Tilapia; from the Nile to the World

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  • Topic: Tilapia, Nile, Cichlid
  • Pages : 5 (1286 words )
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  • Published : September 16, 2010
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This study addressed the potential of tilapia aquaculture as a major contributor to food production and poverty alleviation all over the world. To encompass this subject, tilapia history, origin, aquaculture potential, constraints, current and future production levels were reviewed. Tilapias are native to the River Nile and Africa in general then they were introduced and disseminated worldwide. Positive aquacultural characteristics of tilapia made tilapias the most cultured species worldwide now and in the near future. Tilapia world production is expected to reach 3 million tons this year 2010. Thus, tilapias could make a significant contribution to the livelihoods support especially in the tropical and subtropical countries.

Key words: Tilapia, Oreochromis, Sarotherodon, introduction, production, River Nile.


Tilapia is the second world wide cultured species after carps. They are also known as “Aquaculture Chicken” as they are present in all continents except Antarctic. Tilapia culture goes back to the ancient Egyptians who cultured Nile tilapia in ponds around 5000 years ago as indicated by paints on the walls of Pharaohs’ tombs. Moreover, tilapia has a Hilogryphs and was known as in.t. Aristotle named it as “Nile Tilapia” or fish of the Nile; 300 years BC. Thus, Tilapia is native to the Nile River (Fig. 1) and to Africa in general (1 and 2). Tilapias were then introduced to many countries in the 1950's and 1960's as a "wonder fish". Although tilapia had certainly, a major impact on aquaculture developments in Asia and the Pacific since the 1970s, there are some claims that tilapias are invasive and affected the native species in the natural water ecosystems. However, there is scant explicit evidence to indicate that tilapias have been overly destructive environmentally (6). Such claims frightened and prevented some countries such as Australia to introduce tilapia culture to their lands. Therefore, the objective of this study is to review tilapia production, the constraints hindering global tilapia culture and to discuss the suggested solutions as well as future perspectives.

Fig. 1 Map of the River Nile

Taxonomical classification

Recently, there are 3 main genera of tilapia (under family Cichlidae) according to the reproductive behavior; Oreochromis (Females only are mouth brooders), Sarotherodon (both males and females share in the process of mouth incubation of eggs, larvae and frys) and Tilapia (substrate breeders) (Figs. 2 & 3). Before 1970s, all tilapia species were categorized under 1 genus; tilapia. Commonly, tilapia nilotica is still used by some scientists who don’t accept the modern classification (1).

Fig. 2 The most common Tilapia species and hybrids

Fig. 3 Reproductive behavior of tilapia; Oreochromis niloticus

Introduction of tilapia to Asia and to the world

Although aquaculture is considered an old tradition, modern aquaculture is essentially a post-1950 phenomenon. O. niloticus became the preferred tilapia species for aquaculture in the region (3). Although it is difficult to assess whether this species has made a significant contribution to the animal protein needs of rural Asian communities, it certainly had a major impact on aquaculture developments in Asia and the Pacific since the 1970s. Twelve tilapia species (six Oreochromis spp.; two Sarotherodon spp.; and four Tilapia spp.) and one hybrid have been introduced into 30 Asian countries. Of the species introduced to Asia, O. mossambicus and O. niloticus are by far the most important from both production and scientific points of view. These species are now widely distributed in most of Asia and occur in natural and quasi-natural waters making them a part of the fish fauna of most of tropical and even sub-tropical Asian aquatic environments (4). The "red tilapia", a hybrid between strains of O. mossambicus x O. niloticus is currently considered as important to...
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