Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Oreochromis aureus
(blue tilapia)



Oreochromis aureus (blue tilapia)


  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Oreochromis aureus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • blue tilapia
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • O. aureus is a hardy cichlid native to Africa and the Middle East. It has been introduced to other parts of Africa and the Middle East, as well as East Asia, the Caribbean, areas of Central and South America an...

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Oreochromis aureus (blue tilapia); adult fish.
CaptionOreochromis aureus (blue tilapia); adult fish.
CopyrightPublic Domain - Released by the U.S. Geological Survey/original image by Howard Jelks
Oreochromis aureus (blue tilapia); adult fish.
AdultOreochromis aureus (blue tilapia); adult fish.Public Domain - Released by the U.S. Geological Survey/original image by Howard Jelks


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Oreochromis aureus (Steindachner)

Preferred Common Name

  • blue tilapia

Other Scientific Names

  • Chromis aureus Steindachner, 1864
  • Chromis niloticus (non Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Oreochromis auraeus (Steindachner, 1864)
  • Oreochromis aurea (Steindachner, 1864)
  • Sarotherodon aureum (Steindachner, 1864)
  • Sarotherodon aureum (Steindachner, 1864)
  • Sarotherodon aureus (Steindachner, 1864)
  • Sarotherodon aureus (Steindachner, 1864)
  • Tilapia affinis (non Duméril, 1858)
  • Tilapia aurea (Steindachner, 1864)
  • Tilapia aurea exul (Steindachner, 1864)
  • Tilapia aurea exul Steinitz, 1951
  • Tilapia heudeloti (non Duméril, 1858)
  • Tilapia heudelotii (non Duméril, 1858)
  • Tilapia kacherbi (Wunder, 1960)
  • Tilapia kacherbi Wunder, 1960
  • Tilapia kashabi (Elster, 1958)
  • Tilapia kashabi Elster, 1958
  • Tilapia lemassoni Blache & Miton, 1960
  • Tilapia melanopleura (non Duméril, 1861)
  • Tilapia monodi Daget, 1954
  • Tilapia nilotica (non Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Tilapia nilotica exul Steinitz, 1951

International Common Names

  • English: blue tilapia; golden tilapia; Jordan St. peter's fish; kurpertilapia; tilapia; tilapia, blue
  • Arabic: musht lubbad

Local Common Names

  • Cameroon: fartere; gargassa; holinga; karpassa; partere
  • Chad: biering-pill; sale; sohn-pill
  • Egypt: abiad hasani; bolti azrak; kurpertilapia
  • Fiji: blue tilapia
  • Finland: kultatilapia
  • Germany: Goldtilapia
  • Israel: amnon hayaor; amnun hayarden; amnun yarden; Jordan St. Peter's fish; Jordan St. Peter's fish; musht lubbad
  • Mexico: blue tilapia; tilapia azul
  • Nigeria: epia; gargaza; ifunu; karwa; mpupa; tilapia; tilapia; tome; tsokungi; ukuobu
  • Philippines: tilapia
  • Puerto Rico: blue tilapia; golden tilapia
  • Senegal: waas; waas xos; wass khoss; wass-bor; wass-bor
  • Sierra Leone: an-boh boh; kpeloi; sayray
  • South Africa: Israeli tilapia; Israelse tilapia
  • Spain: tilapia azul
  • Sweden: guldtilapia
  • Taiwan: blue tilapia
  • Turkey: tatlisu çipurasi
  • UK: blue tilapia
  • USA: blue tilapia

Trade name

  • tilapia azul

Summary of Invasiveness

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O. aureus is a hardy cichlid native to Africa and the Middle East. It has been introduced to other parts of Africa and the Middle East, as well as East Asia, the Caribbean, areas of Central and South America and some Pacific islands as an important aquaculture species. It is known to exhibit aggressive behaviour and can strongly compete with native species for spawning area and space and food (Buntz and Manooch, 1969; Noble and Germany, 1986; Muoneke, 1988; Zale and Gregory, 1990). O. aureus can easily become the dominant species in its introduced range and negatively impacts native fishes, mollusk species and vegetation (Courtenay and Robins, 1973; McDonald, 1987; USGS NAS, 2007). At high densities in certain locations it has resulted in significant changes in fish community structure, such as in the Warm Springs area of Nevada, USA (Muoneke, 1988; Scoppettone et al., 1998; 2005). O. aureus caused a major management problem in Everglades National Park by invading some parts of the park (Courtenay, 1989; Courtenay and Williams, 1992).

