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Raising Tilapia - Building a Pond


Site Selection and Engineering

The success of freshwater fishpond farming depends on the selection of ideal fish pond site, proper planning and layout design, proper construction and appropriate pond management.
Considering the expenses involved in pond construction, freshwater fish ponds smaller than half a hectare are not commercially viable. This technoguide is designed for freshwater fish ponds with an area of one-half hectare or more.

Site Selection

Water supply. Water supply is the foremost factor to consider in selecting a fishpond site. The site must be accessible to adequate water supply throughout the year and free from pesticide contamination and pollution. Sources of water can be a surface runoff, stream, creek or irrigation.

Soil characteristics. Clay, clay loam, and sandy loam soils with deposits of organic matter of about 16% are best for fish ponds. Hard mud of the above types are preferable to the soft and very loose kind. Avoid sandy, rocky or stony soils because these do not retain water in the ponds. Some of the methods to determine if the soil will hold water are:

  1. Squeeze a handful of wet soil. Its shape is retained when the grip is released.
  2. Make a soil ball. It will not crumble into pieces if thrown into the air.

Avoid areas with thick deposits of organic debris since these are poor materials for diking. Consider also the pH value of the soil in selecting the site. The most desirable range of pH is 7-9.

For liner tanks/ponds: liner must be installed so there are no folds that Tilapia can bite to scrape algae off liner. Biting/scraping can lead to liner failure and loss of water and fish.

Topography. Choose flat terrains for easier excavation and levelling. If the topography is too undulating, the construction costs increase greatly and excavation work removes the fertile portion of the pond bottom. Avoid sites that are frequently flooded.
Other factors to consider are availability of quality fingerlings and cheap skilled labor, accessibility to market and peace and order condition.

Designing and Planning the Layout

In designing and planning the layout of freshwater fish ponds, give careful consideration to the following:

Pond compartments. There are three compartments in a complete freshwater fishpond system namely: nursery pond, brood pond and production or rearing pond. The nursery and brood ponds may comprise 10% of the total area, and 90% for the production pond.
The pond may be rectangular or irregular in shape. The size of the compartment is governed by the topography of the land. This may vary from less than one to two hectares for good management. Smaller pond units require greater construction and maintenance cost.

Water supply. Provide each compartment with an individual water supply system and drainage outlet. Provide also a mechanical emergency spillway for the flow of excess water from ordinary rain and to maintain desired water level in the pond.

Drainage. Construct the pond to facilitate easy drainage when harvesting fish stock and proper cleaning of the pond bottom.

Elevation. Construct the pond one meter or more lower than the source of water supply but slightly higher than the drainage area to obtain at least an average water depth of one meter for maximum production.

Wind direction. Wind plays a role in fishpond design. Strong wind generates wave action that destroys the sides of the dikes. To minimize this, position the longer pond dimensions parallel to the direction of the prevailing wind to lessen the side length of the dike exposed to wave action.

Protection from flood. If the fish pond site is prone to flooding, construct a diversion canal along the perimeter dike to divert runoff water during heavy downpour. Construct a larger and higher perimeter dike to prevent inflow of water.

Designing dikes. Construct dikes with trapezoidal cross section with the top width, the side slopes and the height proportionally designed according to the soil material used. The following are guidelines in designing the dikes:

  1. Height above water line. Extend the top of the dike sufficiently above the water line to give a safe margin against overtopping during flood. Include margin for wave action caused by exposure to winds. Perimeter dike should have, after shrinkage, a freeboard height of 0.60 - 1.0 m above the maximum level observed in the locality. Freeboard for secondary dikes is 50 cm.
    The allowance for settlement and shrinkage depends on the characteristics of soil fill, soil foundation, and on the method of construction. On the average, an allowance for settlement and shrinkage is 25%. Provide a settlement allowance of not less than 40% for soils high in organic matter while dikes compacted by construction equipment is 5% less than the filled height.

  2. Top width. The minimum top width or crown is 1 m for dikes less than 3 m high. The top width of dikes used as access road is 4 m. Provide a 0.60 m wide berm or shoulder on each side of a roadway dike to prevent rovelling.

  3. Side Slope. The side slope or steepness of the dike is the ratio of the horizontal length to the vertical rise. Fishpond dikes lower than 3 m should have a slope of 1:1. Dikes above 3 m should adopt a 2:1 slope. Refer to the table below for relationship among the top width, bottom width and height of dikes.

