How to Care for Your Pink Tilapia
Aqualand's inside scoop on Oreochromis mossambica
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12-inch eating size "pink" tilapia.
12-inch "original" male mossambic mouthbrooder.
cichlidom. Think of pink tilapia as a blast from the past.
More Name Stuff.: Originally called Tilapia mossambicus, then Saratheradon mossambicus, and now Oreochromis mossambicus. Now we just call them tilapia.
Origin: Out of Africa originally, Tilapia of various species now reproduce all over the world. Aquaculturists find tilapia a fast growing and economically raised crop. Even Iowans raise these guys for fun and profit. However, Fareast imports hit the market at very competitive prices. Regardless of their origin, tilapia taste pretty good. You can find them on many menus under a variety of names: snapper, red snapper, cherry red snapper, St. Peter’s fish, moharra, pla tub tim, and oddly enough sometimes they call them tilapia.
Commercial Tilapia Rearing. Starting from the 0.07 ounce size, tilapia grow 2 to 3% per day when fed twice a day. They add one pound of weight per each 1.5 pounds of food (at 23¢ a pound). Just add the warm water coming out of the local electrical plant and get to work. We like aquaculture (and tilapia).
Color: Originally a grey fish when not in spawning mode, now you see them in a variety of colors hinting more toward pink than red. (Wholesalers call them red tilapia or strawberry tilapia. The “reds” in the aquarium market ain’t red. And strawberry stretches it a bit also. Some of the “eating strains” are bright red.) In spawning mode, the original males turned black with a red tail and a white chin. They now stay a variant of pink or white.
Tilapia of all species feel the need to breed when still small.
Ours start digging pits at three inches. And once the hormones start
flying, they all want to breed at the same time. Fine for
aquarists. Not so hot for commercial tilapia raisers. They
runt themselves out fast due to overcrowding. Some fish farmers
introduce predators to thin the herd of the swarms of fry. Others
cross mossambics with other tilapia species to produce mule or all male strains,
some of which really are red.
Fanatical Diggers: Of the two sexes, male tilapia seem to be the most dedicated diggers -- especially at breeding time. Male tilapia grab one or more pieces of gravel and spit it against the front glass -- right down to your undergravel filter plate (refer to above photo). Then they alternate between wiggling their booty over their nest to attract females and chasing off other less attractive tilapias. They pretty much ignore the non-tilapia population.
Substrate: Immaterial. You provide it. Tilapia will dig it.
Pink tilapia eat anything. They are omnivores. You gotta love
a fish that eagerly eats algae. And devours duckweed. Wild
populations will survive on detritus -- a diet best fitted for
bacteria. Males grow faster and larger (nearly twice) than the
females. The little rascals stuff themselves on any flake or pellet
you feed them. The young are carnivores. The adults are herbivores.
All ages are fanatic flakivores and pelletivores.
Mouth Weirdity: Unlikely as it may seem, the males have much larger mouths than the females. Females can carry several hundred eggs in their mouth. You’d think female tilapia would sport the larger mouths.
Unproven Hypothesis: Thinking inside the buccal cavity, you may be able to convince Mossambics to foster parent Synodontis multipunctatus -- our Aqualand logo. These sneaky catfishes normally breed at the same time as Haplochromis species. The female hap picks up her eggs and the catfish eggs at the same time. She incubates the eggs together while the catfish hatch early and cannibalize the hap eggs. Mossambics would make potential foster parents?
Water Conditions: Pink tilapia will live and reproduce in fresh, brackish, and seawater. Seawater slows them down but does not stop them. Only the larger ocean predators control their spread into the ocean. The females with mouths full of unhatched eggs can spread their kind widely and wildly. Several states and countries have made their possession illegal. You cannot use them as bait (live or dead) in many places.
Game Fish: Tilapia make excellent game fishes. They grow larger than you might expect. Five pounders are not common but are caught -- usually on earthworms. The current Nicaraguan record is six pounds, five ounces. As we said, tilapia are wide-spread. Go to “Tilapia Fishing” for more details.
Pond Cleaners: Pond keepers despise algae -- any algae. Tilapia love algae -- any algae. Do the math. Of course, temps below 68 degrees really slow down tilapia, so they do not want to stay outdoors in earmuff weather.
Last Words: Be careful with your tilapia. They are the number two most farmed fish in the world. Bested only by salmon. But they are also on the List of 100 Most Invasive Fish. In some countries you can get in huge trouble if you get caught with a non-filleted tilapia in your possession. LA
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