Tilapia Fingerlings Advice and Recommendations
Tilapia buying recommendations
I have to be a little bit careful here. The last time that I shared documented facts and customer reviews about a tilapia dealer I got a legal bomb dropped on me. The same thing happened when I pointed out areas of the country from which diseased tilapia were being shipped. The threats weren't from some local-yokel starving ambulance chaser either; I was threatened by a world-class corporate legal firm. But how on earth could a tilapia dealer afford a million dollar attorney? Think about this.
There are over 128 million households in America with nearly 330 million people. If only one out of a thousand households starts an aquaponics system and buys just 50 tilapia, that's nearly six and a half million tilapia per year. My numbers are based on conversations with aquaponics as well as tilapia dealers, but even accounting for inflated egos, wishful thinking and outright bragging, tilapia fingerlings is a multi-million dollar business. The legal firm that dropped the bombshell on me only represents the most exclusive clients. With big money comes powerful self-interest as well as an incentive to misrepresent themselves and their products.
To be honest I almost closed this site when I was threatened. Fortunately, an acquaintance of mine who works as a professional "Influencer" on the Internet opened my eyes to what I've been doing all along without even realizing it, and taught me how to direct my energy and momentum into something more rewarding.
My pledge to you is that I will never sell-out and accept promotional dollars or kickbacks from anyone. I only ask for your support by letting others know about this site.
I'm writing the following recommendations to be timeless. Even if all the companies selling tilapia fingerlings in the 2020's are gone, you should still be able to decide which dealer is the best in the 2030's. So without further ado, here are my tilapia buying recommendations.
Be aware of misinformation
Folks, this is the FishBase summary page for Blue Tilapia. As you click on things such as ecology and morphology more in-depth information comes into view. FishBase is the global authority, period. This information isn't secret, it's available to everyone. So it completely baffles me why so many tilapia dealers post inaccurate information. Even hell-bound-on-greed, these people know how to cut and paste information, but they just don't.
Instead they make up crazy claims about weights and sizes and diet. Many of their fish don't match the descriptions of the species for which they are claimed. I'm not going to accuse anyone of anything here, I've learned my lesson on doing that, but to my mind they are either too lazy for the simplest research or they are deliberately lying to make a sale. But how can you identify these dealers?
A 12 inch tilapia weighs about a pound, I have weighed several and that weight is also supported by the data on FishBase. A 14 inch tilapia weighs about 20 ounces. When you read claims about a twelve inch tilapia weighing six pounds and a sixteen inch tilapia weighing eight pounds, you are either being deceived or the writer doesn't know what they are talking about. Claims that a ten inch tilapia weighs two pounds and an 18 inch tilapia weighs six pounds are just as wrong. Almost every tilapia dealer lists the temperatures ranges for every species inaccurately.
Part of your selection process should involve the slimmest amount of simple research. Why on earth would anyone buy from a dealer that didn't at least pretend to know his product of take the time to plagiarize accurate information for his buyers? It seems that some of them will say anything to convince buyers that they have some super duper double-secret strain of tilapia that nobody else has.
Be aware of shipping charges
Have you ever noticed how far along you need to get into a purchase before you find out about the shipping charges? This isn't random, it's a deliberate part of the purchase flow designed to get you in as deep as possible before the big reveal. By the time that they tell you the shipping charges, you've already filled out a billing address, a shipping address, given your phone number, your email, created a user name and password, even entered a promo code. At any point in the process, they could have simply asked you for your zip code and calculated your shipping, but nope they make you wait.
It is at this point in the process where most people just breathe a sigh and complete the purchase, incorrectly assuming that everyone has the same shipping charges. For the few with the willpower to close their browser, the shopping cart software is designed to send out emails about the poor lonely items that were abandoned in the shipping cart. It's all designed to have the highest psychological impact possible.
A properly packed box of tilapia fingerlings costs $19 for shipping, packaging and handling. Some tilapia retailers state this clearly before you enter your information and others roll the cost into the price of the fish and offer free shipping. Have a look at my Compare Tilapia Prices page for a sneak peek at the shipping charges for selected tilapia fingerling dealers. And do not be afraid to exit your web browser if you don't like the shipping charges
Be aware of money-only websites
As if they aren't making it obvious enough, unless you actually want to buy tilapia fingerlings from a dealer who only wants your money, don't buy fingerlings from websites that do not contain original educational resources. These days you can't even buy tires online without pages of information about their construction. So there's really no excuse for a tilapia seller not to have lots of helpful information that isn't just cut-and-paste from other websites. These people will not help you after the sale or if your fish die, nor do they care.
Be aware of half inch fingerlings
There is no such creature as a half inch tilapia "fingerling", but that fact doesn't stop dozens of tilapia dealers from selling them. Tilapia MUST be one gram or heavier before they have sufficiently developed into fingerlings. A one gram fingerling is one inch long. The pitch goes like this. The website proudly advertises that they have "fingerlings" in the ½" to 1½" size. When your order arrives, it's nearly all ½" fry. You contact the company by email and they reply that "their fingerlings" can range anywhere in size from ½" to 1½". Of course you explain that you thought they meant a mix of sizes from ½" to 1½", but nope, that's not what they meant.
I've had this happen to me exactly as I've described it above. I could have bought 100 fry for less than $80 from another site, but I let my hope for a few fish in the 1 ½" size get the better of me and I ended up spending $275 after shipping for a bunch of tilapia fry.
