Thursday, November 13, 2008


Tilapia are one of the most popular food fishes in the world. The tilapia tribe consists of almost a hundred species of cichlid. Due to large size and fast growth, they are growing in popularity as a farmed fish.

Tilapia are omnivorous, commonly eating aquatic vegetation and scavenging for dead plant and animal matter. They tend to live in fresh and sometimes brackish environments such as streams, lakes, estuaries, and rivers. Like other fish in the cichlid family, tilapia exhibit complex breeding behavior, looking after and guarding their eggs and fry, and some tilapia actually raise their young in their mouths.

As an Invasive Species
A significant population of African tilapia has been introduced to North America and other continents through aquaculture and private aquariums. Because they are large, breed prolifically, and tolerate widely varying water conditions, they have no problem quickly spreading throughout an entire lake or river system. They dig in the substrate causing turbidity, consume indigenous plants, and compete with local fish for food, often completely dominating the ecosystem.

Tilapia in Aquaculture
Tilapia are the third most popular farmed fish in the world, after carps (goldfish, koi, etc) and salmon. They are an excellent source of protein, offered in both higher end restaurants and rural fish markets. They are so easy and profitable to farm that a recent estimate for the FAO put the total annual production at roughly 1.5 million tonnes. Being omnivorous, they can be fed on a diet of grain and vegetable matter, which avoids the problem of global protein loss that threatens the sustainability of fish like salmon and tuna.

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