How do you humanely kill tilapia from your aquaponics tank? (3 methods)

How to humanely kill a fish before cleaning it and eating it

Warning: If you’re squeamish or if you don’t like the idea of killing animals, this article may upset you. But before you decide to keep aquaponics fish for harvesting, you are better to read this article first. Let’s take a look at how do you humanely kill tilapia

How do you humanely kill tilapia from your aquaponics tank - 3 methods

How do you humanely kill tilapia from your aquaponics tank in 15 seconds…

How you humanely kill tilapia fish involves three methods of stunning before bleeding them out. The first humane method is to use percussive stunning with a blunt object to the top of the fishes head above its eyes. Alternatively use the spiking method, which is also known as pithing or iki-jime. With the spiking method you push a spike into the top of the tilapia’s head above its eyes and into its brain. The final humane killing method uses a DICK Stunner.


How do you humanely kill tilapia before you eat them?

If you’re looking for the most humane way to kill a fish intended for eating, here are a few initial thoughts on the matter for humane killing of fish.

  • Any fish that’s caught to be eaten must be handled carefully in order to reduce stress.
  • All fish must be humanely killed as soon as possible after they’re caught.
  • It’s important to understand that humane killing requires the fish to be stunned, which means it’s rendered instantaneously insensible.
  • Leave your tilapia in the water until immediately prior to stunning them.

With these thoughts in mind, lets take a look at the only two humane ways to humanely stun and kill tilapia from your aquaponics tank.

How to humanely kill a fish before cleaning it and eating it

There are three methods that can be used to stun fish which have been caught by hand. These are:

  1. Percussive stunning.
  2. Spiking, which is also known as pithing or Iki-jime.
  3. Use a DICK Stunner.

Let’s take a look at both of these three methods to humanely kill tilapia from your aquaponics tank before eating them.

All fish that are caught for eating must be handled carefully to reduce stress and humanely killed as soon as possible after capture. Humane killing requires that the fish is stunned (rendered instantaneously insensible) before being bled out.”

RSPCA – What is the most humane way to kill a fish intended for eating?

1. Percussive stunning your tilapia

If you’re going to be using the percussive stunning method, you need to think about the following points:

  • For the stun to be effective the blow being administered must be to the correct part of the tilapia’s skull.
  • In order to ensure maximum impact to the brain you need to find where the brain is closest to the surface of the head and where the skull is at its thinnest.
  • With tilapia the best place for an effective blow is found directly above and very slightly behind the eyes.
  • For the blow to be effective it doesn’t have to penetrate the head.
  • The best way to administer the percussive stunning is to use a blunt instrument.
  • The force required to stun the fish will depend on the size of the fish. The bigger the fish the greater the blow needs to be.

Now that you know how to perform a percussive stun, how will you know if it’s been successful or not?

How to know if your percussive stunning has worked:

  • There’s no opercular movement: The operculum on a fish is the bony plate that covers the fish’s gills which serves as a water pump. Each time a fish respires, the operculum moves. This means if this stops moving, your tilapia is dead.
  • No eye movement: The eyes on a fish don’t always move, but on tilapia they do. So check for eye movement after the blow to it’s head.

If you fail to stun the fish on the first blow to its head, you must re-stun it immediately.

A failed stunning can happen if the blow was too far back or not hard enough. If the blow is too far back, this will not stun the fish and it may also damage the flesh. The same is true if the blow is made too far forward of the eyes. You won’t stun the fish, but in this case you won’t damage the flesh.

Always consider the fishes well-being, and if there’s any doubt as to whether the fish has been stunned effectively or not, repeat the stun.

