Mossambique Tilapia

From Microcosm Aquarium Explorer

Oreochromis mossambica - (Peters, 1852)
Mossambique Tilapia

Oreochromis mossambica.jpg

Also known as the Black or sometimes Pink Tilapia. Bryan Harry/National Park Service.


This is a big, tough cichlid that can thrive in many situations and that is commonly used in aquaculture. It is sometimes crossbred with the Hornorum Tilapia (Oreochromis hornorum) to produce a fast-growing hyrid.

Not a particularly appropriate aquarium species, it has escaped aquaculture facilities in many parts of the world and is blamed for decimating local native fish populations.

See Emerald Rainbowfish.

It is regarded as highly palatable, a firm-fleshed fish with a clean flavor. Sportsfishermen think of it as a fine gamefish, and it has been stocked in many bodies of water worldwide.

Breeders have established light-colored strains with pink, orange, or red hues, that are sometimes marketed as marine fish because they resemble Red Snapper or Orange Roughy when filleted. Mike Sipe of Tilapia Aquaculture International in Florida, has developed a number of these strains, including on he calls the Red Butterball Tilapia.

So-called Red Butterball Tilapia, bred by Mike Sipe.

Feral populations of the Mossambique Tilapia are established in Texas, Alabama, and Florida, in the U.S. In some places they have been intentionally introduced to control nuisance aquatic vegetation.

Family: Cichlidae

Other common name(s):

  • Black Tilapia
  • Pink Tilapia
  • Orange Mossambicus
  • Red Mossambicus
  • Mossambic Tilapia
  • Zanzibar Tilapia

Native range:

Habitat: Able to survive in most conditions, but in the wild it gravitates toward quieter waters, including lakes, rivers, swamps, man-made reservoirs, canals, and ponds. Will venture into coastal estuaries, and even out in full-strength saltwater. It can tolerate periods of drought, with low water levels and diminished oxygen content.

Maximum length: 39 cm (15 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 1140 L (301 gal)

Water: Freshwater 17 °C (63 °F) - 35 °C (95 °F)

General swimming level: All levels, but often near the bottom.


Omnivore. Juveniles tend to eat more insects, crustaceans, and other meaty foods, while larger adults are more herbivorous. They also feed on detritus and smaller fishes. Their diet is highly adaptable, and they are greedy eaters in captivity.

Aquarium Compatibility

This is a big fish that gets very aggressive when in breeding mode.


Maternal mouthbrooders, digging pits in soft bottoms to spawn.

Mike Sipe is a Florida breeder of colored tilapia and has an informative website at Cherry


This species has also been referred to as: Chromis niloticus, Chromis mossambicus, Chromis niloticus, Chromis dumerili, Chromis vorax, Tilapia mossambica, Tilapia vorax, Chromis natalensis, Tilapia natalensis, and Sarotherodon mossambicus (Trewevas, 1983)