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Blue tilapia Oreochromis aureus was first described by Steindachner in 1864. It was given many synonyms in the 19th century.


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O. aureus is silvery with a caudal fin lacking regular dark vertical stripes, but a broad pink to bright red distal margin (Trewavas, 1965; 1983; Teugels and Thys van den Audenaerde, 2003). Colouration of breeding females is more orange at the edges of dorsal and caudal fins, whereas breeding males exhibit an intense vermillion edge to their dorsal fin, bright metallic blue on their head, and a more intense pink on the caudal fin (Trewavas, 1965; 1983). O. aureus has 18-26 gill rakers, 3 anal spines and (14-)16(-17) dorsal spines. Females are significantly smaller than males, which have a maximum length of 508 mm. 


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O. aureus is native to Africa and the Middle East. It has been introduced to other parts of Africa and the Middle East, as well as East Asia, the Caribbean, areas of Central and South America and some Pacific islands.

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


ChinaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
IsraelPresentNative Not invasive Trewavas, 1983
JapanPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
JordanPresentNative Not invasive Trewavas, 1983
KuwaitPresentIntroducedLin and Suresh, 1992
MyanmarAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Win, 2005
OmanPresentIntroducedBartley, 2006
PakistanPresentIntroducedMirza, 2002
PhilippinesAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Welcomme, 1988
Saudi ArabiaPresentNative Not invasive Siddiqui and Al-Harbi, 1995
SingaporePresentIntroducedNg et al., 1993
SyriaPresentIntroducedCoad, 1996
TaiwanPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
ThailandPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
TurkeyPresentIntroducedInnal and Erk'Akan, 2006
United Arab EmiratesPresentIntroducedFAO, 2002


CameroonPresentNative Not invasive Vivien, 1991
ChadPresentNative Not invasive Trewavas, 1983
Côte d'IvoireAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Lever, 1996
EgyptPresentNative Not invasive Falk et al., 1998
MadagascarPresentIntroducedBartley, 2006
MaliPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003
NigerPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003
NigeriaPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003
SenegalPresentNative Not invasive Teugels and Thys, 2003
South AfricaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
UgandaAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Wohlfarth and Hulata, 1983
ZambiaPresentIntroducedThys van den Audenaerde DFE, 1994

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedLyons et al., 1998
USAPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedLever, 1996
BahamasPresentIntroducedChakalall, 1993
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedFAO, 2002
CubaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
DominicaPresentIntroducedFAO, 2002
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedLever, 1996
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
HaitiPresentIntroducedLever, 1996
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroducedChakalall, 1993
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
PanamaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedLee et al., 1983

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
PeruPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988


Russian FederationAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Bogutskaya and Naseka, 2002


FijiAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Seeto and Baldwin, 2010
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedFAO, 2002


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Bahamas 1985 Froese and Pauly (2015)
Brazil USA 1965 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
China Hong Kong 1981 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Colombia Israel 1990 Froese and Pauly (2015)
Costa Rica El Salvador 1965 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Cuba Mexico 1968 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Cyprus Israel 1976 Yes Welcomme (1988) Filling ecological niche
Dominican Republic 1980 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
El Salvador USA 1963 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Fiji 1974 Research (pathway cause) No Welcomme (1988)
Guatemala Costa Rica 1974 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Guatemala El Salvador 1974 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Haiti USA 1982 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Israel Egypt 1984 No Froese and Pauly (2015)
Israel UK 1984 No Froese and Pauly (2015)
Japan Taiwan 1983-84 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Welcomme (1988)
Kenya UK 1978 Froese and Pauly (2015)
Kuwait Florida 1979 Froese and Pauly (2015)
Libya 1990-99 Froese and Pauly (2015)
Madagascar Congo 1951 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Mexico USA 1964 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Myanmar Thailand 1977 Froese and Pauly (2015)
Oman United Arab Emirates 1991 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Pakistan Egypt 1985 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Panama Puerto Rico 1987 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Peru Cuba 1983 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Philippines USA 1977 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988)
Philippines Singapore 1977 Welcomme (1988)
Puerto Rico USA 1971 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Erdman (1984)
Puerto Rico Panama 1987 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Russian Federation Cuba 1984 Aquaculture (pathway cause) No Welcomme (1988)
South Africa Israel 1970 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Welcomme (1988)
Taiwan Israel 1974 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Thailand Israel 1970 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes Welcomme (1988)
Turkey 1970-79 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Uganda Israel 1962 No Froese and Pauly (2015)
UK Israel   No Froese and Pauly (2015)
United Arab Emirates Kuwait 1985 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
USA Israel 1957 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
USA Africa 1957 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
USA Israel 1957 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Vietnam China 2002 Froese and Pauly (2015)
Zambia Israel 1980-89 Yes Froese and Pauly (2015)
Zimbabwe Israel 1983-84 Froese and Pauly (2015)