Don't waste your time in forums
Forums are nothing more than a collection of egos and avatars. Every post starts with someone asking a question. Within a short time, a few people with nothing better to do provide their own feedback. After the first round of opinions is expressed, the biggest of these egos return to tell the other repliers how stupid they are. If the postings stay on track, which they rarely do, the best answer will go to the biggest ego, who has the greatest stamina for the argument. Instead, find a mentor who is willing to help you.
Don't buy from anyone who requires return for a refund
Shipping live tilapia fingerlings is difficult for the professionals, and completely impossible for you. Companies that require that you return their fish for a refund make it seem like a no-brainer. They want you to feel like your purchase is risk-free. The truth is, they are trying to screw you. Remember, none of them are paying for the return box, or the poly bag, or the pure oxygen required to return their tilapia fingerlings safely; this is left up to you. But lets say that you take the tilapia fingerlings to a pet store, and pay them to prepare their fish for return. Are you prepared to pay for the overnight shipping? The return shipping will cost you a lot of money and you won't be reimbursed. In addition, any refund that they give you will not include the shipping charges that you originally paid to get their tilapia fingerlings in the first place. This is particularly true of eBay sellers, who aren't required to refund shipping charges.
In the unlikely event that you manage to return their tilapia fingerlings to them alive, your refund will be for the fish only. You will lose their shipping charges, plus whatever you paid to ship them back. At best, you're going to lose $80 or more for the lesson in shipping tilapia fingerlings. If you bought them from an eBay seller, then you already agreed to eBays terms and conditions; which states that you agree to pay shipping and handling charges, even if you return the merchandise, unless the seller clearly states in his listing that these charges will be refunded. If you try to fight it at the credit card level, you will be blacklisted from eBay.
The solution to this is to only buy tilapia fingerlings from companies that offer full refunds, including the shipping and handling charges, without requiring you to return the fish.
Don't buy from anyone who requires you to cut their fish in half for a refund
Many companies require that you submit photos of your tilapia fingerlings cut in half before they give you a refund or replacement. Are they calling you a liar? In some cases yes, but it's more likely that they need proof of death for their supplier. Most of the people selling tilapia fingerlings on the Internet aren't hatcheries, they are fishmongers. They buy fingerlings at a discount from an actual hatchery, then re-sell them online for a premium. By making you cut the tilapia fingerlings in half and then submitting a photo as proof they are actually securing their refund not yours.
If you buy tilapia fingerlings from an actual hatchery, chances are you will be afforded a no-questions-asked replacement or refund policy. This is because hatcheries raise so many tilapia fingerlings that the loss represented by your order is a drop in the bucket.
Don't buy tilapia fingerlings from fishmongers
Tilapia hatcheries keep the best fingerlings for their own customers. It's what they are paid to do. The remaining fish are inferior by comparison. The sub-par tilapia fingerlings are used in-house as food for other fish such as bass or sold to the public as feeder fish or bait. The situation is no different than the stores that sell live crickets and gold fish to their customers with carnivorous pets. The tilapia hatchery doesn't know or really even care for that matter what their unwanted fingerlings will be used for. Unfortunately, this is the primary source of fingerlings for nearly every tilapia fishmonger.
Do not judge any tilapia dealer by their website design
In this day and age anyone can have a professional looking website. Companies like Godaddy, Shopify, Volusion and Wix can have anyone selling anything online in under an hour. These template websites come with pre-canned customer reviews and legal boilerplate.
The only thing that matters is how far the tilapia dealer will to go help you. There are companies out there that employ marine biologists to answer your questions and offer free fish replacement for a month after you receive them. These are the kinds of things that matter not artsy fartsy templates designed for drug companies and shoe stores.
Don't buy tilapia fingerlings on eBay
EBay is the land of the accidental breeders when it comes to tilapia Fingerlings. One source of tilapia farming information that I respect, introduced me to the term "accidental breeder". These are people with aquaponic systems who wake up one morning to discover an IBC tote filled with baby tilapia fry. Many of these aquaponic growers are also do-it-yourselfers so they aren't shy about trying to make a little money with their newly-found fish.
At first buying on eBay may seem like no big deal, but that acceptance fades when you start to really think about it. Where did they buy their original fish? Were their fish really a pure strain? Did they buy them from a fishmonger who lied to them? Are they going to be able to offer any help if their fish get sick? Will they offer advice that fits your situation? Will they offer any legitimate support at all?
When you consider that you can buy tilapia fingerlings directly from professional hatcheries for less money than you can with sellers on eBay, it makes no sense to buy them over the eBay platform. Remember, eBay charges sellers to use their stores and there's no getting around it. These charges are always paid by the customer in the form of lower quality or higher prices. I recently purchased a "new" air pump on eBay. The price was right but much to my dismay the seller failed to mention or remove the "refurbished" sticker from the underside of the pump.
Don't buy according to price alone
The whole reason why hatcheries pick out the best tilapia fingerlings and discard the rest is because they are only concerned with the fastest growing fish. Commercial tilapia farms can't be competitive if their fish don't grow as fast as possible. The difference between a fast and a slow growing tilapia growing to market size can be months. Every pound of fish costs a certain amount to raise and the longer that it takes the more that it costs. A slow growing tilapia can cost three times as much to raise to one pound as a fast growing tilapia..
Shopping by price alone will only ensure that you pay more to raise the fish to an edible size. That said, paying the highest price has nothing to do with the over-all cost of your fully grown tilapia. Your only real option is to educate yourself. Look carefully at their websites. Are they informative? Do they endeavor to educate as well as support? Or are they just a bunch of places to spend your money.