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  • Writer's picturePorpeang farm Thailand

What is the best fish to grow in Thailand?

Updated: Jun 10, 2019

We take a look at the two most common species of fish grown in Thailand.

The sweet tasting Tilapia & the meaty flavored Walking Catfish.

Sometimes it can be hard to choose which fish is best suited for your needs.

So to help you decide we considered the following:

  • Ease of growing

  • Marketable size

  • Selling price per kg

  • Time to grow to harvest size

We have also compiled a list of alternative Thai fish, that are less common than the Tilapia & Walking Catfish.

Common tilapia - ปลานิล (pla nin) &

Red tilapia - ปลาทับทิม (pla thabthim)

Holding up a tilapia grown on our farm in Thailand.
Toon with one of our Common Tilapia grown on the farm.

Tilapia is the third most common fish in aquaculture after carp & salmon.

The most common breed of tilapia farmed in Thailand is the Nile tilapia, which accounts for roughly 75 percent of farmed tilapia.

A set of muscles allows the upper & lower jaw bones to be used as a second set for processing food. Meaning they are very efficient feeders that can capture & handle a wide variety of food items.

Tilapia have a long dorsal fin, & a lateral line which breaks towards the end of the dorsal fin, starting again 2 or 3 rows of scales below.

The tilapia is known to be a mouth-breeding species, which means they carry the fertilized eggs & juvenile fish in their mouths for several days after the yolk sacs has been absorbed.

Fresh tilapia, cleaned & ready for cooking thai style.
Freshly caught & cleaned tilapia from on the farm.

Ease of growing tilapia

Tilapia are omnivores & will eat diets composed of both animal & vegetable origin as well as algae & plankton.

Tilapia will cope with a low feed quality, making them a suitable species for a feed of a lower nutritional value than many other aquaculture species.

Here on Porpeang farm Thailand we feed our tilapia on Betagro 843 (Herbivorous Fish Finisher Feed). We supplement the feed with freshly picked Morning Glory that grows wild on our farm.

They are fed twice a day, early morning & early evening.

During the hours of darkness, we suspend outside lighting over the pond to attract insects for an additional source of protein for the fish.

Most Thai fish farmers choose to keep only male tilapia in the grow out stage. Male tilapia have proved to be more profitable as they grow bigger and are more time and energy efficient. Female tilapia tend to waste energy and time due to breeding.

Due to the rivalry nature of male and female tilapia, most farmers try to keep only male tilapia for growing out. Various techniques are currently in use to produce only male tilapia offspring.

Growing red tilapia on our farm in Thailand.
One of our Red Tilapia grown on Porpeang farm Thailand.

Tilapia are hardy against poor water quality. Dissolved oxygen levels should be around 4mg/l.

Low oxygen levels in water often lead to mass fish deaths, but tilapia can cope in dissolved oxygen levels under 2mg/l.

However, it is not advised to let the quality reach this low as it will affect the growth performance, quality, & health of the fish.

Regarding pH, tilapia can tolerate a wide wide range, but a pH over 6.5 is good for algae growth which is useful as feed for the fish.

Tilapia most favor temperatures around 25ºc.

Tilapia can be stocked at densities up to 60 kg/m cubed (depending on water & management conditions). However, high stocking densities may have a negative impact on growth performance & health status. Low stocking densities, however, can often lead to aggression between the fish.

Genetic advances commonly used in breeding Tilapia are listed below:

Methyltestosterone Technique (MT)

YY Chromosome Technique (YY)

Common tilapia grown on our farm in Thailand. Great tasting fish.
Nice sized common tilapia from one of our ponds . . . perfect for the pan.

What is the marketable size of tilapia?

Anywhere from 400-900 grams.

Some people prefer a small sized fish for frying crispy.

Larger fish are often used in soups or grilled whole.

Selling price per kg

Common tilapia - ปลานิล (pla nin) - 70/80 Thai baht per kg

Pink tilapia - ปลาทับทิม (pla Thabthim) - 90/100 Thai baht per kg

How long does it take for tilapia to grow to harvest size?

4-6 months (depending on the level of protein you feed them & your stocking levels.)

You can begin thinning out smaller fish from 4 months on.

Walking Catfish - ปลาดุก (pla duk)

Walking catfish in Thailand. Very tasty and healthy catfish.
Not the prettiest of fish that swims in Thailand . . . but one of the tastiest.

In Thailand Walking catfish are a common, inexpensive food item, prepared in a variety of ways, being often offered by street vendors, mainly grilled or fried.

Walking catfish are a species of air-breathing freshwater catfish native to Southeast Asia. It gets its name for its ability to walk across the land, to find food or suitable environments.

While it does not indeed walk as most bipeds or quadrupeds do, it can use its pectoral fins to keep it upright while making a wiggling motion with snakelike movements.

This fish usually lives in slow-moving & often stagnant ponds, swamps, streams & rivers, flooded rice paddies or temporary pools which may dry up. When this happens, its walking ability allows the fish to move to other sources of water.

Ease of growing Walking Catfish

Being an air-breather means that the Walking catfish can be stocked at higher levels than the tilapia.

