Blue tilapia

FISH PROFILE

COMMON NAME

Blue Tilapia

Scientific name

Oreochromis aureus

FAMILY

Cichlidae

LENGTH

8 to 20 inches

DIET

Green algae, diatoms, small invertebrates

FISH PROFILE

COMMON NAME

Blue Tilapia

Scientific name

Oreochromis aureus

FAMILY

Cichlidae

LENGTH

8 to 20 inches

DIET

Green algae, diatoms, small invertebrates

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

Blue tilapia can be distinguished by their blue-grey color and faint vertical bars.  They are laterally compressed and deep-bodied with long, flat dorsal fins extending along the length of their bodies. The body and mouth of tilapia are shaped are comparable to a Sunfish or Crappie. The blue tilapia male has bright blue head, pale blue sides, and a blue-black chin and chest. Blue tilapia can reach from 8-20 inches in length and weigh anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds.

RANGE, HABITAT, and BEHAVIOR

Tilapia were introduced into Florida in the 1960s and can be found extensively in tropical/sub-tropical regions of the US, Central and South America, Africa, and Eurasia. However, their native range is typically represented in parts of Africa and the Middle East. Tilapia are widespread and have abundantly populated Florida’s canals, ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, and springs. Sensitivity to salinity varies greatly between species, and some species of tilapia can fully tolerate seawater in marine environments. The most common food consumed by tilapia are green algae, diatoms, plankton, and small invertebrates living in/on bottom detritus. The diet of tilapia often overlaps that of native fish like largemouth bass, which can create a potentially detrimental competition with native fish species.

FUN FACTS

Tilapia are best known as a successful aquaculture fish. The use of tilapia in warm-water aquaculture systems dates back to early Egyptian civilization. Blue tilapia can reproduce in fresh and brackish water, making it easier for their populations to grow in a variety of habitats. Tilapia are non-native to Florida and are often characterized as an “introduced” or “invasive” species. Invasive species, like tilapia, cause numerous problems for native populations. As they out-compete native fish for food, habitat, and other resources, tilapia and other invasives can threaten the stability of fragile spring ecosystems. The etymology of the species Oreochromis aureusOreochromis comes from the Greek words oreos meaning “of the mountains”, and chroma meaning “color”. Aureus stems from the Latin word aurum meaning “gold”.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Why no info on exotic invasive species and the potential threat to our springs? Large schools invade spring runs seeking thermal refuge in winter, then damage the bottom and smother the eggs of sunfish and bass by digging large nests. Silver Glen Springs has at times looked like a minefield with all the tilapia nests. Volusia Blue Spring has been overrun with Blue Tilapia and Sailfin Suckermouth Catfish.

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
    Summary of Risk to the Contiguous United States
    Oreochromis aureus has been transported around the world because of its high value for fisheries and aquaculture. Climate match with the contiguous U.S. is high, reflected in the successful establishment of the species in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California. This species carries with it several potential threats to native species, including resource competition, hybridization, and disease, and it has been implicated in declines of native fish and mollusks. Overall risk posed by this species is high.

    1. Thank you for your feedback on our online Springs Fish ID guide. You are right that Tilapia are an invasive species and do cause issues to our native fish and springs ecosystems. We are in the process of updating the information on our “Blue Tilapia” page to better reflect these facts. FSI is dedicated to springs science and education in efforts to protect our springs – we appreciate your interest in helping us provide the best information possible to support this effort!

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