Farming tilapia

In the United States and several other countries, tilapia (catfish) are farmed. The product retails at low prices and it’s promoted as a healthy food. For some reason, I’ve never seen it here in Britain. I’m not expert enough to judge whether or not the ways of farming this species are sustainable. But this New York Times article suggests that it’s not always so.

[Edit] I was wrong to equate tilapia with catfish, as petrel41 points out in a comment below.

About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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23 Responses to Farming tilapia

  1. Andrew says:

    That was an interesting article, thanks. I ought to get more omega-3 in my diet but I don’t like fishy fish – any recommendations apart from tuna?

    • argylesock says:

      You’ve mentioned this before but I don’t know what you mean by ‘fishy fish’. Unless the fish isn’t very fresh, of course – then it tastes bad. Tinned tuna is one of v few kinds of fish that I don’t like! Fresh tuna is all right, though, but it’s not my favourite. I suppose the best way to find fish that you like would be to try a few more, but perhaps you’ve already done that.

      • Andrew says:

        A strong fishy taste – the article mentions tilapia is popular because it’s bland and so I assume I’m not alone. Perhaps I’ll try salmon again, maybe smothered in something.

        • argylesock says:

          I often buy Sainsbury’s MSC-approved skinless, boneless salmon fillets, then cut them into small pieces and stir-fry them very lightly (just until they become opaque and flaky) then add a ready-made sauce with extra liquid. Amoy Oyster Sauce (with a little water) or Dolmio Creamy Mushroom Sauce (with a little skimmed milk) work well. Often I add pine kernels or cashew nuts, plus a vegetable such as sweetcorn.

          If you don’t like this, perhaps because it involves handling the raw fish fillets, you might like some of the ready-made salmon dishes at Sainsbury’s. Since becoming disabled I’ve become a real fan of ready-mades! Actually you contributed to that with a memorably tasty pasta meal although that one didn’t include fish as I recall.

      • Andrew says:

        WP doesn’t seem to want me to reply to your comment at 11.28 am so I’m replying to the earlier one – let’s see where it ends up.

        Stir fried salmon pieces sounds an excellent idea – as you know I do stir fries anyway so it’ll fit right in. My mouth is watering reading your description…

  2. petrel41 says:

    Hi, like tilapia, catfish are farmed. But tilapia are not catfish.

    Tilapia belong to the order Perciformes, like perch:

    While catfish are the order Siluriformes:

  3. eqfe says:

    I probably caused the confusion. Rhodielady and I were discussing catfish farms with you, and then I made another comment on tilapia. I found it interesting that the article kept comparing the nutritional value of tilapia to salmon, which of course was quite accurate pe se. The issue I have is that they should also have mentioned that very little of the farmed salmon purchased in the US is sustainably raised. It Tilapia was used by people as a substitute for salmon, it would have been a more valid comment, but most tilapia consumed in the us is breaded and fried, and I don;t kow if anyone has ever breaded and fried salmon.
    It seems to me, that the farming practices will have to be tweeked to make most of these farms more sustainable, especially since the way corn and soybeans are raised in most of the world are not sustainable. I wouldn’t be suprised, that as the worlds supply of chemical fertilizers gets increasingly expensive, the manure in the water wasn’t extracted in some way for fertilizer.

    • argylesock says:

      Well said.

      I now wonder why neither tilapia nor catfish are prominent here in Britain. If they’re transported internationally to the States, I wonder why they’re not here. Well maybe they are here but I’ve never seen them in shops. I think (but not sure) I once had pan-fried whole tilapia in a restaurant but it was too bony for my liking and its flavour was dull. It’s rare for me not to like a fish but I didn’t like that one.

      • Carol Hague says:

        Probably because nobody’s got off their bottoms and marketed them to people, I expect 🙂 I don’t know if tilapia could be farmed here because I’m familiar with the name from when I used to keep tropical fish and I suspect they need higher temperatures than you could get without costly heating here.

        Also, “catfish” I should point out is a very broad church – there are huge numbers of species referred to by that name – I’m not sure which of them are farmed for food. I used to keep some cute little Corydoras catfish in my fishtank which wouldn’t have made much of a meal 🙂

  4. Subhan Zein says:

    Oh, you have finished your PhD. Congratulations! I’m working on one and can’t wait to finish it. 🙂

    Subhan Zein

    • argylesock says:

      I hope it goes well for you. My PhD was relatively late in my life but at age 43 I got doctored. (I’m not sure what your language is, but evidently you’re fluent in English, so perhaps you recognise that pun. Here in Britain, pet owners say that they’ve had a cat or dog ‘doctored’ when they’ve had it neutered!) Anyway yes, I got my PhD and it’s so very well worth the effort.

      The photo I’m using as wallpaper around my blog is one that I took during PhD fieldwork. Those lambs belonged to the UK’s leading breeder of Charollais sheep.

  5. Daniel Digby says:

    There is one other problem with farmed tilapia that isn’t too common with most other fish (inluding catfish). It is particularly high in omega-6 fatty acids — usually exceeding omega-3 content significantly. I’m under the impression that this is only true for farmed tilapia, but don’t trust my memory on this.

    • argylesock says:

      How interesting. Nutrition isn’t my specialist subject. But am I right to think that omega-6 fatty acids are a group in which many of us are deficient? Along with omega-3. Perhaps there’s a risk of people wrongly asssuming omega-3 and omega-6 to be interchangeable.

  6. Pingback: Urban ‘fish allotment’ | Science on the Land

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