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Bangus or Milkfish Cultivation Systems in the Philippines

by Henrylito D. Tacio

Davao City, 6 February 2010. “The backbone of Philippine aquaculture” is how bangus farming has been regarded by most fishery experts.  Although commercial production of bangus dates back more than a century ago, it was only in recent years that significant growth of the industry was realized.Destruction of natural habitats mean fewer fish.

Today, the Philippines is one of the top bangus producers in the world, along with Indonesia and Taiwan.  “Until recently, the country has contributed around 55 percent share of the world bangus production,” said Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, former executive director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD).

The Philippines has been exporting bangus to other countries like the United States, England, Canada, and Japan.  “The main consumer market, however, is the United States, where there are large Filipino communities,” Dr. Guerrero said.

Sleek and silvery, beloved because of its mild, sweet flesh, and its melt-in the-mouth belly fat, bangus is a favorite Filipino fish.  In Metro Manila, the national fish is rated first-class. Its popularity of bangus can be gleaned in such recipes as bangus en tocho (fried bangus served with a sauce of any of the following: tahure, tokwa, or tausi), bulanglang na bangus (with eggplants, ampalaya, sitao, malunggay, onion, tomatoes, rice washing and bagoong), rellenong bangus (formerly a party dish; now available even in school cafeterias), and bangus lumpia.

Also known as milkfish, bangus (scientific name: Chanos chanos) is most closely related to carps and catfishes.  It occurs in the Indian Ocean and across the Pacific Ocean, tending to school around coasts and islands with reefs.  A warm water species, it prefers water temperatures between 20-33 degrees Centigrade.

In the Philippines, bangus can be raised anywhere.  However, the top bangus producing provinces are Bulacan, Pangasinan, Capiz, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental.  The most recent report released by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) show that the combined production of these five provinces alone accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s total production.

Raising bangus can be done employing different production systems in freshwater and in brackishwater.  “Depending on the available resources and level of management, the culture methods can vary from the traditional or extensive system, the modular or semi-intensive to the intensive system,” according to Milkfish: A Basic Domestic Need Commodity, a primer published by PCAMRD. 

The semi-intensive system is an improvement of the traditional system where fingerlings are stocked at a higher density.  With natural and artificial feeds, bangus fingerlings are stocked at densities of 6,000 to 12,000 per hectare.  With dependence on natural food in the traditional system, low stocking densities of 1,000 to 3,000 fingerlings per hectare are applied.  In this method, the culture period is longer thus allowing only one or two croppings a year.  The modular pond system, on the other hand, allows a continuous operation and makes possible four to six croppings per year.

To make fishponds and fish cages productive throughout the year, adequate supply of bangus fingerlings is necessary. “Historically, milkfish fry abound in the country, especially during the fry season in the months of April to October,” the PCAMRD primer reports.  “During recent years, the number collected has been dwindling.”

Farmed fingerlings are preferred to wild catch.

Among the causes cited for the diminishing supply of bangus fry were destruction of natural habitats brought about by the extensive conversion of mangrove areas to fishponds, destructive fishing methods and environmental degradation, among others. 

 “With the decrease in seed supply, the cost of fry and fingerlings has increased significantly over the years,” the primer said.  To save the bangus industry from downfall, some have imported fingerlings from Taiwan and Indonesia; although others thought this option was not practical as the fry were very expensive.

 Enter Finfish Hatcheries, Inc. (FHI), which selling bangus fry and fingerlings, among others. “We have been in the bangus fry production business since 1997,” says Rene B. Bocaya, FHI’s national marketing manager. 

According to Bocaya, the price per piece of wild bangus fry was P1.00 a decade or so ago.  “With the introduction to the market of hatchery produced fry (local and imported), the price now ranges from thirty to forty-five centavos per piece only.  The hatchery-produced fry doesn’t only give very big savings to the fishpond operators, but it also provides them good quality and steady supply throughout the year.”

 As a result of steady supply of bangus in the market, there are now processing plants for bangus value-added products.  The foreign exchange earnings from bangus exports has been reported to be about US$15 million. Intensive cultivation of bangus in the Philippines.

 In Sarangani Province, where the FHI’s hatchery is located, bangus production has increased considerably.  Actually, the hatchery is in Lun Masla, Malapatan.  Here, about 13,000 breeders are maintained and managed to produce bangus eggs on a daily basis throughout the year. The eggs are collected, cleaned and hatched. The hatchlings are grown to the marketable sizes in 18-21 days in larval ponds. During the growing period, they are fed with a mixture of planktons and commercial feeds.

The breeders are 50% males and 50% females.  “It is tedious to sex the fish individually and tag them,” Bocaya explains.  “We have some breeders that are more than 25 years old and are still breeding in groups well.”

 It takes 5 years for a bangus to mature sexually.  FHI selects breeders for commercial production only when they are 8 years old. The female mature breeder, called sabalo, can produce seven kilos of eggs in one year. And one kilo consists of 750,000 eggs.

