- Scientific name: Oreochromis
- Common name: Tilapia
- Aquarium size: 250 liters
- Temperament: Territorial and aggressive
- Temperature: 8ºC to 30ºC
- pH: 6.5 to 9
- Diet: Omnivores
- Length: Up to 35 centimeters
When we talk about Tilapia we are not referring to a single fish, we are talking about a complete genus of fish, which are not very common in aquariums, although some species are quite interesting.
It is curious that most of them belong to the African Cichlid family , which has so many species appreciated in aquariums.
These species are very prolific and the parents are very attentive with their young.
Although we speak of a complete genus and some of the morphological characteristics may change, they are elongated and laterally compressed fish.
They have a protractile and wide mouth, framed by thick lips. Their jaws mount conical and usually incisor teeth.
The dorsal fin is elongated, it runs almost all over its body, while its anal fin is relatively short. The tail fin is rounded and relatively short.
Most common Tilapia species
When talking about a fish that is usually used commercially for consumption, there are few species that are used for aquariums.
The most attractive and perhaps little known is the Tilapia buttikoferi , while the best known commercially are the Blue Tilapia, Red Tilapia and the Nile Tilapia (genus Oreochormis).
Tilapia buttikoferi, Zebra Cichlid (Chromis buttikoferi)
Aquarius friend, logically you should start with what may be the most interesting for an aquarium.
It is a species that needs a very spacious aquarium, at least 250 liters per couple.
It does not usually respect plants or small fish, which will all end up being part of its diet.
If we want to breed this species of Tilapia in a community aquarium, we must provide the rest of the inhabitants with enough shelters, to protect themselves from its presence.
Consume all kinds of common live foods ( You can raise Artemias ) , which can be complemented with spinach and all kinds of green salad leaves.
It has an attractive black coloration, with vertical stripes (zebra) in yellowish gold color.
Blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus)
The most attractive thing, to highlight something, is its coloration. It has a green-teal-turquoise tone with a metallic appearance, which ends in an almost white tone in its ventral area.
Its dorsal and tail fins have a certain light red hue.
Red tilapia (Oreochromis sp)
It is a hybrid that we cannot find in nature, since it is the cross of four species of Tilapia, three African and one Israeli.
These crosses have a purely commercial mission, since it is one of the most commercialized Tilapias for consumption.
They are territorial and aggressive in a natural environment or in an aquarium, where they need to mark their territory.
Although in most Tilapia fish it is difficult to recognize differences between males and females, in this case it is possible because the male grows more and faster than the females.
Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)
It is one of the largest Tilapia varieties, it can measure up to 60 centimeters and weigh 4 kilos.
It is also known as Silver Tilapia, although curiously, its fins take on reddish tones.
It is not of much interest to an aquarium, and is basically a fish raised for food and commercial uses.
Distribution and habitat
They are easy to find in all African rivers, some species in Syria and even Israel, where they are exploited mainly for food, because they offer a large protein intake.
Geographically we can find Tilapia fish in Africa, Central America, North America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
These species are able to survive in fresh and salt water , even in low oxygen conditions.
Their natural habitats are rivers, lagoons and river estuaries, which is why they are perfectly adapted to waters with a high concentration of saline (brackish).
They also adapt to all types of height and weather. They can live at sea level (estuaries) or in mountain streams.
They have no problem adapting to cold waters, so they can be found in places with waters at 8ºC, and in waters that reach 30ºC.
Depending on the species, a larger aquarium might be needed, although for the aquarium species itself, such as the Tilapia buttikoferi, a 250-liter aquarium per pair is a good size.
What we must be demanding is in the aquarium’s filtering system , which must be very powerful, since they are fish that generate a lot of waste.
Numerous shelters must be provided, both for him and the other inhabitants of the community aquarium.
This fish burrows in the substrate , it will have no mercy on any plant, stone or trunk, it can move everything.
Any device that is placed inside the aquarium: heater, internal filter, aerator, etc., it must be protected so that it does not break it.
Regarding the quality of the water:
- Temperature. They can withstand temperatures ranging from 8ºC to 30ºC
- The pH should be between 6.5 to 9
- And the optimal GH will be around 10º
They are omnivorous fish, they eat any live prey that is inside the aquarium , so it is important not to mix with small fish, which could be part of your menu.
The basic diet of the fish should contain Artemias, worms, insects, snails, and complete the diet with vegetables such as spinach, lettuce leaves, peas.
It is not special with food, so we can provide you with all kinds of frozen foods, such as tubifex or also dry foods, flakes …
Behavior and compatibility
Tilapia is quite territorial and aggressive , in this sense it is quite similar to the Oscar fish . This behavior worsens with age.
They are very active, they like to swim in the intermediate zones and the bottom of the aquarium.
To have them with other fish, they can share space with other large cichlids, since the small ones, as I have mentioned throughout the article, can be eaten by the Tilapia.
We have Tilapia fish that lay their eggs on the substrate, dig holes to spawn, others simply place them on a flat surface like a rock, or wood.
But undoubtedly the most original reproduction of Tilapia is in the genus Oreochromis, which are mouthbrooders.
Usually it is the female Tilapia that incubates the eggs, although there are some species, such as the Black-chinned Tilapia, that the mouth incubation is paternal.
With this very special form of reproduction, the Tilapia achieves a very high breeding rate, since all its eggs remain safe from predators until they hatch.
They are fish that lavish a lot of attention on their young.
The fry can be fed on Artemia nauplius.