Intensive cage

Due to the high level of illegal, informal and unregistered farmers it is impossible to give exact numbers of hectares and farmers involved. Tilapia farming can be found all over the country, and it is estimated that there are thousand small local farmers throughout the immense Brazilian surface area. Regarding large scale production, here are about 15 bigger tilapia companies like Netuno and Geneseas with a vertical integrated structure. Tilapia is still the main farmed fish species accounting for 39% of the total freshwater production. The largest tilapia production clusters in large reservoirs are located in the stares of Sau Paulo and Paraná. As there are several reservoirs throughout Brazil, this kind of farming is increasing rapidly.

Key features
Average stocking density

100 fry/m3

Average productivity


# of crops per year


# of days per crop

About 6 months to reach 1 kg WR

Harvesting season

All year around

Type of farmer

Small-scale, mid-scale and vertically integrated companies

Potential risks
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Water pollution
  • Entry of diseases and waste from upstream villages and mining

Type of farmers

Brazil has several large vertically integrated companies use intensive cage farming for tilapia, with companies owning hundreds of hectares not being an exception. These cages are placed in waters belonging to large hydro power plants throughout the country. During the last 10 years, these large producers have been increasing volumes by increasing numbers and sizes of net cages. Moreover, they invested a lot in technology, making the process more mechanical.

Production and harvesting system

Tilapia is cultivated using monoculture systems. Floating steel or plastic platforms buoyed on flotation barrels surround round net cages submerged in the water, which can be anywhere from 4 to 6 meters of diameter. The reservoirs are supplied by surface water. Harvesting takes place all year round. There is an average of two cycles per year, and grow-out takes between 150 days and 180 days depending on the size of fry. Tilapia are harvested when they reach 800 to 1,200 grams. The bigger companies use a mechanical lift to harvest. The cage is towed to shore where a lift brings up the tilapia and put in large baskets. These baskets are weighed, then lifted into trucks for transport to the processing plants which are about 100 kilometers from the farms. Cages are completely emptied of fish at the time of harvest. Survival rate is approximately 80%.

Stocking densities and productivity

Regarding cage farming, all stocking is done manually to avoid damage to the fish. Fingerlings come from bigger vertically integrated companies or from specialized hatcheries. Stocking takes place all year round. FAO recommends to use a density of about 100-120 pieces per m3 giving an annual production of about 80kg/m3.

Use of seed, feed and other inputs

Hatcheries are the primary source of fry, and the nursery function is usually performed at the hatchery. The bigger vertically integrated companies have their own hatcheries while smaller farmers have to rely on specialized hatcheries. Fingerling size is around 10 grams per piece. The fish are fed with commercial pellet feed. Brazil has great resources for raw material of the pellets and all internationally known feed companies have their sister companies in this country. The size of feed and crude protein varies based upon the grow-out stage. Feed conversion ratios in ponds is generally better than in cages. These ratios in cages range between 1.3 and 1.6 against between 1.0 and 1.6 in ponds. Being an important product for the national market, there are lots of companies involved in genetics, disease control and high-quality feed inputs.


Stocking, farming and harvesting takes places all year round.