The availability of quality seed is key to expansion of tilapia farming in Bangladesh.

Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT), a strain of tilapia, is one of the most-farmed aquaculture fish in Bangladesh. It has become a fish of choice because it is fast growing and an affordable source of animal protein.

In Bangladesh, where more than 40% of the population struggles with both poverty and food insecurity, tilapia farming is helping provide households with an income and a consistent supply of fish for consumption.

Driven by widespread access to low-cost tilapia seed and the adoption of appropriate aquaculture technologies by producers, tilapia production has rapidly expanded in Bangladesh. From 2005 to 2010 alone, production increased more than fivefold.

Now, with more than 400 fish hatcheries across the country, some are misusing their brood stock by repeatedly using the same parental population without adding new stock. This inbreeding leads to poor-quality seed, limiting the continued expansion of tilapia production.

Mohammad Faizur Rahman, a fish farmer from Sitarampur village in south Bangladesh, was disappointed with the quality of fry he was getting and decided to take action.

“Now with the good fry, I get 120 kilograms (kg) worth of fish for the amount spent, whereas earlier I would get 100 kg.” - Mohammad Faizur Rahman, fish farmer.

“Around 2008, during culturing, I noticed that all the fry available were not of good quality. It had poor growth and bad color as well, so it did not fetch a good price,” he explains. “So in 2010, I started my hatchery, because if the farmers can improve, so will my nation.”

Since 2011, the USAID-funded Aquaculture for Income and Nutrition (AIN) project has been working to ensure the distribution of high-quality tilapia seed to farmers. It provides training to public and private hatcheries, and since 2012, has supplied them with GIFT seed from the improved 11th generation strain from Malaysia, which has significant growth advantages over existing local stocks.

Mohammad’s hatchery was one of seven supported to become a tilapia breeding nucleus (TBN). From 2013 to 2015, he participated in technical training, where he learned about good management practices for running a hatchery.

“I received a dissolved oxygen meter to calculate the oxygen level in the water, an oxygen tower to check the oxygen quality, a microscope to determine the sex of the fish, a net and fry. The training was on using the kits provided to carry out tests for the water, pond and soil,” he explains.

The TBNs are trained to use selective and rotational breeding techniques, with ongoing project supervision, to maintain a high-quality brood stock. “If the parents are not of good quality, then the offspring cannot be of good quality. Since the parents are the brood, their offspring are bound to be good,” says Mohammad.

In 2015 these TBNs produced 2.1 million fry and are expected to produce close to 10.2 million fry each year in the future, to be multiplied by tilapia satellite hatcheries across the country for distribution and sale.

Mohammad used the 22,000 GIFT seeds of the improved strain he received to produce quality brood stock, leading to a huge boost in his production and sales.

“Now with the good fry, I get 120 kilograms (kg) worth of fish for the amount spent, whereas earlier I would get 100 kg. Demand was so high nationwide that I ran out of supply. All the high-end customers nationwide are demanding fry from me,” he says proudly.

He is currently supplying fry to 14 hatcheries that provide fry to approximately 2000 individual farmers. He reinvests the profits he earns into developing his hatchery.  

Ensuring hatcheries supply good-quality seed to farmers will lead to increases in their farm productivity and incomes and encourage the expansion of tilapia farming in Bangladesh. In the future, Bangladesh could be a leading country for tilapia seed production, providing additional employment opportunities for rural farmers.