Bangus spawns in ponds in frenzy at night.  The sabalo release the eggs while the males discharge the milt. Fertilization happens externally in the pond water. There is no need for hormone induction for mature breeders. The eggs are collected in nets in the early morning. They are cleaned and placed in the larval ponds immediately.

 “The bangus eggs hatch in the ponds within 24 hours,” Bocaya informs.  “The hatchlings feed on the yolk sac for about 2-3 days. They undergo morphological transformations. As first feeds, the larva are supplied natural food in a mixture of zoo- and phyto-planktons. Commercial feeds are provided in the last quarter of the production.”

 Bangus is grown in a number of stages and in varying degrees of culture intensity depending on the grower’s production design and the nature of the growing environment.  The simplest bangus value chain is the three-stage system of a nursery stage, a transition stage and a grow-out stage.

In the nursery, bangus is grown from fry (kawag-kawag) to fingerling (hatirin). In the transition stage, the fingerlings are grown to juvenile (garungan). In the grow-out stage the juveniles are grown to marketable sizes.

 In the grow-out stage, bangus is produced in a number of categories depending on the pond structure the capitalization and the grower’s production design. Traditional extensive ponds using lablab as feeds normally seed 2,000 juveniles of 50 grams in size.Lablab production is takes 6 weeks. A well-prepared lablab pond can produce 500 kilograms of fish biomass. With 2,000 juveniles stocked, the grower is able to produce 300-gram fish in three to four months from seeding.

Bangus grown in marine cage systems. In intensive ponds with aeration, growers can produce 8,000-10,000 kilograms of bangus fish in a hectare. Stocking density to grow 500-gram fish is about 20,000 juveniles per hectare.  In fish pens in Laguna Lake, juveniles of 30 to 50 grams are stocked at 50,000 per hectare.  There is no feeding needed as the lake provides the algae that the bangus feed on.

 In marine sea cages, juveniles of 30 to 50 grams are stocked at a rate of 20-50 per square meter depending on the site and the business plan of the grower. Harvest can reach up to 30-40 kilograms per cubic meter of 500-gram bangus in six to eight months.

 According to Bocaya, at least 50 percent of the costs in intensive pond systems goes to feeds.  The other costs that figure are electricity, water, labor and pond maintenance costs.   In marine cage systems, feeds are 80 percent of the costs.  In extensive systems, lablab production is still 40 percent of the costs.

 “On the average, gross profits are at about 25 to 30 percent of selling price on a good year across all production systems,” Bocaya points out.

No wonder, sales of hatchery-bred fingerlings are increasing. When they were new, the fish operators and growers were skeptical about using the hatchery-bred fingerlings. They thought that those caught from the wild were more hardy.

However, the perceptions of bangus farmers have changed, Bocaya said. They now prefer the hatchery-bred fingerlings because they are more uniform and they also grow faster. Those from the wild usually have a survival rate of 50 to 60 percent while those from the hatchery usually have 82 to 85 percent survival rate.

FHI now sells hatchery-bred fingerlings all over the country.  It delivers only when the minimum volume of order is 500,000 pieces.  “Generally, the buyers pick-up the fry from our sales offices,” Bocaya says.  Buyers can buy fingerlings from their main sales office at 2286 Alsons Building, Pasong Tamo Extension in Makati City.  They have offices also in Bacolod City, Iloilo City, and Alabel, Sarangani Province. 


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Reader Comments (50)

Sir, may i know where i can find your office in Iloilo for
purchasing bangus fingerlings.


March 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergilbert



May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermrs elena yap

We are Milkfish Fry exporter base in Bali...

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSumber Bahagia

We are from Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur we are selling
(wild)bangus fry with a low price. If someboday interested
you can contact to this number: 09096955652. Tnank you and
God bless..

August 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJun Aranjuez

i am from solomon islands and I am interested in contracting a n expert in bangus production from wild to harvesting of bangus for export.

Please contact me asap


September 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersimeon bouro

my contact address is sebcaabc123@hotmail.com

thank you


September 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersimeon bouro

good day sir! the article is really interesting.
Sir, do you have any feasibilty studies conducted about milk fish?
can you please help me regarding milkfish pond design and the facilities
that are needed in milkfish production? i am recently conducting a feasibility study
in milk fish production. Any related information is reaslly helpful.
thank you sir..

October 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermark jay

here is my email add. sorianomarkjay@yahoo.com
i am an agricultural engineering student sir and i am interested in your pond design
and the facilities that are needed for the production. any related information regarding this
matter will e so helpful sir.
thanks in advance.

October 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermark jay

Thank you for the article. It is most informative. Regarding grow out consequential to selling fingerlings (meaning approx. 5 inches) what are the standard financial considerations as per practice and experience. Meaning with fingerlings to grow out, to sell at higher proces in the cities rather than to sell fingerlings (5 inches) at the area of growth, what would be best?

