Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Tilapia zillii
(redbelly tilapia)

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Datasheet

Tilapia zillii (redbelly tilapia)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Tilapia zillii
  • Preferred Common Name
  • redbelly tilapia
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Redbelly tilapia is a species of fish that has been introduced globally, mainly for aquaculture purposes or as a food fish. Native to Africa and southwest Asia, it is a highly successful species, capable of outcompeti...

  • Principal Source
  • Draft datasheet under review

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Tilapia zillii (redbelly tilapia); adult. Lake Köyceğiz, Muğla, Turkey. September, 2013.
TitleAdult
CaptionTilapia zillii (redbelly tilapia); adult. Lake Köyceğiz, Muğla, Turkey. September, 2013.
Copyright©Ali Serhan Tarkan-2013
Tilapia zillii (redbelly tilapia); adult. Lake Köyceğiz, Muğla, Turkey. September, 2013.
AdultTilapia zillii (redbelly tilapia); adult. Lake Köyceğiz, Muğla, Turkey. September, 2013.©Ali Serhan Tarkan-2013

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Tilapia zillii (Gervais, 1848)

Preferred Common Name

  • redbelly tilapia

Other Scientific Names

  • Acerina zillei Gervais, 1848
  • Acerina zillii Gervais, 1848
  • Chromis andreae Günther, 1864
  • Chromis caeruleomaculatus (Rochebrune, 1880)
  • Chromis caeruleomaculatus Rochebrune, 1880
  • Chromis coeruleomaculatus Rochebrune, 1880
  • Chromis faidherbii Rochebrune, 1880
  • Chromis melanopleura (Duméril, 1861)
  • Chromis menzalensis Mitchell, 1895
  • Chromis mossambicus (non Peters, 1852)
  • Chromis niloticus (non Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Chromis tristrami (Günther, 1859)
  • Chromis zillii (Gervais, 1848)
  • Coptodon zillei (Gervais, 1848)
  • Coptodon zillii (Gervais, 1848)
  • Coptodus zillei (Gervais, 1848)
  • Coptodus zillii (Gervais, 1848)
  • Glyphisidon zillei (Gervais, 1848)
  • Glyphisidon zillii (Gervais, 1848)
  • Haligenes tristrami Günther, 1860
  • Sarotherodon zillei (Gervais, 1848)
  • Sarotherodon zillii Günther, 1862
  • Tilapia caeruleomaculatus (Rochebrune, 1880)
  • Tilapia christyi (non Boulenger, 1915)
  • Tilapia faidherbi (Rochebrune, 1880)
  • Tilapia melanopleura Duméril, 1861
  • Tilapia menzalensis (Mitchell, 1895)
  • Tilapia multiradiata Holly, 1928
  • Tilapia shariensis Fowler, 1949
  • Tilapia sparrmani multiradiata (Holly, 1928)
  • Tilapia sparrmanii (non Smith, 1840)
  • Tilapia tristrami (Günther, 1859)
  • Tilapia zillei (Gervais, 1848)
  • Tilapia zilli (Gervais, 1848)

International Common Names

  • English: cichlid; mango fish; St. Peter’s fish; zill's tilapia
  • Spanish: mojarra; mojarrita; tilapia
  • French: pastenague boulée