Walking catfish are omnivorous. They feed on smaller fish, mollusks, & other invertebrates, as well as detritus & aquatic weeds.

It is a voracious eater that consumes food rapidly. It is considered harmful to other fish species when invasive.

Grilling Walking catfish in Thailand. Healthy bbq fish.
Grilled Walking Catfish . . . simply delicious healthy eating.

Here on Porpeang farm Thailand we feed all our Walking catfish on Betagro Catfish Finisher feed.

We supplement this with food & poultry waste from the farm.

Walking catfish can be raised in tanks or natural ponds approximately 1.5-2.5m deep.

Care must be taken to prevent unwanted escapes, especially if you are growing other species in ponds nearby. During the rainy seasons Walking catfish jump & crawl out of ponds mainly at night.

Walking catfish are extremely hardy against poor water quality. Ideally dissolved oxygen levels should be around 4mg/l.

Low oxygen levels can lead to fish deaths, but Walking catfish can cope in dissolved oxygen levels well below 2mg/l.

However, it is not advised to let the quality reach this low as it will affect the growth performance, quality, & health of the fish.

holding up a walking catfish in thailand. Thai pla duk.
About 300 grams. . . perfect for the pan.

Regarding pH, Walking catfish can tolerate a wide wide range, but a pH over 6.5 is good for algae growth which is useful as feed for the fish.

Walking catfish most favor temperatures around 25ºc.

Walking catfish can be stocked at densities up to 70 kg/m cubed (depending on water & management conditions). However, high stocking densities may have a negative impact on growth performance & health status.

What is the marketable size of Walking catfish?

300-600 grams.

Many Thai people prefer to eat small sized catfish. Whereas breeders prefer to sell larger ones to maximize profits.

Selling price per kg

60-80 Thai baht per kg.

How long does it take for Walking catfish to grow to harvest size?

4-5 months (depending on the level of protein you feed them & your stocking levels.)

You can begin thinning out smaller fish from 3 months onward.


Both the Tilapia & the Walking catfish are great species to grow in Thailand. Locals adore eating them at a relatively small size. Therefore they can be harvested in less than six months (depending on the stocking levels & quality of food you raise them on).

Most fish farmers in Thailand empty their ponds & remove all the fish in one go then start over again. Although they purchase new fingerlings each time, it is the best way to maximizes profits growing these fish.

The Walking catfish is hardier than the tilapia when it comes to water quality & oxygen levels.

On the downside, Walking catfish are great at escaping during the rainy season.

Growing Red Tilapia will fetch a slightly higher price at the market than the catfish, but stocking levels are somewhat lower & an additional source of oxygen may be required.


If you want to have a go at raising both species, consider growing the tilapia in a pond & keep the walking catfish in a large tank or concrete pond.

Other species of fish to consider growing in Thailand:

Striped Catfish - ปลาสวาย (Pla Sawai)

Maximum size: 120cm – 40 Kg

The striped catfish is a freshwater fish species in the shark catfish family. The striped catfish is native to the Mekong River basin & Chao Phraya River basin in Thailand.

In the wild away from captivity, the striped catfish would typically feed on plants, benthic algae & weeds, crustaceans, insects and occasionally fry.

Grey to silver in color with a bright iridescent stripe along the lateral line, the striped catfish, is distinguished by the near-total lack of barbels and the absence of teeth. The eyes are set slightly higher in the head than the giant Mekong catfish.

Catching a snakehead fish in a rice paddy field in Thailand.
A small snakehead caught in our rice paddy field.

Snakehead - ปลาช่อน (pla chon)

Maximum size: 100cm – 4 Kg

The striped or common snakehead is native to the ecosystems of the Mekong River basin & Chao Phraya basin in Thailand.

The common snakehead has a more varied diet than the great snakehead or the giant snakehead, feeding on detritus, crustaceans, insects, invertebrates, frogs & fish.

The eel-like body of the common snakehead is dark brown with faint black bands visible across its entire body.

The dorsal fin of the snakehead is long stretching across the back. It has a small head with a big mouth displays rows of sharp teeth for trapping its prey.

Chinese Big Head Carp - ปลา จีน (Pla Jean)

Maximum size: 100cm – 25 Kg

The bighead carp is a freshwater fish species in the carps family. The bighead carp is an introduced species & is native to particular parts of China.

The bighead carp in its natural habitat would feed primarily on detritus such as debris found in the bottom layers of the water. Also a keen algae & invertebrates feeder.

The body has numerous small black blotches scattered irregularly on its silvery grey scaled body. The enormous head of the bighead carp is scale-less.

Barramundi - ปลากะพง (Pla Kapong)

Maximum size::200cm - 60 Kg

The Barramundi is native to the Indo-West Pacific regions.

The adult Barramundi is a predatory fish striking predominately at small fish. At early stages of life, the Barramundi would feed primarily on insects, weeds & algae.

The Barramundi has a silver or grey body with dark brown or black tail fin rays. The body shape is elongated and slightly oblique & the upper jaw extends behind the eye.

