If your system doesn’t recirculate 100%, you will need to call the Missouri Department of Conservation regional office near you and have them inspect your system. Since tilapia are not on the ‘approved’ list, they need to be held in closed systems.

The section of interest in the regulations can be found at http://www.sos.mo.gov/adrules/csr/current/3csr/3c10-9.pdf. What constitutes a ‘closed’ system is in section 3 CSR 10-9.110(3)(E)4 and states, “Fish held only in aquaria, tanks or other containers having water discharged only into septic systems or municipal waste treatment facilities that are designed and operated according to guidelines of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources or that entirely recirculate all of the water so that none of it shall drain into a water body.” Beyond MDC’s regulations, there would be no other permits or fees specific to tilapia.

Information supplied by: Bart Hawcroft, Missouri Department of Agriculture

California Tilapia Culture

The most popular fish grown in aquaponic systems are tilapia. Tilapias are a robust fish that do extremely well in recirculating systems. Many states have restrictions on the culture of tilapia as they are non-native fish and resource agencies do not want the fish established in natural waters if they were to escape aquaculture systems. California, for example, has restrictions on where tilapia may be cultured in the state, and most tilapia culture is restricted to southern California in counties located south of the Tehachapi mountain range that separates southern California from the Great Central Valley. The State’s resource agency originally stocked tilapia in southern California as they once believed that the fish could not reproduce, or even survive the cool winter temperatures. Tilapia not only survived, but successfully reproduced, even in the high salinity inland Salton Sea. The restrictions are in place now to prevent tilapia from being introduced in the watersheds north of the Tehachapi mountain range. Source: California Aquaculture


Currently, tilapia zilli, tilapia hornorum, and mossambica are the only species of tilapia allowed to be cultured in California and they are allowed only in the following counties:  Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Imperial.  Please note that you must first obtain a Restricted Species Permit to possess, import, and transport tilapia zilli.  Please contact the DFG License and Revenue Branch at (916) 928-5845 for more information on obtaining a Restricted Species Permit.

If you live in one of the counties listed above and plan to raise tilapia in an aquaculture or aquaponics system for commercial purposes then you must register as an aquaculturist with the Department of Fish and Game. Please see the Aquaculture Registration Application Form.  Also attached is DFG Informational Leaflet No. 35 – Aquaculture in Inland Waters of California,  which contains the existing laws and regulations governing aquaculture in California.  You can find these documents and more information on aquaculture in California on the DFG Aquaculture webpage at: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/Aquaculture/

Rhode Island Tilapia Culture

Aquaculture has a long history in Rhode Island. In the early 1900s, oyster culture generated the equivalent—in today’s dollars—of $50 million to $90 million in revenue. But by mid-century, pollution, political problems, turf conflicts between aquaculture lease holders and capture fisheries, and natural disasters—notably, the hurricane of 1938—had decimated the state’s aquaculture industry. Limited growing space and intensive competition for coastal access have hindered reestablishment of the industry over the years. Conflicts stemming from multiple uses of aquatic resources along an increasingly crowded coastline have thwarted accommodation of still more demands on coastal areas.

Yet despite these restrictions, aquaculture is experiencing resurgent growth in Rhode Island, with shellfish culture dominating marketplace activity. Much of the state’s production is based in Rhode Island’s south shore salt ponds—coastal lagoons whose exceptional productivity promotes fast growth and excellent flavor. Excellent water quality in areas of Narragansett Bay and in Block Island and Rhode Island sounds also contributes to a consistently high-caliber product. The superb quality of Rhode Island’s aquaculture products assures premium prices, boosting the value of the state’s aquaculture. Source: Rhode Island Aquaculture Initiative – A Shared Vision for the Future

Tilapia Growers

The New Urban Farmers is a non-profit organization that has set out to preserve and restore our environment by creating sustainable agricultural systems in the city. We work to increase healthy food access and nurture minds in the cities of Pawtucket, Central Falls and surrounding areas by eliminating barriers to healthy food and empowering low-income individuals, families, and at-risk-youth with education and collaboration. We believe a community that grows together, grows together.

Regulations & Permits

Coastal Resources Management Program

Guide to Aquaculture Lease Application

Aquaculture of Marine Species in Rhode Island Waters