Growing tilapia in cement tanks is the perfect project for Teofilo Galut of Victoria, Tarlac

TEOFILO GALUT dropped out from his mechanical engineering studies after his second year in college to go into poultry and swine raising in his hometown in Victoria, Tarlac.

LIVESTOCK OKAY AT FIRST – For many years his livestock and poultry projects thrived. He had as many as 36,000 layers at one time and his hog population also peaked at 159-sow level. With that many breeders, he was producing no less than 3,000 piglets a year, some of which he sold as weanlings and the others he fattened to slaughter size.

NOT FOR VERY LONG – As is common in many agribusinesses, however, there are ups and downs in livestock and poultry raising. When poultry became unprofitable because of the high cost of feeds and medication, he decided to stop raising chickens and concentrated in his piggery.

But bad times also hit his piggery. Particularly in 1985 to 1986 when meat prices went down while the cost of feeds remained high. He had to give up his pigs in 1987. After looking around for a possible project, he decided to convert his idle pigpens into above-ground cement tanks for raising tilapia.

OUTSTANDING FARMER – When we interviewed him in 1994, when he was honored as Tarlac’s Outstanding Farmer in the Field of Fisheries, he was running a very profitable fish farming operation. He was growing tilapia in 5,000 square meters of tanks and using additional 2,000 sq.m. as nursery for producing fry and fingerlings.

Every day, except a few days of the year when he runs out of marketable size tilapia, he harvests 50 kilos of the fish which a regular buyer picks up in the morning. That’s about P3,000 every day.

EASY TO SELL – Galut never thought that it would be that easy to sell his tilapia. In the beginning, he himself brought his harvest to the public market in Victoria. But then so many stallholders wanted to get some of his fish. Some were good payers while many others were not. They were virtually fighting each other to have some of his very fresh tilapia.

JUST ONE RELIABLE BUYER – After that, he just selected the most reliable buyer who picked up his harvest in the morning. That has been so for several years now. It’s so easy and convenient for Galut. He does not have to spend time and money to bring the fish to the market.

Galut does selective harvesting. He usually catches the 250-grammers although 200-grammers are sometimes harvested because some consumers prefer this size. When the stocks are smaller than this size, he stops harvesting for a few days until the fish attain the right size.

CONSTRUCTION – When Galut turned his pigpens into tilapia tanks, he made several small compartments measuring 5m x 7m. Others are wider areas of 1,000 sq.m. each. The sidings which are reinforced with steel bars are 1.5 meters high but only up to 1.25 meters is filled with water.

He stocks the tanks with 30 to 40 pieces per square meter. This rate is much higher than the rate when he was starting. This is now possible because he feeds his fish with his own special formulation of high-protein feeds.

FAST GROWTH – He says that 30-gram fingerlings when fed with his own formulation will be marketable in 72 days. By then, many of them would be 250 grams each. It takes about two kilos of his feed to produce one kilo of tilapia. And at the time of our interview, it cost him only P10 to P11 per kilo. His feed consists of fishmeal, soya, bone meal, D-1 rice bran, vitamins and antibiotics.

WATER SUPPLY – Three deep wells supply water to his fish tanks. The water is gradually drained as it is also gradually replenished. The water from the tanks is not thrown away. It is used to irrigate a two-hectare rice farm beside the project. Since the water is rich, he does not have to fertilize his rice plants anymore. The last crop he harvested just before our interview yielded 130 cavans per hectare.

PER FECT PROJECT – Galut believes that tilapia farming is the perfect project for him. He likes it much better than piggery because there are less problems and the capital required is much less.

NO BAD SMELL – For one, he said, the tilapia tanks do not smell like a piggery and he does not worry about neighbors complaining about pollution. He pointed out that when he had a piggery, he was spending as much as P126,000 for feeds in one week whereas for his tilapia the weekly budget for feeds is just P2,500. He has only two helpers in his tilapia project whereas when he was raising pigs he had more than 10 workers.

CHEAPER TO BUILD – The cost of building a tilapia tank is also much cheaper than building hog houses since you don’t have to have any roofing for the fish. He estimated during our interview that one could build cement tanks on 1,000 sq.m. at P80,000 to P90,000, including labor. He prefers cement tanks for tilapia rather than earth ponds. He explained that with cement tanks, you can easily control feeding. When the fish are growing in earth ponds, he said, they might eat so much of the vegetation that they might no longer eat the formulated feeds. Hence they would not grow as fast. There’s also the possibility of muddy taste in tilapia raised in earth ponds.

LIMITED ALGAE – However, he allows some growth of algae in his cement tanks. In fact, he applies 1.5 bags of ammonium sulfate per 1,000 sq.m. to enhance the growth of algae so the fish will have some but not too much planktons in their diet.

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