Risk of Introduction

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O. aureus has mainly been introduced into ponds, reservoirs, lakes and rivers through stocking, but also via aquaculture and biological control. It is stocked as a forage species for warm water predatory fish and to control aquatic plants. A very popular aquaculture species, O. aureus is reared widely all over the world, and escapes or releases from aquaculture facilities, zoological parks and aquariums are common (Canonico et al., 2005). It has also been intentionally released as bait by anglers and as a food species worldwide (Courtenay and Hensley, 1979; Lee et al., 1980; Courtenay et al., 1984; 1986; Muoneke, 1988; Courtenay and Williams, 1992; USGS NAS, 2007). As a species with detrimental effects on native fauna, flora and ecosystem functioning, colonization of new waters beyond the point of release or escape should be considered a major concern.


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O. aureus is considered hardy species, tolerant of a wide range of habitat conditions and water quality (McKaye et al., 1995). It can be found in estuarine habitats, lakes, water courses, warm ponds and dam reservoirs (Goren, 1974; Page and Burr, 1991). It also can live in open water, among vegetation and stones (Goren, 1974). It is a benthopelagic and potamodromous species. O. aureus is cold tolerant but prefers a tropical climate, occurring in temperatures 8-30°C and tolerating up to 41°C (Chervinski, 1982). It can tolerate fairly brackish salinities.

Habitat List

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Inland saline areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Estuaries Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalWetlands Principal habitat Natural
Coastal areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Irrigation channels Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Irrigation channels Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Lakes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Lakes 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
Ponds Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Ponds Principal habitat Natural
Inshore marine Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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O. aureus has a diploid (2n) chromosome number of 44 and haploid/gametic (n) of 22 (Arkhipchuk, 1999). It is known to hybridize with many other tilapia species (Coyle et al., 2004).

Reproductive Biology

O. aureus is an ovophilic species, with external fertilization. It is capable of breeding in both brackish and freshwater waters. For reproduction, a minimum temperature of 20°C is required and it is stimulated by long periods but inhibited by short day lengths (Baroiller, 1997). Nesting usually occurs in shallow water with weedy areas (Payne and Collinson, 1983). Males establish a territory and dig a spawning pit using their mouths and fins, up to 60 cm deep and 4-6 m in diameter, usually among weedy areas, which they then defend aggressively (Ben-Tuvia, 1978; Trewavas, 1983; de Moor and Bruton, 1988; Lamboj, 2004).

Males visit schools of females to attract a mate. Courting behaviour in the nest consists of lateral displays by both sexes with nipping and tail-flapping (Trewavas, 1983). Females deposit eggs in single clutches from several dozen to 100 eggs (Trewavas, 1983; Lamboj, 2004). Females are mouthbrooders, and up to 2000 eggs are taken by females into their mouth.

After spawning is complete, females swim away to deeper water (Trewavas, 1983; Lamboj, 2004) while males renew spawning activities with other females.

Hatching occurs about 3 days after oviposition, and juveniles remain in their mother’s mouth until they are about 1 cm long. Temperature determines incubation time, which varies from 13-14 days at 25-27°C (Trewavas, 1983; Lamboj, 2004) or 8-10 days at 29°C (Dadzie, 1970). The young school near their mothers head for about five days before swimming further afield, re-entering the mouth at any sign of danger or at a gesture of the mother. O. oreochromis does not have special habitat requirements for reproduction and so introduced populations can use all available habitats for breeding (McKaye et al., 1995).

Physiology and Phenology

Although it prefers tropical climate, O. aureus can tolerate fairly cold waters. It is also tolerant to a wide range of habitat conditions and water quality (McKaye et al., 1995).


5+ years (Boschung and Mayden, 2004).


O. aureus is mainly an omnivore or detritivore (Gu et al., 1997). It feeds primarily on phytoplankton (Hensley and Courtenay, 1980) but food habits of the species are extremely generalized (Wood, 1986; Edwards and Contreras-Balderas, 1991). Adults are mostly herbivorous (feed on epiphytic algae and phytoplankton) but they occasionally eat zooplankton (Lee et al., 1980), whereas juveniles eat mostly zooplankton and small arthropods (McBay, 1961; Buntz and Manooch, 1968; Trewevas, 1983). However, some studies reported that this species feeds mostly on zooplankton (rotifers, cladocerans, and Bosmina) and eats plant matter and algae as secondary food sources (Spataru and Zorn, 1978). Small fish are also occasionally reported in the gut content of O. aureus (McBay, 1961).