Giant Mekong Catfish - ปลาบึก (Pla Buek)

Maximum size: 300cm – 350 Kg

The Mekong giant catfish is a species of freshwater fish in the shark catfish family, native to the Mekong River basin in Thailand. It is the only species of the genus Pangasianodon.

In its natural environment away from captivity, the giant Mekong catfish would typically feed on terrestrial plants, algae & weeds & insects. The Mekong giant catfish would not usually prey on fish unless starved of its natural food source.

Grey to white in color and lacking stripes, the Mekong giant catfish is distinguished by the near-total lack of barbels and the absence of teeth.

Why we all should be eating more fish.

Eating fish provides your body with a source of protein for your diet. It’s packed full of essential nutrients, such as omega3 fatty acids, is a good source of protein to keep your body lean & muscles strong.

Fish can also improve your waistline, & also aid other functions of your body, including your liver, brain, & even your sleep.

Fish are high nutrients

Nearly all species of fish are good for your health.

They contain many nutrients which most people don't get enough of in their diet.

This includes high-quality protein, vitamins & minerals & iodine.

Some species of fish are better than others. The ones that are considered the healthiest are the fatty types of fish.

This is mainly because fatty fish (e.g., tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, & mackerel) are much higher in the fat-based nutrients.

This includes the fat-soluble vitamin D, a nutrient that many people are deficient in. It has a similar function as a steroid hormone in the body.

Fatty fish is much higher in omega 3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are crucial to your brain & body to function to its optimum. They are also linked to reduceding the risk of many diseases.

It is recommended to eat fatty fish once or twice a week to meet your omega 3 requirements,

Fish could help you to lower the strokes & Heart Attacks

Strokes & heart attacks are the two leading causes of premature death in the world.

Fish is considered by most experts to be one of the best foods you can eat to maintain your hearts health.

Numerous studies show that people who eat fish regularly tend to have a much lower risk of strokes, heart attacks, & death from heart disease.

Regularly eating 1 or more servings of fish per week can potentially lower your risk of heart disease by up to 15%.

Fish contains nutrients essential during development

Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely essential for development & growth.

It is recommended that expecting & nursing mothers should ensure they eat enough omega 3 fatty acids.


Some fish do contain high levels of mercury, which has been linked to brain problems.

Pregnant women should eat fish that are low in the food chain (trout, sardines, & salmon), & no more than 12 oz per week.

Pregnant women should also avoid uncooked fish, because it may contain harmful microorganisms that can affect the fetus.

Eating fish may help brain functionality

A consequence of getting older is that your brain function tends to deteriorate (age-related cognitive-decline).

Numerous studies show that people who eat more fish have a slower rate of cognitive decline.

Eating fish could help to prevent & treat depression

Depression is a serious and common mental disorder.

Depression is now one of the world's most significant health problems.

Studies have found that people who are regularly eating fish are less likely to become depressed.

Numerous trials have found that omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial against depression, & significantly aid in the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

Eating fish regularly can genuinely improve your quality of life & help to make you a happier person. Fish & omega 3 fatty acids may also help with other mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder.

Fish is your best natural source of Vitamin D

Vitamin D functions as a steroid hormone in the body. A staggering 41% of the US population is deficient in Vitamin D.

Fish & fish products are the best dietary sources of vitamin D. Fatty fish like herring & salmon contain the highest amounts.

A single 4 ounce serving of grilled salmon contains about 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin D.

Many fish oils are very high in vitamin D. These can provide more than 200% of the recommended daily intake.

People who don't eat fatty fish or don't get much sunlight regularly should consider taking a Vitamin-D supplement.

Eating fish may help to reduced risk of Autoimmune diseases, including Type-1 Diabetes

Controlled studies show that omega 3 or fish oil consumption has been linked to reducing the risk of type-1 diabetes in children.

There is a wide belief that the consumption of fish lowers the risk of multiple sclerosis & rheumatoid arthritis.

Eating fish may help to prevent asthma in children

Studies have shown that regularly eating fish is linked to a 24% lower risk of asthma developing in children.

Eating fish could help protect your vision in your old age

There is evidence that fish & omega 3 fatty acids could protect against macular degeneration.

A recent study showed that the regular consumption of fish linked to a 42% lower risk of macular degeneration in women.

Consuming fatty fish just once a week has been linked to a 53% decrease in risk of neovascular macular degeneration.

Eating fish could improve your sleep quality

A study of middle-aged men, who consumed salmon 3 times a week led to noticeable improvements in both sleep and daily functioning.

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4,244 views2 comments

2 comentários

19 de mar. de 2023

Wonderful posting, ever so informative. Thank you so much.


18 de mar. de 2021

Great posting! We

just dug a 35M x 25M x 4M pond on my Thai wife’s family rice paddy land. It is still the dry season here in Surin, so we’re beginning to fill it from our deep well. As it will hold 1,600,000 liters, that would take a year or more! We need rain. My wife has already released two 1 kg Nile tilapia in the pond. My wife’s sister will grow vegetables next to the pond, and raise tilapia (not your way—we’ll never drain the pond. We’ll have to learn how to manage & catch the tilapia. Mel & Pin

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