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHarry Tambuatco

Hi everyone, our business is processing milkfish for export,
we purchase fingerlings for our fish cages and for our growth
cages. Our milkfish farm is at the Mariculture Park of
Samal Island, Davao del Norte, Philippines. Interested
parties for milkfish export both processed and whole may
get in touch with me. 09177217562 or jeantejada@yahoo.com.

Looking forward to a more productive milkfish industry!

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean Tejada

On behalf of the fisheries department I would like to seek your assistance and consideration regarding the training in Milkfish farming. I believe that my country Kiribati lacks the expertise for milkfish farming therefore I would like to take this opportunity to ask your assistance regarding this matter.

Moreover,if your good office can provide training on milkfish farming I humbly request that the fisheries department in Kiribati really need this training.

Thank you so much and highly appreciated your assistance.

Tereere Tioti
Training Officer(Fisheries Department)

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTereere Tioti

Good Morning Sir/Ma'am,

This is Jerickson R. Legaspi of SUNTRADE AQUA-INDUSTRY CO. and I just want to inquire if you are interested in our products like Submersible Pump.We have 4 kinds of submersible pump which is H TYPE LARGE FLOW CAPACITY PUMP that is very useful in industrial and water conservation engineering to supply water and drain water in great volume.AC TYPE PUMP FOR SEA AND LAND that is very useful irrigation for farm,drain water and transfer oxygen for fish,shrimp and ell pond.B TYPE PUMP FOR FRESH WATER that is very useful for delivery and drainage for agricultural,fishery and livestock industries and drain out accumulated water in the basement and the pumping up for water tower.S TYPE PUMP FOR SEWAGE that is very useful in extraction of dirty and waste water plants.
We have also Blowers (Roots blower, Ring Blower, Turbo blower, blower accessories), Worm Gear/Reducer and Induction motor and Wheel Paddle.
I know it helps big in your industry and if you are interested Sir/Ma'am and if you want to see some brochure, you can reply to me or you can contact me in this no. 09484106354 or (046) 853-2012
Thank you and God Bless!

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJerickson R. Legaspi

i just want to ask if how many months it takes to culture bangus until marketable sizes

August 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commentervhen


if your interested to buy fingerlings bangus in cebu pls dont hesitate to contact me 09267109531.thak you

October 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjanice

gud day sir, may i know address in bacolod city so i can inquire regarding the bangus fingerlins, my fishfond location is in ilog, neg occ. tnx a lot, tnx a lot mario reyes

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermario reyes

Good day sir, I am Ronald Villanueva of Estancia Iloilo, I'm planning to engage in seacage (BANGUS AND GROUPER) farming, but i have no design of such sea cage, could you please send us a design of a cage? thank you so much...

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRonald Villanueva

Hi, I'm nihvan from Sumalig, Tambulig Zambo Sur.

I'm planning to make a Milk Fish Pond in my place this middle of the year.

I'm interested to buy MILK Fish (hatchlings feed) This coming May-June 2012.

Pls do e-mail me at ivorvhan@gmail.com your price per piece.

Thank you so much.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNihvan Gabato

WE SELL milkfish seed, carp seed,Grouper seed, tilapia seed, silver pompano seed,yellow Fin Pompano seed, SUPER QUALITY OF BALI, Indonesia. If you are interested please contact us (Pbenzena@gmail.com / http://www.facebook / Prayoga Benzene / Benzene Bali Fish)

February 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBenzena Bali

thanks for the good imformation.it helps us for our operation,pls,send your nearest station her in zanboanga city,we are in need of bangus fry this april.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjonathan balambao


zanboanga nearest station in the city ..?
what the name of the nearest airport to the Air you get there ..?
so we can send the details of the cost / CNF price for milkfish seed ..
@ mail please send your ..?

visit me at:
Facebook.com / Prayoga Benzene / Benzene Fish Bali.

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBenzena Bali

we are looking for buyers of bangus fry (milkfish fry) here in cebu, just contact this # 09489278632..tnx...

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIan

dear sir
me and my family is doing an annual activity of releasing our 10 pcs aged bangus every year back to the sea as our payback to our mother nature. so how could we determine a female bangus from a male bangus, pls send us any help or pictures regarding this matter

thank you

April 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermanny buensuceso

can i know what bangus, prawn and tilapia species most commonly used by farmers here in the philippines. can anyone answer for me that question asap. because we are now pilot-scale of producing probiotics for aquaculture. thank you.
you can email me for the answer at franklinadrianregalado@yahoo.com. thank you again

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfranklin regalado

if your interested to buy fingerlings bangus in DAVAO pls dont hesitate to contact me 09273260493.Thank you.

June 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris Paul

Good Day Sir! Do you have an info about how big is the bangus industry in the philippines and who are the major players in this industry. thanks

July 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercarljohn c. collado

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