Information Last Reviewed Spring 2007
See adult morphology
Caudal fin with regular dark vertical stripes
Dorsal fin with dark margin
Red coloration on head and lower part of the body in breeding males
Variable coloration in females dependent on subspecies- some may show coloration similar to males during breeding season
Nile tilapia is unlikely to be confused with native North American species but is similar to and has historically been confused with blue tilapia, Oreochromis aureus.
Caudal fin with regular dark vertical stripes vs. vague or variable stripes in O. aureus
Lacks the intense metallic blue on head of breeding males as in O. aureus
Typically higher number of dorsal spines (16-18 in O. niloticus and 15-16 in O. aureus)
During the day fish may form large schools that break up during the night and reform at dawn
Diurnal feeding pattern
Omnivorous as fry consuming primarily copepods, hydracarines and insects
By 6 cm TL, diet becomes primarily phytoplankton
Diurnal feeding pattern
Primarily utilize phytoplankton (blue-green algae and diatoms) but may also consume macrophytes when phytoplankton densities are low
Maximum size of 64 mm TL
Typically obtain a total length of 25 cm by second year
Total length at first sexual maturity ranges from 9 to 15 cm TL
Size at maturity positively correlated to maximum size observed in population
Age at maturity occurs in first year between 5 and 10 months of age
Female fecundity ranges from 149 to 2797 ova for fish between 36 and 975 g
In Israel spawning occurs between April and May
In Nile delta spawning more protracted- from April to August
Reproduction first observed at 19 deg C
Males construct simple crater-shaped nests in sand or mud
Nests two times the male length or up to 1 m in diameter
Spawning habitat variable- from firm sand to muddy lagoons to steep lava shores
Females form school above the nests and swim in a circular motion
No lasting pair-bond retained during breeding season
Both male and female clean nest
Eggs are laid in approximately 20 batches over a 45-min to 2 hour period
Female picks up the eggs as soon as they are laid
Females develop a characteristic coloration pattern while brooding young (dark stripes across forehead and a dark operculum, chin, and eye)
A single female may have several size classes of ova in the ovaries at any one time- indicating multiple spawns in a single season
Eggs yellow and pear-shaped
Female rolls eggs in her mouth during incubation
A female may brood up to 2000 eggs at once
Hatching occurs at 4-5 days when young are 4.5 mm in length
After hatching, young remain with mother and will reenter her mouth if threatened
Eurythermal; can tolerate a wide range of temperatures (8 – 42 deg C)
Can tolerate temperatures of 8 deg C at night for several hours
Prefers temperatures between 28 –30 deg C depending on acclimation temperature
Can tolerate low dissolved oxygen (0.1ppm)
Moderately euryhaline; can withstand salinity range of 11 to 29‰
Reduced salinity tolerance when compared to many other introduced tilapia
Tropical and subtropical Africa, Israel
North American Distribution
Georgia- Lake Seminole
Florida- Lake Seminole
Mississippi- Pascagoula River estuary Jackson Co. (Mark Peterson, Todd Slack final report)
Probable Means of Introduction
Escape from aquaculture facilities
Control of aquatic vegetation
Largely unknown but likely similar to other tilapia species (see account for Oreochromis aureus)
Dispersal of exotic diseases and parasites
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USGS Nonindigenous Species Program: