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Tilapia Fish - Care in aquarium & Breeding

Zebra cichlid - Tilapia buttikoferi, resized image

Brief Description

Tilapia is the Tswana word for fish. There are many varieties of fish called tilapia but the 4 main categories are Tilapia, Oreochromis, Sarotherodon, and Danakilia. The name Tilapia is the common name for almost 100 species of cichlids from the “Tilapiine Cichlid Tribe”. Most tilapia cichlids are freshwater fish and some are brackish water species. Tilapia cichlids are native to waters throughout Africa and the Middle East. The water chemistry and quality in these areas are not always suitable for many species but tilapia have the ability to survive even where conditions are very poor.

Most types of tilapia are omnivorous, preferring to eat soft vegetation and detritus, which can be anything from dead animals and organisms to fecal matter. Originally they were introduced into several different countries to help control pesky plant populations or mosquitoes. It turns out the tilapia became a worse pest in many areas of the world than the pests they were meant to eliminate. This species is considered a pest because they can take over many bodies of fresh or brackish water consuming all the natural food sources, leaving none for the native species. They can survive in a wide range of water conditions but their optimum temperature is between 73-74°F with an alkaline to acidic pH. When kept at lower temperatures their growth rate slows down.

Because this invasive species is so highly adaptable to different water conditions they thrive anywhere they are introduced. This led aquaculture farmers to using them as a solution rather than a problem. Tilapia is the third most important fish in aquaculture today. The tilapia species that are used for aquaculture farming are from the Oreochromis and Sarotherodon genres. Tilapias grow to a relatively large size at a fairly rapid rate. Since they are tolerant to various water conditions, they are very easy to care for. These fish reproduce quickly and efficiently allowing growing numbers to be farmed at an outstanding rate. This fish can be very tasty if prepared correctly, thus it has helped to drive out hunger in various areas of the world.

Tilapias are generally not great community fish because of their aggressive nature and disruptive habits. They would probably drive down the health of its community tank mates by stressing them out; they are very confrontational, like to fight and they tend to disturb plants and substrates. However, if they are provided with plenty of space with little or no plants, they can be very admirable pets. Some of the few fish that may be able to survive with tilapias are barbs and certain bottom feeders.

The tilapia fish that are kept in the aquarium hobby are very nice to look at. Of course, if they were not they would not be kept as pets. The patterns and colors on the Tilapia buttikoferi, Tilapia rendalli and Tilapia joka are beautiful and desired by hobbyists in the aquarium trade. They require a well rounded diet consisting of plenty of veggies and protein, and they need a large tank so they have plenty of room to grow. The less decorative species are usually used in aquaculture as a source of food.


Breeding tilapias are fairly easy once you have a pair. To find a breeding pair you should raise several young tilapias together and let them pair up naturally. Feed them well and keep the water clean and clear to ensure they will spawn readily. Most tilapias are open substrate spawners who dig large pits in which the male and female will clean and prepare before laying their eggs. The female will select her spot to lay her eggs and the male will follow behind to fertilize them. The female will use her ovipositor which is a short, wide tube that dispenses her eggs. The male uses his own ovipositor, which is longer and thinner than the female’s. He uses this ovipositor to fertilize the eggs with his sperm. Tilapia parents have the tendency to be extremely aggressive toward all other fish when spawning so be sure to add plenty of hiding places if you have your tilapia in a community tank.

Large quantities of fry are produced in each brood. Much like many other cichlids, tilapias use their great parenting skills to protect and provide for their young. Tilapia fry grow quickly and can eat baby brine shrimp as soon as their egg sacs are absorbed. Within a matter of months these fry will be able to produce their own young.

Source of some information that can be found in the article above

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