Nile Tilapia, St. Peter’s Fish, Aquatic Chicken
Tilapia del Nilo
(Oreochromis niloticus)

Nile Talapia, Oreochromis niloticus: The Nile Tilapia have thin deep bodies that are characterized by the 7 to 12 vertical stripes found on the caudal fin. The margin of the dorsal fin is grey to black and the throat region is generally grey with a pink pigmentation. They feed on phytoplankton and benthic algae. They reach a maximum length of 2 feet in length and 9 pounds.

Nile Talapia are found in the first 15 feet of the water column.

Distribution in Mexico fishing areas

We have no idea how this species got to the Cabo San Lucas area and we have no idea where else in Mexico it might be found. The Nile Tilapia might be easily confused with the Blue Tilapia, Oreochromis aureus (interrupted bands on its caudal fin) and the Mozambique Tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus (weak or no bands on its caudal fin). Note: in the scientific literature this species is also known as Tilapia nilotica and Sarotherodon niloticus.

The Nile Tilapia, a common freshwater species found in most tropical waters, is a member of the Cichlids Family and the Oreochromis Genus. The Cichlids are perch-like fishes that have laterally compressed deep bodies with long dorsal fins, the front portion of which are heavily spined. They also have heavily spined pelvic and anal fins. They have interrupted lateral lines which distinguish them from sunfish and crappie. The Nile Tilapia is unique, having only a single nostril on each side of the head. They reproduce by nest building and egg fertilization with the nests guarded by the brood parents. Members of the Oreochromis genus are also unique in that the females collect the fertilized eggs in their mouths and hold them through incubation and for several days after hatching. Globally there are 74 known members of the Cichlid Family.

This fish species is indigenous to Africa where it is found from Egypt to Cape Horn. They were named by Aristotle in 300 B.C. and reportedly fed by Jesus to the multitudes during the Sermon on the Mount. They were transplanted from Africa in the 1980’s as a means to fight algae growth in freshwater irrigation systems but have now become a pest, causing ecological damage and consuming the food of native species, principally the Largemouth Bass and Bluegills. In the United States they are found in the irrigation systems of California and Florida and in the coastal watersheds of Mississippi.

At present, they are farmed commercially in 85 countries including most countries of Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Americas and Oceania. They are easy to manage, having indiscriminate appetites and a tolerance for low water quality. Nile Tilapia are extremely fast growing reaching harvest maturity of 2 to 3 pounds in 8 to 10 months. They are the second largest farmed fish in the world (second to salmon) with production on the order of two billion pounds per annum. Behind shrimp and salmon they are the third most imported fish into the United States with most of the fish originating in Central America. They are sold live, or as fresh or frozen fillets, either breaded, marinated or smoked. The skin is also utilized to produce fashion products such as belts, purses and clothing.

Nile Tilapia fish picture

Nile Tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus: Collected from the irrigation pond for the Cabo Real Golf Course with a bait net late afternoon in April 2004 at Km 20 (Cabo Real) between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur., Mexico. Size approximately 5 inches. Identification courtesy of Dr. Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Institute, Panama. Photo courtesy John Snow.

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