Nile tilapia

Nile tilapia

Oreochromis niloticus

Common name:

Nile tilapia

Scientific name:

Oreochromis niloticus

Alternative common names:


The Nile tilapia has distinctive, vertical stripes extending as far down its body as the bottom edge of the caudal fin, with variable colouration. It tolerates brackish water and survives temperatures between 8 and 42°C. It is an omnivore, feeding on plankton as well as on higher plants.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Central and North Africa and the Middle East.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1b.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Limpopo and Mpumalanga (Incomati River).

How does it spread?

Globalisation has contributed to the spread of many recreational angling species, with introduced species being marketed worldwide, and modern transport allowing the relocation of these species across physical barriers.

Why is it a problem?

Nile tilapia are known to feed on phytoplankton, periphyton, aquatic plants, invertebrates, benthic fauna, detritus and even other fish and fish eggs. Depending on the food source, they will feed either via suspension filtering or surface grazing, trapping plankton in a plankton-rich bolus using mucus excreted from their gills.

What does it look like?

Description: Distinctive, regular, vertical stripes extending as far down the body as the botton edge of the caudal fin, with variable colouration. Adults reach up to 60cm in length and weigh up to 4.3kg. It is an omnivore, feeding on plankton and higher plants.

Habitat: Nile tilapia are a tropical species that prefer to live in shallow water. The lower and upper lethal temperatures for Nile tilapia are 11-12°C and 42°C, respectively, while the preferred temperature ranges from 31-36 °C.

Breeding: Male fish is the one that initiates breeding by creating a spawning nest, which guarded. When the water temperature reaches 24 degrees Celsius and above, female lays eggs into the nest. Eggs are fertilized by the males before the female collects them in her mouth (brooding). Eggs and the fry which then hatch are incubated and brooded in the manner until the yolk sac is fully absorbed two weeks later. The number of eggs a female will produce is dependent on body size, range from 100 eggs (produced by a 100g fish) to 1500 eggs (spawned by a 1kg fish).

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