2. Killing your tilapia by spiking

Sorry for the gruesome detail here, but spiking your tilapia involves driving a sharp spike into the brain of the fish. I did say at the beginning of this article that it may upset you. For this method of killing your tilapia the following applies:

Where to stab a fish to kill it:

  • The spike should be placed in a position to penetrate the brain of the fish, which is above or slightly behind the eyes.
  • The spike should be pushed quickly and firmly into the skull.
  • The spiking should produce immediate unconsciousness of your tilapia.
  • It’s advisable to move the spike from side to side to make sure the brain is destroyed.
  • Time is of the essence so don’t allow your fish to thrash around and die slowly in air or a bucket as this causes unnecessary stress to the fish.
  • Fish that dies stressed is argued to reduce the eating quality and shortens the storage life of the flesh.

With the above in mind, what are the best tools to use to spike your tilapia?

Use the following tools to spike your tilapia:

  • Use a sharp knife.
  • A sharp ice pick.
  • A sharpened screwdriver or other pointed tool.
  • Specially designed iki jime tools like an Ikigun.

In the same way as using percussive stunning, you need to look for signs that your fish is dead. For spiking this also includes no opercular movement and no eye movement.

Is pithing humane for killing tilapia?

Pithing is considered and viewed as a humane way of slaughtering an animal. So if you use pithing, which is another term for spiking, to kill your tilapia before you eat them this okay.

3. Use a DICK Stunner

The third and final method to stun a fish is to use a DICK Stunner, which is a tool you can buy on Amazon. This slaughter aid is made in Germany and is designed for smaller animals.

The DICK Stunner works on the same principles as the spiking method describe above. However, instead of you having to put the force into spiking the head of the fish, this tool does it for you with its spring loaded bolt. This spring is extremely powerful and should work with any size of tilapia, as the device is suitable for up to 16 kg (35 pounds)

The spike of the DICK Stunner penetrates the skull with considerable force from the bolt. The instructions that come with this device explain to you to stun your fish on a firm surface.

Pros vs the cons of percussive stunning vs spiking your tilapia

Some would argue that the spiking method opens a hole for bacteria to attack the fish. However, so long as you intend to eat it right away or to put the fish on ice, this isn’t a problem.

The spiking method is a more accurate method of killing your tilapia, so long as you put the spike in the right place and hit the brain. Using the percussive stunning method requires you to be able to hit the fishes head in exactly the right place.

The percussive stunning method can damage the flesh of the fish, which is especially the case if you hit the fish behind where you’re supposed to.

What to do after stunning or spiking your tilapia fish

Stunning your fish or spiking them in the head is only the first stage of killing them. After they’ve been stunned or spiked you are advised to bleed them out.

Bleeding your fish immediately after stunning, spiking or using iki jime is thought to improve flesh quality. It’s also thought to improve the storage life of your fish too.

It is therefore suggested to immediately bleed your fish after they’ve been stunned or spiked and then immediately placed them in ice or even better prepared them immediately for cooking. There’s nothing better than really fresh fish.

How to bleed a fish after catching it and where to cut

To bleed your tilapia, cut immediately behind the gill on one side of the fish. This will sever the arteries and allow your fish to bleed out.

Prepare your fish killing area first to avoid getting blood everywhere, which may stain. You’ll need a chopping board, but ideally one that has a channel around the outside to catch the blood when you bleed it out.

To make the first cut you simply lift up the gill and guide a sharp knife behind the red fleshy parts underneath the operculum. Use your knife to slice through the fish around the gill from the bottom of the gill slit to the top. This cutting action will cut the main arteries on this side of the fish.

Once the first cut is made, flip the fish over. Now do the same to the gill on the other side of the fish. Your fish will immediately start bleeding on your cutting board and blood will likely spill anywhere. But if you’ve used a chopping board with a small channel around the edge, the blood will be caught in this.

The moral of killing your own tilapia fish

The moral of this article is: If you don’t relish the idea of killing fish, then either aquaponics sin’t for you.

Or alternatively, you use an aquaponics system to produced great fast growing organic vegetables and fruit. So instead of growing fish to eat, simply keep fish for the purpose of providing the natural fertiliser for your plants instead.

I hope you got something from this article about how do you humanely kill tilapia before you eat them

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Happy DIY aquaponics.

How do you humanely kill tilapia from your aquaponics tank? (3 methods)

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