Dining on Mars, Part 4: Tilapia

The first colonists on Mars will have to be, out of necessity, vegans. Growing plants on Mars will be challenging enough; raising livestock would be utterly impractical. If we must include animal protein in a Martian diet, the only realistic option would be bugs like crickets or mealworms.

However, as a Mars colony grows, a few “luxury foods” might be added to the menu, including heartier sources of protein like seafood. That may not make a lot of sense at first. Mars is a barren, desert planet. How could we bring fish to a place like that?

But research has already done about how fish fare in space. The Japanese Aeropace Exploration Agency (JAXA) built a fish tank aboard the International Space Station.

Building large, underground aquariums on Mars wouldn’t be too difficult, compared to all the other aboveground and belowground structures a Mars colony would need. And if your colony settled in a region like Utopia Planitia, you should have more than enough water to fill your fish tanks (as we’ll see in Friday’s post).

In Robert Zubrin’s book The Case for Mars, he casually mentions that tilapia would be a good choice for Martian fish farming, because they’re herbivores and they could eat a lot of the plant matter that we can’t digest. I’ve found some research that seems to back Zubrin’s suggestion up; however, there’s some concern about whether or not Martian tilapia would be as nutritious as the Earthling kind. A lot will depend on the sorts of plant matter available for us to feed our Mars-born fish.

Personally, I love seafood. Also, I’m a big fan of aquariums, so living on Mars is starting to sound even more appealing to me. And there is still one more food source that I want to tell you about that might (might!) be a viable option for a self-sustaining Mars colony. Stay tuned!

P.S.: And if you want to try the Mars colony diet out yourself, check out Kate Rauner’s blog to get some recipes!

14 thoughts on “Dining on Mars, Part 4: Tilapia

  1. I predict that once the taboo of eating lab-grown meat fades over time(probably a long time), society will collectively marvel at all the trouble we went through to raise animals food. It’ll be weird to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think there are a number of Tilapia species that can survive purely on algae, so feeding them shouldn’t be a problem.

    I also like clams and oysters for early terraforming projects on other planets that have oceans, but maybe they’re not as good for closed-environment systems, since you’d have a saltwater system for the molluscs, and freshwater systems for wastewater processing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like you know a little about this! What’s the advantage of clams and oysters for terraforming? Is it that they’re good at filtering junk out of the water, or is it just that they’re good at surviving in anything?


      1. Yep, a lot of good reasons. You mentioned their filtration, so yeah, if you had water with a lot of nutrients and too much algae was blooming, they’d help clear it out.

        They broadcast spawn ridiculous numbers of offspring, so spreading them around a water body doesn’t take effort by the human colonists.

        Harvesting adult clams and oysters is a fairly low-effort activity compared to raising livestock or fishing.

        Bivalves: don’t leave home without them.

        Liked by 1 person

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