Local Common Names

  • Algeria: balti zillii; haderi; taferfara
  • Australia: zille’s cichlid
  • Burkina Faso: disiwulen; tegr-pere
  • Chad: bere; biare; biering; guring; sohn; tihil
  • Côte d'Ivoire: gbatchekede; kpro ibre; obrouyou
  • Finland: punavatsatilapia
  • Germany: zilles buntbarsch
  • Ghana: akpadi sila; akpadi sila; akpasila; akpasila; akpatsu; cichlid; didee; mango fish; silla
  • Israel: amnun matzui; amnun matzui
  • Japan: jiru-tirapia
  • Kenya: kido; kokine; loroto; ngege; redbelly tilapia; sili; zill’s tilapia
  • Mexico: mojarra; mojarrita; tilapia
  • Nigeria: bugu; epia; falga; garagaza; gargaza; ifunu; karfasa; karwa; mpupa; tome; tsokungi; ukuobu; wesafun
  • Philippines: zill’s tilapia
  • Senegal: njabb; pastenague boulée; waas; wass; wass gnoul
  • Sierra Leone: a-sannoh; gba gba ferah; ka-yainkain; ka-yalnkain; ngipie; ngorkei; tha thompo
  • Sudan: bulti; kuda
  • Tanzania: ngege; perege; sato
  • Turkey: tilapya
  • Uganda: engege; engege; erihere; isiswe; ngege
  • UK: redbelly tilapia
  • USA: redbelly tilapia; zill’s tilapia

Summary of Invasiveness

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Redbelly tilapia is a species of fish that has been introduced globally, mainly for aquaculture purposes or as a food fish. Native to Africa and southwest Asia, it is a highly successful species, capable of outcompeting both native and non-native species for food, habitat and spawning sites. Its ability to easily switch food sources allow for populations to continue to grow in the absence of a depleted food source (e.g. macrophytes in North Carolina). Redbelly tilapia may also compete with centrarchid fishes (sunfish) for nesting sites and through aggressive interactions it may alter the composition of fish communities. It is a voracious herbivore and may negatively impact plant density, decreasing abundance and altering the composition of native plants. This can then negatively affect native organisms that depend on such plants for spawning, protection or foraging (Spataru, 1978).

Specifically, redbelly tilapia is thought to have outcompeted or genetically subsumed two native species, Oreochromis variabilis and Oreochromis escuelentes. It is implicated with the decline of desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) in the Salton Sea and can also hybridize with introduced Tilapia species.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Perciformes
  •                         Family: Cichlidae
  •                             Genus: Tilapia
  •                                 Species: Tilapia zillii

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Tilapia zillii was first described by Gervais in 1848 and was given many synonyms throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. Some sources recognize Coptodon zillii as the accepted name for the species following a molecular phylogenetic study by Dunz and Schliewen (2013).  

Description

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Non-breeding individuals are dark olive on top and light olive to yellow-brown on the sides, often with an allochrous blue sheen. The chest is pinkish and lips are bright green. Breeding individuals are shiny dark green on the top and sides, red and black on the throat and belly, and have obvious vertical bands on the sides. Six to seven dark vertical bars cross two horizontal stripes on the body and caudal peduncle. Fins are olivaceous. They are covered in yellow spots with the dorsal and anal fins displaying an outline of a thin orange band. Caudal fins are often grey with pale interstices and dots covering the entire fin. Redbelly tilapia usually weigh 300 g and can be up to 40 cm in length with a total of 13 to 16 dorsal spines. Adults show a black spot outlined in yellow. Redbelly tilapia individuals that are from 2 to 14 cm standard length (SL) have an entirely yellow to grey caudal fin with no dots, developing a greyish caudal fin with dots with increasing size (Williams and Bonner, 2008; Froese and Pauly, 2014).

Distribution

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Its native range includes tropical and subtropical Africa, and southwest Asia (Froese and Pauly, 2014).

Its non-native distribution includes Antigua and Barbuda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guam, Iran, Japan, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico, New Caledonia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tanzania, Turkey, UK, USA, Australia, Fiji, Hawaii and Thailand (Froese and Pauly, 2014).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Sea Areas

