Semi-intensive cage farming

Semi-intensive cage farming accounts for around 30% of total tilapia production. It is unclear how many fish cages are used for farming of tilapia in the Philippines.

Key features
Average stocking density

200 – 300 fingerlings/m3.

Average productivity

50-80 kg/m3/year

# of crops per year


# of days per crop

160 days

Harvesting season

All year round

Type of farmer

Both family producers and export-oriented business

Potential risks

Type of farmers

Most farmers operate one or two cages as a family business and these farmers tend to be not very well organized. Export oriented businesses operate large amounts of cages, ranging from 10 to a hundred.

Production and harvesting system

Since tilapia can be carnivorous they are rarely used for polyculture. Cages are typically square or rectangular and vary in size from 5 by 5 to 25 by 25 meters. The net depth ranges from 2 to 5 meters.

In all provinces tilapia are harvested year round. Most farms harvest their tilapia at 250 to 300 grams as this size is appreciated most on the local market, which takes an average 160 days. The fish are harvested all at once by lifting the net. Survival rates are 75 to 80%.

Target species and byproducts

A number of different species and varieties are being cultured but they are all commonly referred to as “tilapia” and neither the farmers nor official figures make a distinction between the different tilapia species or varieties that are being cultured.

Stocking densities and productivity

In all provinces, tilapia are stocked year round with the exception of the first few weeks of the rainy season. Tilapia are stocked at a density between 200 to 300 fingerlings per m3. Some farms stock fry directly while others first grow the fish in smaller nursery ponds resulting in different stocking densities. Additionally, planned harvesting sizes also influences stocking density; if one wants to grower bigger fish the stocking density must be reduced. Average productivity is 50 to 80 kilograms per m3 per year.

Use of seed, feed and other inputs

There are numerous small-scale local hatcheries where fry can be acquired. Some hybrids are available but in most cases fry are classic Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Most farmers use smaller ponds of 2000 m2 where the fish are nursed in nets for a period of 30 days.

Most operators operating semi-intensive cages use a combination of algae and commercial pellet feeds. In waterbodies with flowing water and few or no algae and higher feed use, the FCR is around 1.8.