Staying Positive: Recovering from a Tilapia Disaster

Raising any kind of animal is hard work, and can be both rewarding and devastating at times. This week at Solar, we truly experienced a hardship regarding our tilapia system. The auto fill value in our aquaponics system became stuck open overnight and poured gallons of cold water into our tank, allowing the water to grow much colder than safe for the species. We lost the majority of our smaller fish that simply could not handle the 50 degree water. In addition, some of our larger fish that were ready for harvest did not survive. In the wake of this small disaster, we are reflecting on our reliance on automatic systems and how to prevent any similar future situations.


If you rely on automatic devices of any kind, it is always good to frequently check to make sure these devices are functioning at the level you expect them to. Preventative care and upkeep of the entire system is necessary to prevent—as much as possible—any setbacks similar to what we faced this week.


A healthy large white tilapia

A healthy large white tilapia

To reflect on the positive aspects of even this situation, the cold temperatures of the water taught us a few things about tilapia. Many large fish survived the low temperatures, and once they were heated up again, are performing normally. In addition, the population of white-colored tilapia was much more affected by the cold than other colored fish in the same tank. Most of the larger fish that did not survive were white in color. There is likely an interesting research topic here. However, our own fish will not be testing it out—for now we are closely observing the population for any side effects that may have accrued from the extreme temperature change. The tilapia are being pampered; we are slowly replenishing the beneficial bacteria and salt levels to lower the stress on the fish, and testing the water quality a few extra times to make sure the tank is returning to normal.


To continue looking on the positive side, our fish-to-water ratio has benefited from the cull of the population. Previously, our tanks had been doing so well that the breeding population took over and we had too many fish in the tank. Now, our tank and population sizes are back in balance, and this season’s harvest will ensure that they continue to stay that way.