Pacific, Western CentralPresentNativeFroese and Pauly, 2004

Asia

ChinaAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced1978Welcomme, 1988
IranPresentIntroducedCoad, 1995; Froese and Pauly, 2004
IsraelPresentNative Not invasive Pullin, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004
JapanPresentIntroduced1962Basiao and Taniguchi, 1984; Froese and Pauly, 2004
JordanPresentNative Not invasive Krupp and Schneider, 1989; Froese and Pauly, 2004
LebanonPresentNative Not invasive Krupp and Schneider, 1989; Froese and Pauly, 2004
MalaysiaAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedWohlfarth and Hulata, 1983; Froese and Pauly, 2004
PhilippinesPresentIntroduced1970Guerrero, 1997; Froese and Pauly, 2004
Saudi ArabiaPresentIntroducedBartley, 2006
SingaporePresentIntroducedNg et al., 1993
Sri LankaPresentIntroduced1969Pethiyagoda, 1991; Froese and Pauly, 2004
SyriaPresentIntroducedCoad, 1996; Froese and Pauly, 2004
TaiwanPresentIntroduced1963Shen, 1993; Froese and Pauly, 2004
ThailandPresentIntroduced1949Bartley, 2006
TurkeyLocalisedIntroduced1995Tarkan et al., 2014

Africa

AlgeriaPresentNative Not invasive Pellegrin, 1921
BeninPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
CameroonPresentNative Not invasive Vivien, 1991
Central African RepublicPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
ChadPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentNative Not invasive Thys Audenaerde DFEvan den, 1964; Froese and Pauly, 2004
Côte d'IvoirePresentNative Not invasive Teugels et al., 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004
EgyptPresentNative Not invasive Philippart and Ruwet, 1982; Froese and Pauly, 2004
EritreaPresentIntroduced1989Hillman, 1993; Froese and Pauly, 2004
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced1975Tedla and Meskel, 1981; Froese and Pauly, 2004
GambiaPresentFroese and Pauly, 2004
GhanaPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
GuineaPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
Guinea-BissauPresentNative Not invasive Paugy et al., 1994; Froese and Pauly, 2004
KenyaPresentNative Not invasive Seegers et al., 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
LiberiaPresentNative Not invasive Paugy et al., 1994; Froese and Pauly, 2004
MadagascarPresentIntroduced1955Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004
MaliPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
MauritaniaPresentNative Not invasive Mohamed Fall KO, 2005. Fishes of Mauritania. Unpublished compilation of K.O. Mohamed Fall
MauritiusPresentIntroduced1956Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004
MoroccoPresentNative Not invasive Philippart and Ruwet, 1982; Froese and Pauly, 2004
NigerPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
NigeriaPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
SenegalPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
Sierra LeonePresentNative Not invasive Kamara, 1977; Froese and Pauly, 2004
SudanPresentNative Not invasive Bailey, 1994; Froese and Pauly, 2004
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced1965Eccles, 1992; Froese and Pauly, 2004
TogoPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004
TunisiaPresentNative Not invasive Philippart and Ruwet, 1982; Froese and Pauly, 2004
UgandaPresentNative Not invasive Pullin, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004
Western SaharaPresentNative Not invasive Philippart and Ruwet, 1982; Froese and Pauly, 2004

North America

MexicoPresentIntroduced1945Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004
USAPresentIntroduced1960-1969 Invasive Robins et al., 1991; Froese and Pauly, 2004Modification of natural benthic communities
-AlabamaAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedUSGSNAS, 2014
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedUSGSNAS, 2014
-ArkansasAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedUSGSNAS, 2014
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Costa-Pierce, 2003Modification of natural benthic communities
-FloridaEradicated1975Introduced Invasive Taylor et al., 1986Eradicated from a small borrow pit, about 0.2 hectares in size
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced1955Yamamoto, 1992; Froese and Pauly, 2004
-IdahoPresentIntroducedUSGSNAS, 2014
-NevadaAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedUSGSNAS, 2014
-North CarolinaPresentIntroduced Invasive USGSNAS, 2014Modification of natural benthic communities
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSGSNAS, 2014
-TexasPresentIntroducedEdwards, 2001

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroduced1943Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004

