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 and cooperatives with a vertical integrated structure. Tilapia is still the main farmed fish species accounting for 39% of the total freshwater production of Amazonian species. The largest tilapia production in ponds are concentrated in the state of Sao Paulo and west region of State of Paraná.
|Average stocking density||
|# of crops per year||
|# of days per crop||
About 6 months to reach 1 kg WR
All year around
|Type of farmer||
Small- and mid-scale farmers
• Loss of biodiversity
Type of farmers
Smaller and mid-size farmers of tilapia use excavated ponds in rivers and close to water reservoirs. The smaller farmers are often located in isolated areas without proper infrastructure, making it difficult to ensure decent sanitary control. Also, a big part of these farmers are unregistered by authorities. There is no direct farmer association between the farmers. Each farmer works on his own. Sometimes there is an interchange of fingerlings, but there is no further cooperation.
Production and harvesting system
Regarding pond farming, tilapia is also cultivated using a monoculture system. Average pond size ranges from 0.5 hectare up to 100 hectare. Surface water is supplied to ponds by pumps, rivers, reservoirs and canals. In practice, water should be renewed three times a day but this can be less in periods of drought.
Harvest takes place twice a year when fish reach an average size of 800-1,200 grams. The fish needs about 150 days to reach this commercial size, but this depends on the species. During harvest, a net is dragged across the pond to capture the fish. The fish is put in large buckets and weighed. From there are different kinds of sales. Small farmers sell the products directly to the local markets, even in live condition. Mid-size companies gather the fish by truck load and sell it to wholesalers and/or processing plants which can be 150-200 kilometers away from the farms. According to FAO, survival rates of pond farming are a bit lower than cage farming: 75%. This is due to severe climate conditions like flooding or drought.
Stocking densities and productivity
Stocking density depends upon the size of the fry, and position and size of the farm. In secure areas with stable conditions, density can be 50-70 fry/m3. In case of small local farms, FAO recommends using a low density of about 15 fry/m3. Consequently, production is often half the volume than if a farmer would use cage farming.
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. All farmed tilapia is 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. Chemicals and probiotics are used to clean ponds, maintain proper pH levels and promote decay of organic matter. 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 place during the whole year due to the stable climate in the Amazon area. There are some heavy rains in January-February which tend to cause flooding, and farmers try not to stock in these months.