Relationship among the top width, bottom width and height of dikes with a given side slope


Top width of crown (m)

Bottom, with in m. at given side slope

1:1 ratio

 1.5:1 ratio

 2:1 ratio






Preparation of Program of Work and Schedule of Development

Project programming is undertaken to determine how and when a project will start and be completed within a given period based on daily output, or by determining the number of days a piece of work can be finished based on the available labor in the area.
   The program of work is the basis of implementation of the project. Evaluate and calculate each item realistically so that each job is properly developed and economically done.

Proposed program of work for one-hectare pond


Nature of work

Daily Labor
(8 hr/day)


Support facilities & equipment
Clearing/marking & levelling of dikes


5 laborers 

plastic hose (1 cm diameter, 50 cm long), meter stick 
a. construction of dikes
b. construction of canals
c. Levelling

contract labor
contract labor
contract labor

20 laborers
10 laborers
5 laborers


digging blades, tractor, rotavator
Construction & installation of gates & pipes
a. construction
b. Installation


5 laborers
5 laborers


Finishing touches 


5 laborers 



Construction of Pond System

Plan fishpond construction carefully and systematically. The system of pond construction is based on the prepared program and schedule of development.

Schedule of Development








1. Clearing/marking path &
2. Earthwork:
a. Construction of dikes
b. Construction of canals
c. Levelling

3. Construction and installation of gates and pipes
a. Construction
b. Installation

4. Finishing touches --------------  

Clearing the area. Clear the entire area of all grasses, roots and stumps. Burn these thoroughly. Strip surface to an adequate depth to remove all objectionable or organic matters.

Dike construction. Clear the dike site of vegetation, slumps and debris. Clear the strip 2-4 m wider than the base of the dike. For sites with decaying matters, construct a puddle trench at the center of the path of the dike. Excavate 0.5 m wide by 0.5 m deep trench filled with clay soil to prevent excessive seepage on the finished dike. Dig blocks of mud for construction of dike at least one meter from its base. Allow each layer to settle firmly before adding another layer until the desired height is attained. Construct dikes either manually, mechanically or both.
It is very important to have a uniform dike height. To do this, get a 50 m long transparent plastic hose. Fill the hose with water. Hold one end of the hose at the first station and the other end at the next 40 m away (figure 6). If the water level at both ends are the same, the dike is level. Repeat the process until the last station has been marked.

Canal construction. Construct the canals simultaneously as the adjacent dikes. Stake markers to serve as guide during the excavation of canals. Slope the canal gently towards the drainage gate of pipe to keep the flow of water sluggish and to avoid excessive erosion.

Construction and Installation of Water Control Structures

Water inlet or outlet structures are usually made of wood or concrete gates, galvanized iron sheets or reinforced concrete pipes.
Place 3 pairs of grooves on each side of wooden or concrete gates extending to the top of the dike where they are installed. The middle pair of grooves allows the removable slabs to regulate the flow of water. The first and third pairs enable the screens to prevent the escape of cultured fish. These screens may either be of bamboo splits or nylon attached to a wooden frame.
In freshwater fish ponds, galvanized iron pipes or reinforced concrete pipes are often used instead of concrete wooden gates. The following is a guide in determining the proper pipe diameter to be installed.

Guide in determining pipe diameter

 Size of drain pipe in inches



Can drain 1 ha. pond with average   depth of 1 m in 6 days
Can drain the same in three days
Can drain the same in one day

Source: Site Selection, Design/Layout and Construction of Fishpond by C.R. dela Cruz

With proper scheduling of draining time, it is adequate to use 4 to 6 inch pipe for one hectare pond and 6 to 11 inch pipe for larger ponds.
Construct water supply and drainage system simultaneously with the dikes.

Pond bottom levelling

     Mechanical levelling is cheaper and faster than manual levelling if the pond bottom can support the equipment used. Use farm tractors or tillers with a back blade. The carabao and the harrow may be used in small ponds. The pond bottom should slope gently towards the drainage gate to facilitate complete drainage.
After levelling the pond, plant creeping grasses at the dikes to prevent erosion. Plant bananas at the outside slope of the perimeter dike to serve as wind breakers. Do not plant trees along the dikes because the roots will cause leakage and seepage.

Next: Tilapia Pond Preperation and Management


file: /Techref/other/pond/TilapiaPonds.htm, 21KB, , updated: 2016/11/29 12:05, local time: 2024/7/20 11:58,

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