Europe

Russian FederationAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedBogutskaya and Naseka, 2002
UKPresentIntroduced1963Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedHoese et al., 2006
FijiPresentIntroducedSeeto and Baldwin, 2010
GuamPresentIntroduced1956 Not invasive Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004Economic/Livelihoods: Tilapia zillii has had a beneficial socio-economic impact on this location and has created a small recreational fishery
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced1954Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004

History of Introduction and Spread

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Redbelly tilapia was introduced to most locations by state agencies, private companies, universities or government based institutions; mainly for control of aquatic plants, mosquitoes, chrinomid midges, as forage or food fish or for aquaculture evaluation (Grabowoski et al., 1984; Courtenay and Robins, 1989). From the 1980s, it was often introduced as an aquaculture species, typically farmed in cages in open bodies of water. This has resulted in fish escapes when cages were damaged due to environmental forcing, such as storms, human actions, or hurricanes. There have been both authorized and illegal releases. For example, introductions into Dade County, Florida, probably resulted from escapes from nearby fish farms or aquarium releases (Hogg 1976a, b). Documented cases of redbelly tilapia introductions are usually reported because of both release and escape (ISSG, 2014). 

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Antigua and Barbuda 1943 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Australia North Africa   No Froese and Pauly (2014)
China Thailand 1978 No Froese and Pauly (2014)
Egypt Japan 1962 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Eritrea Ethiopia 1989 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Ethiopia Uganda 1975 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Guam Hawaii 1956 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Hawaii 1955 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Hawaii Fiji 1957 No Froese and Pauly (2014)
Iran   Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Madagascar Mauritius 1956 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Madagascar Kenya 1955 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Malaysia   Froese and Pauly (2014)
Mexico USA 1945 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
New Caledonia Hawaii 1954 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Philippines Israel 1970 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Russian Federation   No Froese and Pauly (2014)
Saudi Arabia   Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Singapore   Froese and Pauly (2014)
Syria   Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Tanzania 1965 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Thailand Malaysia 1949 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
Turkey 1995 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Tarkan et al. (2014)
UK 1963 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)
USA 1960-1969 Yes Froese and Pauly (2014)

Risk of Introduction

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Throughout this species introduction, redbelly tilapia has been introduced into lakes, reservoirs and streams, predominantly as escapees and releases; however, its spread and colonization of new waters beyond the point of release or escape is of major concern. Therefore, accidental aquarium releases, stocking in open water and biocontrol all pose serious environmental risks. For example, its introduction into the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, as well as to many other areas of the USA is largely for aquatic weed control, to control noxious aquatic insects, and for culture as a food fish (Molnar, 2008), however there is a high risk to native fauna through eliminating native flora and through impacts on ecosystem functioning (Pelzman, 1973; Spataru, 1978).

Habitat

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Redbelly tilapia can be found in lakes, water courses, wetlands, estuaries and marine habitats but it mostly occurs in freshwater and can occasionally be found in marine waters (Froese and Pauly, 2014). It occasionally forms in schools but is mainly diurnal. They prefer tropical environments with water temperatures of 25-30ºC, and optimal temperatures of 20-32ºC. However, it can tolerate temperatures between 11 and 36ºC, becoming lethargic and vulnerable to predators and disease below 16ºC (ISSG, 2014). It generally prefers shallow, vegetated areas in a tropical climate but will live over sand, mud, or rock; tolerating a pH range of 6-9 (Eccles, 1992). Fry are common in marginal vegetation and juveniles are found in the seasonal floodplain (Froese and Pauly, 2014). Sensitivity to salinity varies greatly, but it is able to tolerate salinity levels of up to 45 ppt (Costa-Pierce, 2003). 

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Brackish
Estuaries Present, no further details Natural
Inland saline areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Freshwater
Irrigation channels Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Lakes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Lakes Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Principal habitat Natural
Reservoirs Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Reservoirs Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Marine
Inshore marine Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Inshore marine Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Redbelly tilapia has a diploid (2n) chromosome number of 44 and haploid/gametic (n) of 22 (Klinkhardt and Greven, 1995). It is known to hybridize with other Tilapia species (Taylor et al., 1986). 