O. aureus can be infected a wide range of diseases and parasites, including Flexibacter columnaris (Bacteria), Apiosoma piscicolum, Epistylis colisarum, Trichodina sp., Trypanoplasma sp. (Protozoa), Cichlidogyrus tilapiae, Gyrodactylus cichlidarum and Neobedenia melleni (Monogenea) (Bunkley-Williams and Williams, 1994).

Environmental Requirements

The fish is found mostly in fresh waters, but also occurs in brackish estuaries and rarely in marine waters (Shafland and Pestrak, 1982; Trewevas, 1983). It has a greater resistance to cold temperatures than most other cichlids and is highly tolerant species to several environmental variables, including a wide range of salinity (29-45 ppt) and temperature (8 to 30ºC) (Shafland and Pestrak, 1982; Froese and Pauly, 2015). Juveniles are less tolerant of cold temperatures than adults (McBay, 1961). A minimum temperature of 20-22°C is required for breeding (McBay, 1961; Trewevas, 1983). 

Natural Food Sources

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Food SourceFood Source DatasheetLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
Annelids Adult/Fry
Blue-green algea Adult/Fry
Bony fish Adult/Fry
Cladocerans Adult/Fry
Debris Adult/Fry
Detritus Adult/Fry 70
Diatoms Adult/Fry
Dinoflagellatas Adult/Fry
Green algea Adult/Fry
Insects Adult/Fry
Invertabrate Adult/Fry
Non-annelids Adult/Fry
Ostracoda Adult/Fry
Planktonic copepods Adult/Fry
Plant seeds Adult/Fry
Terrestrial plants Adult/Fry


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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
BW - Desert climate Preferred < 430mm annual precipitation
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Tolerated Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
D - Continental/Microthermal climate Tolerated Continental/Microthermal climate (Average temp. of coldest month < 0°C, mean warmest month > 10°C)
Df - Continental climate, wet all year Tolerated Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)
Dw - Continental climate with dry winter Tolerated Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Ammonium [ionised] (mg/l) 0.02 0.5 Optimum
Ammonium [ionised] (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) 35 Harmful
Turbidity (JTU turbidity) 30 35 Harmful
Water pH (pH) 3.7 11 Optimum
Water pH (pH) 6 9 Harmful
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 20 25 Optimum
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 8 41 Harmful

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Channa striata Predator All Stages
Hemichromis fasciatus Predator All Stages
Lates niloticus Predator All Stages to species
Megalops atlanticus Predator All Stages
Parachromis managuensis Predator All Stages

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Predators of O. aureus include: snakehead (Channa striata), tarpon (Megalops cyprinoides), Nile perch (Lates niloticus) and banded jewelfish (Hemichromis fasciatus) (Milstein et al., 2000).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

O. aureus is capable of spreading through waterways unaided, such as through the Central Arizona Project canal system in southwestern USA (USGS NAS, 2015).

Accidental Introduction

Accidental introductions have been reported via escapes or releases from aquaculture facilities, experimental control areas, zoological parks, aquariums and bait bucket releases (Courtenay and Hensley, 1979; Courtenay et al., 1984, 1986; Muoneke, 1988; Courtenay and Williams, 1992).

Intentional Introduction

O. aureus has been purposefully introduced for recreational stocking, aquaculture, the biological control of plants and as forage fish for predatory fishes (Canonico et al., 2005; USGS NAS, 2007).

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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O. aureus has been used widely in aquaculture and is an important food source around the world. It has a high grain-to-feed conversion rate and is easily raised. Worldwide introductions for use in aquaculture have provided an essential source of protein to many nations (ISSG, 2015).

Its value in recreational fishing and associated tourism may create a demand not only for food, accommodation and transportation, but also for related recreational activities such as camping and boating.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

O. aureus feeding alters phytoplankton communities, and can significantly effect community ecology and services. In some streams where O. aureus is abundant, it can remove most of vegetation cover (Courtenay and Robins, 1973). It caused a major management problem in the Everglades National Park, USA (Courtenay, 1989; Courtenay and Williams, 1992).

