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Giant Tiger Prawn Farming in the Philippines

Giant Tiger Prawn farming was one of the highly-profitable aquatic farming activities in the Philippines especially during the 80s when the country was still allowed to export. Today, because local demands are very high and prawn supply is low, tiger prawn farming is still highly profitable and one of the better medium-term investments.

The Giant Tiger Prawn

Tiger Prawn (Penaeus monodon), commonly known as the giant tiger prawn, Asian tiger shrimp, black tiger shrimp, and other names, is a marine crustacean that is widely reared for food. It is called sugpo in Tagalog and lukon/lokon in Hiligaynon.  The tiger prawn is one of the two most important prawn and shrimp species farmed in the Philippines. The other one is Penaeus vannamei or the White Leg Shrimp.

Tiger prawn females can reach about 33 cm (13 in) long, but are typically 25–30 cm (10–12 in) long and weigh 200–320 g (7–11 oz); males are slightly smaller at 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long and weighing 100–170 g (3.5–6.0 oz).[1] The carapace and abdomen are transversely banded with alternating red and white. The antennae are grayish brown. Brown pereiopods and pleopods are present with fringing setae in red.

Its natural distribution is the Indo-Pacific, ranging from the eastern coast of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, as far as Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean, and northern Australia.

giant tiger prawn farming in the philippines
Tiger prawn image credit Lydia Hipolito Mercado

Giant Tiger Prawn Farming in the Philippines

Preparation of Pond

Tiger prawns are farmed in ponds. Between harvests, stocking ponds are dried out and accumulated sediments from the previous crop are removed. These sediments contain organic matter (dead plankton, feces, uneaten food, and old molts) and mineral matter (soil particles eroded from pond walls by aeration). Prior to filling, the ponds are limed to encourage plankton growth and minimize disease problems. The ponds are filled through screened inlets, fertilized with both organic and inorganic fertilizers, and allowed to stand for 7-10 days to allow the plankton to develop.

Feeding of Tiger Prawns

Ponds are stocked with post-larvae at rates varying from 25-40 per square meter. The post-larvae are weaned from plankton to manufactured feed over the first 4 weeks.

Prawns are fed 3-4 times per day, with the last feed being given close to dark. Feed is blown into the pond using an engine-driven blower, or by hand (for smaller ponds). Consumption is measured at each feed by using feed trays that are submerged along the pond edges. Growth rates are monitored via weekly sampling of the prawns. This feed management enables farms to minimize feed wastage and maintain good feed conversion rates. Feed conversion ratios (kilogram of feed to produce 1kg of prawns) range from 1.6:1 to 2.2:1.

Water Quality Requirement

Stable pond conditions and good water quality are necessary to maximize survival and growth rates Giant tiger prawns are suitable to farm in brackish water. Paddlewheels and aspirators are normally used for aeration. The aeration generates a current causing the sediments to accumulate in the center of the pond. This maintains a clean feeding area around the pond edge. As the quantity of prawns (biomass) increases, the level of aeration required increases to maintain the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. A minimum of 1 kilowatt of aeration is required for each tonne of prawns in the pond.

Exchanging water controls the density of algal blooms and ammonia levels in the ponds. Water exchange is minimized to help maintain stable water conditions.

Wastewater is removed from the bottom of the pond and drained into sedimentation or treatment ponds before being reused or released into the environment.

Harvesting of Giant Tiger Prawns

Prawns are normally ready for harvest in 120-150 days (4 to 5 months); however, the time will depend on stocking rates and water temperature.

Ponds are sometimes partially harvested using traps or seine nets, but more often a drain harvest is used. The water is released through the outlet structure, which has a net fitted over the pipe and the prawns are then caught in this net. Partial harvests may be used early in the season to reduce the density of prawns in the pond and allow the prawns remaining to grow to a larger size.

Normally, prawns are harvested when they are 25-35g each. Prawns are washed, graded, and generally cooked before marketing. Some prawns are sold green and others are individually quick-frozen for storage and sale at a later date.

Questions Related to Giant Tiger Prawn Farming

How long do tiger prawns take to grow?

The stocked seed (15–20 mm) reaches this harvest size in about 4 months in 15–25 ppt salinity. Over the past two decades, the Tiger prawn, Penaeus monodon Fabricius, has become an important aquatic export product for Southeast Asian countries.

Can Tiger Prawns live in freshwater?

Black tiger prawns can grow quickly under a wide range of salinities. Maximum growth rates occur in 15-20 parts per thousand (ppt) salinity – seawater is normally 35ppt. Prawns can survive in zero salinity (freshwater) for short periods.

How fast do prawns reproduce?

A single prawn can spawn more than once in any one year. The female releases hundreds of thousands of eggs. Fertilized eggs hatch within 24 hours and larvae spend time floating in the water, developing through a number of stages, as they drift shoreward to shallow, hypersaline (highly salty) waters.

How long does a tiger prawn live?

Tiger prawns can live up to 3 years given the best conditions in the wild in the tropical parts of the ocean.

What do giant tiger prawns eat?

Adult tiger prawns are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of food, including algal and plant material, other invertebrates, and dead/decaying organic matter. Most soft-bottom fishes and several invertebrates eat juvenile and adult tiger prawns.

How do you grow tiger prawns at home?

In the Philippines, many backyard farmers are growing tiger prawns in tanks and aquaponics systems.

How long can prawns live out of water?

When shrimp were held longer than 24 hours, moderate to poor survival was seen up to 72 hours. Protocols that were successful for waterless shipping of marine shrimp were also used on freshwater prawns.

How profitable is shrimp farming?

Both tiger prawn farming and white shrimp farming are highly profitable and can net a farmer between P750,000 to P1.2M per hectare given the right price, low mortality, and good sizes.

How much does it cost to start a prawn farm?

In the Philippines, if you already have a pond, you can start prawn farming for at least P50,000 and above. The majority of the cost will go to the larvae, aeration, and feeds.

Can shrimp live without an air pump?

Photosynthesis will take place naturally and algae will grow and feed the fish. But doing so to a shrimp will probably kill it. Shrimps and prawns will not survive without a biological filter and oxygen air supply.

How much space does a prawn need?

You need to have 2 square feet per prawn otherwise they become territorial.

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