Tilapia as exotic species

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Main article: Tilapia

A number of tilapiine cichlids that are native to Africa and the Levant have been widely introduced into tropical fresh and brackish waters around the world. In some cases, the introductions were deliberate, for example to control invasive aquatic plants, as in the U.S. states of Florida and Texas.[1] Across much of Asia, Africa and South America, they have been introduced into ponds and waterways for the purposes of aquaculture.[2][3] In South America (e.g. Brazil), are already common fish in artisanal fishing.[4] In other cases, unwanted fish have been released by aquarists or ornamental fish farmers into the wild.[5][6]

Because tilapiine cichlids are generally large, fast growing, breed rapidly, and tolerate a wide variety of water conditions (even marine conditions), once introduced into a habitat they generally establish themselves very quickly. In doing so they compete with native fish fauna, create turbidity in the water (by digging) thus reducing the light available for aquatic plants, and eating certain types of aquatic plants causing changes in local aquatic flora. Such problems have been observed in many different places, including Australia, Philippines, and the United States.[7][8][9]


In Singapore, Oreochromis mossambicus was introduced from Java by the Japanese during World War II, hence its local names, Japanese fish and Java fish. It was formerly very abundant in fresh and brackish waters and in the sea off the north coast. However, since the late 1980s, feral tilapiine cichlid populations in most locations have crashed, possibly due to cross breeding with more recently introduced tilapiine cichlid hybrids (red tilapia O. mossambicus x O. niloticus, possibly also O. honorum and O. aureus). The offspring of the crosses may be strongly sex skewed in favor of males, and inter-species crosses tend to produce fewer fry per brood than single species spawns, thus causing the population to decline, and hybrids with O. niloticus may inherit the lower salinity tolerance of that species, thus restricting the habitats where these tilapiine cichlids are round.

Tilapia by country[edit]


Shortly after their first importations to Australia in the 1970s aquarium trade, tilapia were introduced into the warm waters of North Queensland dams for weed and mosquito control.[10] Later genetic studies indicated that at least two separate introductions to the native creeks and rivers occurred.[11] As early as 1979, there were established populations of Tilapia mariae and Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum in the cooler climate of Victoria, in a pond warmed by a power station.[12] In 1981 they were also noted to be present in the waters of Carnarvon, Western Australia.[13]

Ten years later it was noted that there were established feral populations of tilapia throughout the waters of Queensland and Western Australia, and their geographical range was continuing to increase.[11] By 1991 the waters surrounding the Queensland cities of Brisbane, Townsville, and the Gascoyne River in Western Australia were filled with Oreochromis mossambicus. It was also found that Tilapia mariae was a much less commonly found exotic, though its trapping in rivers north of Cairns indicated that at the time it was possibly extending its range into its preferred water temperature ranges, and that it had a great capacity for tolerating a wide range of salinity levels.

Electro-fishing survey for Tilapia in the Endeavour River near Cooktown, Australia
Immature Mozambique tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus, caught in Endeavour River, near Cooktown, Australia. Dec. 2007.
Noxious pest

Impacts on Australian rivers, creeks and ponds have been great, particularly the dramatic decreases in native fish populations due to predation and competition for food by the fast breeding tilapia that consume a vast range of food sources.[14] Further habitat impacts include increases in local turbidity levels from nesting behaviours. Native fish, invertebrates, and other organisms also experience reduced access to cover through the aggressive territorial defence of breeding and feeding sites by some tilapia species.

Tilapia are listed as a noxious pest in Queensland, Australia,[15] and are spreading rapidly into previously untouched and relatively pristine river systems such as the Endeavour River near Cooktown and the Eureka Creek, a tributary to the Walsh, which runs into the Mitchell.[1][16][17]

As tilapia can thrive in fresh, brackish and salt water,[18] it is thought that infestation in one river can lead to infestation of neighbouring rivers by the fish swimming from the mouth of one to the other through the sea.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador[edit]

Tilapia have been introduced to Laguna Junco, an older volcanic caldera.[19] There are no native freshwater fish in the Galapagos, but there are several native invertebrates that spend all or part of their lifecycle in freshwater. At least one, the Galapagos dragonfly, is endemic. Tilapia must be presumed to pose a threat to these invertebrates. The Ecuadorian Park Service is currently (2007) planning an eradication attempt, with the assistance of US Aid for International Development and the US Geological Survey.

Tilapia have been introduced to the mainland of Ecuador, as well as to much of the rest of Latin America, as a fish culture organism.