Impact on Biodiversity

O. aureus competes with native species for spawning areas, food and space (Buntz and Manooch, 1969; Noble and Germany, 1986; Muoneke, 1988; Zale and Gregory, 1990), and its introduction has been correlated with a decline in native species (Courtenay and Robins, 1973). Its local abundance and high densities in certain areas have resulted in marked changes in fish community structure (Muoneke, 1988). Competition and direct predation appear to be main reasons of decline of native species (Buntz and Manooch, 1968).

O. aureus has been implicated in the decline of unionid mussel in two Texas water bodies, Tradinghouse Creek and Fairfield reservoirs (Howells, 1995). The overlap of diets of introduced juvenile O. aureus and juvenile shad (Dorosoma spp.) was reported, and competition for limited trophic resources was suggested as a possible reason for the decline of local populations of shad in Florida (Zale and Gregory, 1990). Buntz and Manooch (1968) reported competition in Florida between O. aureus and native centrarchids for breeding areas by adults, and trophic resources by juveniles. Noble and Germany (1986) reported the inhibition of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) breeding in the presence of high densities of O. aureus in the eutrophic waters of Lake Trinidad, Texas.

Social Impact

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O. aureus is considered a valuable species for recreational fishing and is an important food source around the world.

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)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • 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
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Negatively impacts animal/plant collections
Impact mechanisms
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Hybridization
  • Interaction with other invasive species
  • Predation
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
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Economic Value

O. aureus is economically important aquarium and aquaculture fish (ISSG, 2015).

Social Benefit

This species is also important for recreational fishery (ISSG, 2015).

Environmental Services

O. aureus is popularly used for hybridization in producing all male populations (ISSG, 2015). It is also used to control vegetation in effluent ponds used to cool effluents from plants, which are too warm to support native fish (USGS NAS, 2007).

Detection and Inspection

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O. aureus has a caudal fin with a broad pink to bright red distal margin. Breeding males have intense bright metallic blue on their head, vermilion on the edge on their dorsal fin and an intense pink on the margin of their caudal fin. Breeding females have a paler orange on the edges of their dorsal and caudal fins.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Although cichlids (Cichlidae), to which O. aureus belongs, are superficially similar to sunfishes and black basses (Lepomis and Micropterus; family Centrarchidae), cichlids can be distinguished by the presence of by a single nostril opening on each side of the head as opposed to two in centrarchids, and the presence of a discontinuous or two-part lateral line compared with a continuous lateral line in centrarchids.

Proper identification of O. aureus is sometimes problematic because of its very similar appearance to O. niloticus; however, O. aureus may be distinguished by its lack of dark vertical stripes present on the caudal fins of O. niloticus (Nico, 2007).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Public Awareness

There is little awareness of the invasiveness of O. aureus, as it is a popular and highly commercial food species.


It was reported that O. aureus populations were eradicated in Brunner Island, Pennsylvania, in 1986 by releasing condenser cooling water at lethal, low temperature (ISSG, 2015). Exposing O. aureus to 5°C for 16 hours has been recommended to kill it (Stauffer et al., 1988; Costa-Pierce, 2001; USGS NAS, 2007).


Prevention of escape and care when stocking O. aureus can effectively prevent the establishment of wild populations. When cultivating the species, totally closed systems should always be used and cultivation should only take place in watersheds where O. aureus has already penetrated. Aquaculture of this species avoid watersheds and lakes in which they have not become established yet, to avoid further spread (McCrary et al., 2007).

Physical/Mechanical Control

In order to reduce the average fish size and create free niche spaces for other fish, promotion and augmentation of fishing pressure on blue tilapia was recommended for controlling their populations by McCrary et al. (2007).

Movement Control

Movement control is not possible, as this species is a very popular food fish and is transported freely all over the world.

Biological Control

The predatory fish Morone saxatilis x Morone chrysops and Sciaenops ocellatus have been effectively employed to reduce wild spawning among tilapia hybrids (Oreochromis niloticus x Oreochromis aureus) in aquaculture grow-out ponds. Other known predators and possible controls include: snakehead (Channa striata), tarpon (Megalops cyprinoides), Nile perch (Lates niloticus), banded jewelfish Hemichromis fasciatus and jaguar guapote (Cichlasoma managuense) (Milstein et al., 2000). A management program to increase the abundance of potential predators of large tilapias in Lake Nicaragua, such as alligators, gars and elasmobranchs, has been suggested (McCrary et al., 2007).

Chemical Control

The only effective method of chemical eradication would be the application of rotenone, a piscicide that is also toxic to non-target species. There were no reports found on the use of rotenone for O. aureus.


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16/03/15 Original text by:

Ali Serhan Tarkan, consultant, Turkey

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