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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tilapia - Legal in Your Town?

98% of America can legally raise Tilapia

I can legally raise tilapia at home. It just takes a couple of inexpensive permits.

Many members of my family live in Utah, where it is completely illegal to raise tilapia. That puts a big damper on enthusing about my latest project in family circles.

So I got curious - where in the US and her territories may tilapia be raised in a closed loop system?

So far, the only states that appear to prohibit tilapia entirely are Utah (0.9% of the US population), Nevada (0.8% of the US population), and Maine (0.4% of the US population). Utah and Nevada make a big point of prohibiting tilapia. Maine merely fails to list tilapia as one of the myriad species allowed (and all not on the list are prohibited).

Tilapia appear to be allowed in all other states and territories, or the other ~98% of the US population. If I found something in a somewhat believable website that explicitly stated no permit was required for an indoor, closed loop system, I colored that state green. However laws change and the websites I found might be wrong. You should contact your local Department of Natural Resources (or whatever it's called in your state) to make sure what kind of permit(s), if any, are required for you to set up a home-based, indoor, closed loop aquaponic system. You may also find that your "favorite" kind of tilapia are prohibited, but some other variant is not on the prohibited list.

Relatively few places in the US permit uncontrolled outdoor use of tilapia, especially where there is risk the fish could get into public waterways - another reason US folks are unlikely to be able to set up tilapia-based aquaponic systems in their backyards.

If you find out my map is wrong, let me know and I'll update it.


  1. By the way, I ended up getting tapped to write The Complete Idiot's Guide to Aquaponic Gardening for Penguin Book Group. The book is now available for purchase at It includes lots of DIY plans as well as everything I wished I could have found in a book back when I was starting out (which wasn't very long ago...). So far the reviews are good! And there's a lot of information about fish.

    Alas, the cold temperatures in my basement ended up killing all my little tilapia. In March 2011 I ended up moving my garden outside, where I've kept bluegill and minnows, with goldfish in the sump tank. Once I knew I didn't have to use tilapia, I was able to get my family in Utah excited about aquaponics, where they've used goldfish and trout.

  2. I live in UT and I am planning an Aquaponics setup that grows trout. How do the trout do in UT. What specific techniques help in the production.


  3. Hi Michael,

    Trout should do fine. There aren't a lot of people doing aquaponics in Utah just yet. My mother tried doing trout this past year there, but it was a bitter cold winter (her chickens were enjoying eating the thawed remains of the trout...). Trout are used to clear mountain streams, so keeping their water clean, having good water circulation, and keeping the temperature within the right limits are critical. A lot of tips you'll see online for barramundi water quality will come in handy, I imagine.

  4. Tilapia are legal in Maine but you have to get a license to cultivate fish from the dept of inland fisheries and wildlife. It has to be closed loop and in a building. Permit costs $27. You will need other things from other departments if you plan to raise commercially. Starting up an aquaponics farm here in Maine and it's hard to find information to get going because it's relatively new to the state.

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