Reproductive Biology

Redbelly tilapia is a substrate spawner (Bailey, 1994) and larvae develop in close association with substrate but it is not a mouth brooding fish like some other congeneric species. Redbelly tilapia form monogamous pairs and exhibit biparental guarding behaviour. Both parents help in nest building, constructing nesting depressions 20-25 cm in width and 5-8 cm in depth, often in bottoms with sand or pebbles and ample vegetation. Nests are primarily small, saucer-shaped depressions in the substrate, but show some variation in morphology depending on the environmental conditions (Bruton and Gophen, 1992). Breeding season is dependent on climate but usually they begin courtship and mate selection in waters above 20ºC. They can breed in warm and temperature-stable equatorial conditions year-round, and those in areas with more defined seasons, breed during the summer months (Siddiqui, 1979; Bruton and Gophen, 1992). Eggs are green, sticky, 1-2 mm in diameter, and are usually found in waters of 20-28ºC. The adhesive eggs are laid directly on the substrate within the excavated nest. They spawn in lake bottoms with pebbles or sand and abundant vegetation (Philippart and Ruwet, 1982). Males externally fertilize the eggs. Females have been reported to lay up to 6000 eggs at one time. Both parents fan water over the eggs with their fins and pick debris and dead eggs from the nesting depression. Nests are variable, often simple nests are constructed at exposed sites where there is limited parenting and complex nests are set up with brooding chambers in sheltered areas (Williams and Bonner, 2008; Froese and Pauly, 2014).

Physiology and Phenology

Redbelly tilapia has been introduced to a variety of places worldwide (Welcomme, 1988) and outside its native range, this freshwater fish has the ability to establish itself even in highly saline waters, only being held back by a low tolerance to cold water (ISSG, 2014).

Longevity

This species can live for up to 7 years (Noakes and Balon, 1982).

Nutrition

Redbelly tilapia is primarily herbivorous. Adults are especially herbivorous, consuming mainly aquatic macrophytes, algae, and diatoms generally comprising >80% of its diet and the remainder including aquatic insects, crustaceans and fish eggs. Juveniles are more carnivorous, consuming a number of different zoobenthos. The proportion of the diet made up from animal sources is generally size-related, with larger fish consuming more animal-based food items (Khallaf and Alnenaei, 1987). This species is found to be omnivorous based on the results of Agbabiaka, (2012) from southeastern Nigeria.

Environmental Requirements

Redbelly tilapia is a highly tolerant species, adapted to a range of environments, including estuarine habitats, lakes, marine habitats and water courses. It is capable of coping with a wide range of salinities (29-45 ppt), temperatures (11-36ºC) and pH (6-9) (Costa-Pierce, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2014; ISSG, 2014). However, it cannot survive in colder water temperatures <11 ºC). In some regions where it has been introduced, populations have not survived winter temperatures and have required annual restocking (Smith-Vaniz 1968). 

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Preferred < 860mm precipitation annually
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
35 10

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 11 36

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) 0.02 0.5 Optimum
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l) 7.1 Harmful
Depth (m b.s.l.) 1 7 Harmful
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) >3 Optimum
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 0.1 Harmful
Salinity (part per thousand) 10 15 Optimum
Salinity (part per thousand) 45 Harmful
Turbidity (JTU turbidity) 30 35 Harmful
Water pH (pH) 3.7 11 Optimum
Water pH (pH) 6 9 Harmful
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 25 30 Optimum
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 11 36 Harmful

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Carasobarbus canis Predator All Stages to species
Diplozoon paradoxum Parasite All Stages not specific
Gymnarchus niloticus Predator All Stages to species
Lates niloticus Predator All Stages to species
Micropterus salmoides Predator All Stages to species
Mormyrops anguilloides Predator All Stages to species
Tetraonchus Parasite All Stages not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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There are several natural enemies of the species reported from its native range; including Micropterus salmoides (Centrarchidae) in Kenya, Carasobarbus canis (Cyprinidae) in Israel, Gymnarchus niloticus (Gymnarchidae) and Lates niloticus (Latidea) and Mormyrops anguilloides (Mormyridae) in Nigeria (Froese and Pauly, 2014).

