Aquaculture Feed and Fertilizer Resources Information System

Nile tilapia

Harvesting tilapia

Yield in weight

Nile tilapia big size

Nile tilapia small size

Nile tilapias small size

Nile tilapias small size

Nile tilapias small size

Nile tilapias small size

Nile tilapia - Oreochromis niloticus

(Linnaeus, 1758) [Cichlidae]

FAO official common names: Fr - Tilapia du Nil; Es - Tilapia del Nilo

Taxonomic and biological features:


Distinguishing characters
Body shape generally laterally compressed to oval and deep, though variable depending on the environment (Figure 1). D XVI-XVIII, 12-14, A III, 9-11. Lateral line interrupted with 30-34 cycloid scales. Mouth terminal. Gill rakers on lower limb of first gill arch 20-26. Vertebrae 30-32. Caudal fin has 7-12 distinct vertical stripes. Breeding males with red flush to head, lower body, dorsal and caudal fins. Caudal fin truncate (Figures 2 and 3). Genital papillae of male short and conical or bluntly bifid at tip and not tessellated. Teeth in the jaws in 3 to 7 series, the number of which is size dependent. The outermost teeth are bicuspid and in adults with stout shafts and obliquely truncate major cusps. Lower pharyngeal with firm teeth in approximately triangular dentigerous area. The most diagnostic features are the regular and definitive stripes on the caudal fin, the red flush of the breeding male and the dark margin of the dorsal fin. Body colouration varies depending on environmental, physiological and dietary factors.


Sexual maturity is reached at 10-30 cm TL and is related to the maximum size attained in a given population and condition, which in turn is determined by food availability and temperature. Reproduction occurs only when temperature exceeds 20 °C. The breeding cycle is latitude dependent and spawning becomes more seasonal at higher latitudes. In many instances the breeding cycle is synchronized with the rainy season. The species is a nest building, batch spawning mouth brooder that can spawn every 30 days. The nest, like in many tilapiine fishes, is a circular depression in sandy areas of up to 1m in diameter and 0.5 m deep. The average nest diameter is twice the length of the male making it. Males are highly territorial and defend their nests. Batches of eggs are spawned into the nest, fertilized externally and then picked up by the female. The female incubates the eggs for 5-7 days when they hatch and the early juveniles remain in the mouth until after yolk sac absorption. Depending on size, females can carry up to 200 eggs. The eggs are large and ovoid (pear shaped) and at hatching the fish are around 4mm in length (Trewavas, 1983).