United States[edit]

Salton Sea in Southern California is home to a large population of Oreochromis mossambicus known locally as Salton Sea tilapia. How they got into the Salton Sea is not known for certain.[20] The Salton Sea tilapia feed on plant material, phytoplankton (particularly diatoms), copepods, rotifers, barnacle larvae, and small annelid worms.[21] One peculiarity of the Salton Sea are the periodic algal blooms that cause the fish, including the Salton Sea tilapia, to die in massive numbers, causing a particularly nasty smell.[22] There are also populations of tilapia in several lakes in Texas; one in Fairfield lake, another in Martin Creek lake, as well as in Lake Conroe and Stubblefield Lake.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Florida's Exotic Freshwater Fishes". State of Florida. 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  2. ^ Azevedo-Santos, V. M. ; Rigolin-Sá, O. ; Pelicice, F. M. 2011. Growing, losing or introducing? Cage aquaculture as a vector for the introduction of non-native fish in Furnas Reservoir, Minas Gerais, Brazil.. Neotropical Ichthyology , 9: 915-919
  3. ^ Nand Lal, Satya; Roberto Foscarini. "Introduction of tilapia species and constraints to tilapia farming in Fiji". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  4. ^ Azevedo-Santos, V. M.; Costa-Neto, E. M.; Lima-Stripari, N. 2010. Concepção dos pescadores artesanais que utilizam o reservatório de Furnas, Estado de Minas Gerais, acerca dos recursos pesqueiros: um estudo etnoictiológico. Revista Biotemas, 23 (4): 135-145
  5. ^ University of Southern Mississippi/College of Marine Sciences/Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (2005-08-03). "Fact Sheet for Tilapia zilli (Gervais, 1848)". Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  6. ^ Fuller, Pam L.; Leo G. Nico (2002-10-11). "Nonindigenous Fishes of Florida - With a Focus on South Florida". U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  7. ^ Sena De Silva et al. (2004). "Tilapias as Alien Aquatics in Asia and the Pacific: A Review, FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 453". Retrieved 2007-04-02. 
  8. ^ Nico, Leo (2006-04-22). "Tilapia mariae". USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  9. ^ "Tilapia - NSW DPI - Fisheries". NSW Department of Primary Industries: Fisheries. Archived from the original on 2006-09-18. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  10. ^ McCutcheon, Peter (2005-01-01). "Tilapia spreads in nth Qld". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  11. ^ a b Mather, P.B.; A.H. Arthington. An assessment of genetic differentiation among feral Australian tilapia populations. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  12. ^ Cadwallader, P.L.; G.N. Backhouse and R. Fallu (1980-01-01). "Occurrence of exotic tropical fish in the cooling pondage of a power station in temperate south-eastern Australia". Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  13. ^ "Aquatic Invaders - Introduced species are a threat to our aquatic biodiversity: Tilapia or Mozambique Mouthbrooder". Department of Fisheries, Government of Western Australia. 2006-06-01. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  14. ^ McDonald, Ian (2005-07-21). "Press Release - Tilapia under attack". Ian McDonald Federal Minister for Fisheries and Conservation at the time. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  15. ^ "Exotic pest fish - commonly asked questions and answers."
  16. ^ "Tilapia shock: Noxious fish placed in the Endeavour River deliberately." Sarah Martin. Cooktown Local News. January 9, 2008, p. 1.
  17. ^ "Double dose of poison fails to wipe out tilapia." Sarah Martin. Cooktown Local News. February 6, 2008, pp. 1, 3.
  18. ^ "Aquaponics"
  19. ^ Galapagos Conservation Trust link
  20. ^ Horvitz, Steve (2000). "Salton Sea 101". Salton Sea Authority. Retrieved 2007-04-02. 
  21. ^ Riedel, Ralf; Costa-Pierce, Barry A (May 2005). "Feeding Ecology of Salton Sea Tilapia (Oreochromis spp.)". Bulletin, Southern California Academy of Sciences 104 (1): 26–36. 
  22. ^ Horvitz, Steve (2000). "Salton Sea 101". Salton Sea Authority. Retrieved 2007-04-02. 

External links[edit]

  • Tilapia project at Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, James Cook University [2]
  • Information on two tilapia pest species from the Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research as PDF downloads: [3]
  • Canonico GC, Arthington A, McCrary JK, and Thieme M (2005): The effects of introduced tilapias on native biodiversity. Aquatic Conservation 15:463-483 [4]
  • The Flip Side of Tilapia, the Perfect Factory Farm Fish New York Times [5]
  • McCrary et al., Tilapia (Teleostei: Cichlidae) status in Nicaraguan naturalwaters [6]