Redbelly tilapia may be infected with a wide range of diseases and parasites, including Diplozoon paradoxum and Tetraonchus species (Yildirim et al., 2010).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Accidental Introduction

Accidental introductions have been reported via aquaculture, the aquarium, pet and water garden trade. Escapees from enclosed facilities (i.e. fish farms) are also common (Hogg 1976a, b; Courtenay et al., 1986; Crutchfiled, 1995).

Intentional Introduction

Intentional introductions have been done for the purposes of recreational stocking, aquaculture and biological control of weed, mosquitoes, and chironomid midges (Page and Burr, 1991; Molnar, 2008Froese and Pauly, 2014).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
AquacultureDeliberate introduction Yes Yes Grabowski et al., 1984
Biological controlDeliberate introduction Yes Yes Courtenay and Robins, 1989
Escape from confinement or garden escapeAccidental introduction Yes Hogg, 1976
Hunting, angling, sport or racingDeliberate introduction Yes Yes Molnar et al., 2008
Intentional releaseDeliberate introduction Yes Yes Froese and Pauly, 2014
Live food or feed tradeDeliberate introduction Yes Yes Courtenay and Robins, 1989
Pet tradeAccidental introduction Yes Yes Hogg, 1976
ResearchAccidental introduction Yes Yes Tarkan et al., 2014

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Aquaculture stockAll life stages Yes Yes Grabowski et al., 1984
Live seafoodAdults Yes Yes Courtenay and Robins, 1989
Pets and aquarium speciesAll life stages Yes Yes Hogg, 1976

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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Redbelly tilapia is an important food fish and aquaculture species. It provides up to 70% of Egypt’s fish production and is a hardy species, easy to grow and popular with consumers (white-fleshed and mild-flavoured) (Canonico et al., 2005). 

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

Redbelly tilapia can alter ecosystems processes (e.g. nutrient cycling, disturbance, productivity, etc.) and ecosystem services (e.g. waste decomposition, water supply, soil regeneration and protection). Detrimental effects on native aquatic plants can lead to habitat destruction for native aquatic species that seek shelter. This species is considered to be one of the most destructive fish to submerged vegetation, known next to the grass carp (Hogg 1976a).  

Impact on Biodiversity

It is a highly successful species; capable of outcompeting both native and non-native species for food, habitat and spawning sites (Pelzman, 1973; Reinthal and Stiassny, 1991; Leveque, 1997; Balierwa et al., 2003). It’s ability to easily switch food sources allow for populations to continue to grow in the absence of a depleted food source. For example, redbelly tilapia was reported to eliminate all aquatic macrophytes from Hyco Reservoir, North Carolina, within a two year period that coincided with declines in populations of several native fishes (Molnar, 2008). However, populations of redbelly tilapia continued expanding in the absence of macrophytes because of its ability to switch to alternate food sources (Crutchfield et al. 1992; Crutchfield, 1995).

Redbelly tilapia is a voracious herbivore and may negatively impact plant density, decreasing their abundance and changing the composition of native plants. This can then negatively affect native organisms that depend on such plants for spawning, protection, or foraging (Spataru, 1978).

The species is thought to have outcompeted or genetically subsumed two native species, Oreochromis variabilis and Oreochromis escuelentes (Balirwa et al., 2003). Introduction of this species has been correlated with declines of native species (Reinthal and Stiassny, 1991; Leveque, 1997) and it has also been implicated with the decline of the desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) in the Salton Sea (Costa-Pierce, 2003).

