Oreochromis niloticus
(Linnaeus 1758)
Family Cichlidae

Lateral view of Nile tilapia
From top to bottom, the photo above shows two adult Nile tilapia and one juvenile. These fish are now part of the Florida Museum ichthyology collection. Top: UF 238085 Middle: UF 237885 Bottom: UF 237949 Florida Museum photo by Zachary Randall

The Nile tilapia is a member of the cichlid and tilapia family. It has a deep-bodied, compressed shape. This species is bronze to brownish-gray dorsally and laterally, and white ventrically. It has a truncated caudal fin that has many thin black bands and a pinkish-red posterior margin. Nile tilapia have a small mouth with bicuspid jaw teeth and between two and three small inner rows. Breeding males develop a pinkish-red flush on the body and a black edge on the dorsal fin. The black “tilapia spot” is present anteriorly on the dorsal fin, and is most prominent on juveniles. Nile tilapia can be found in canals, creeks, rivers and lakes, usually with aquatic vegetation.

Status & distribution

  • Status — Non-indigenous freshwater
  • Florida Distribution — Peninsula drainages
  • River Drainages — Lake Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee River, the Everglades, Indian River and the St. John’s River
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