Tilapia is the second most prolific species, after carp, to be grown in aquaculture and the most commonly grown on earth. Tilapia is farmed in 5 countries, with Asian countries such as China and Indonesia being the main producers. Because of enhanced breeding methods, hybridization and sex reversal, consumer markets grew dramatically in the 2000s. Tilapia is classified among the top ten most consumed fish in the United States, according to the National Fisheries Institute. If you’ve eaten fish in a restaurant, chances are you’ve eaten tilapia.
Spectrum: Tilapia are only native to Africa and many U.S. States regard them as invasive species or as non-indigenous species. Tilapia has been introduced to fresh and brackish waters around the world, often purposely for the purpose of regulating the growth of aquatic plants. Wild colonies of tilapia in Southern California and many lakes and rivers in Texas can be found in the United States.
Description: Tilapia is a hardy, fast-growing fish that can live up to 10 years, weighing up to 10 pounds. Tilapia are shaped like a sunfish or crappie, and the disrupted lateral line characteristic of the fish family Chiclid is easy to recognise. With deep bodies, they are compressed laterally and have long dorsal fins. The dorsal fin’s foremost section is deeply spined. Spines are also present in the anal and pelvic fins. On the sides of fry, fingerlings, and sometimes adults, they are usually large vertical bars of dark coloration.
Biology and History of Life: Tilapia are found in the wild in turbid rives and lakes. They are herbivores that primarily feed on plankton, algae, and other plant matter. They do not produce toxins in their bodies as a result of their feeding habits. With females producing as many as 1,200 eggs per spawn, wild tilapia will spawn throughout the year. Eggs are deposited in nests by some species, while other species are mouth brooders holding fry in male mouths to defend against predators. The mouth brooding species are more commonly farmed because even though they lay less eggs, the fry has a much higher survival rate. In both intensive and comprehensive aquaculture systems, tilapia are farmed. Open air earthen ponds are favoured by most farmers. Females spawn every 17 days under ideal farming conditions. If the condition and temperature of the water are manipulated to a desirable environmental market, it is possible to obtain sized fish within seven to ten months. The cultivation of tilapia in areas of the southern United States is strictly controlled in order to minimise the unnecessary introduction of the species into native waters, for fear of harming the stocks of sportfish.