It may compete with centrarchid fishes for nesting sites and through aggressive interactions it may alter the composition of fish communities (Molnar, 2008). Redbelly tilapia is also able to hybridize with introduced Tilapia species (Taylor et al., 1986). 

Social Impact

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Redbelly tilapia is a highly sought after, important recreational fishing species as well as important commercially. 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Hybridization
  • Interaction with other invasive species
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Uses

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Economic Value

Redbelly tilapia is an economically important food fish and important to aquaculture and commercial aquarium trade in its native range (Mehanna, 2004).

Social Benefit

It is also an important fish species for recreational fishery (ISSG, 2014). In addition to its value for commercial fishermen, recreational fishing and tourism may create a demand not only for food, accommodation and transportation but also for related recreational activities such as camping, boating, etc. All of these activities may provide economic incomes. 

Environmental Services

Redbelly tilapia is used for controlling species of aquatic plants. It was determined that Chara sp. and Najasmarina could be controlled by redbelly tilapia in small lakes and ponds (Saeed, 1986). It has also been used to control noxious aquatic insects, mosquitos and chrinomid midges (Molnar, 2008).

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Biological control

General

  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Research model
  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)

Human food and beverage

  • Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Cichlids are easily separated from the similar looking sunfishes and black basses (Lepomis and Micropterus; family Centrarchidae) by a single nostril opening on each side of the head (there are two in centrarchids) and the presence of a discontinuous or two-part lateral line (there is a continuous lateral line in centrarchids). Hybrids are frequently reported (Courtenay et al., 1984; Taylor et al., 1986; Howells, 1991) and identification of redbelly tilapia in the USA has been problematic. Therefore, some reports in the literature may be misidentifications (Lee et al., 1980). 

Redbelly tilapia is almost identical to redbreast tilapia Tilapia rendalli hence many reports or specimens of redbelly tilapia may have been T. rendalli. Redbelly tilapia is also similar to another North American introduced cichlid, Tilapia mariae. However, T. mariae lacks the deep red ventral colouration present in redbelly tilapia, has lateral bars that extend onto the dorsal fin, and 5-6 square black blotches along the side, which is lacking in redbelly tilapia

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

Public Awareness

There is little awareness on the invasion of redbelly tilapia, as it is still stocked and reared illegally.

Eradication

It was reported that rotenone was used by the Florida Freshwater and Game Commission in 1975 to eradicate redbelly tilapia from a small borrow pit, about 0.2 hectares in size (Taylor, 1986).

Control

As established populations of redbelly tilapia could be very difficult and costly to control, further stocking and introductions should be avoided.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Electrofishing and seine/gill netting have been used to catch redbelly tilapia in both its native and non-native ranges; however, there have been no reports of using these methods to physically or mechanically control the species (Agbabiaka, 2012; Dadebo, 2014).

Movement Control

The species is a very demandable food fish so it is moved widely all over the world.

Biological Control

There is potential to use the natural enemies reported from its native range to control redbelly tilapia.

Chemical Control

The piscicide, rotenone has been used to eradicate populations in the past. However, this can also be toxic to non-target species.

Monitoring and Surveillance (Incl. Remote Sensing)

Both telemetry and radio telemetry could be used.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Further research could gain an insight into the management and control of this species, especially the role of public awareness. Given the detrimental impact this species can have on native fauna, flora and ecosystem functioning, public awareness is important to prevent further introductions and stocking of this species in new environments. 

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
FishBasehttp://www.fishbase.org
Global Invasive Species Databasehttp://www.issg.org/databaseThe GISD aims to increase awareness about invasive alien species and to facilitate effective prevention and management. It is managed by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of the Species Survival Commission.
USGS NAS Databasehttp://nas.er.usgs.gov/

Principal Source

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Draft datasheet under review

Contributors

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24/09/15 Original text by: 

Ali Serhan Tarkan, Mugla Sitki Koçman University, Turkey

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