Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis Niloticus)

nile tilapia

Last updated on July 5th, 2022 at 02:56 pm

Most aquarists think of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) as more of an ornamental fish than one that will provide great sport fishing opportunities, but this species has more to offer than meets the eye.

The Nile tilapia, also known as the African redbelly tilapia or Oreochromis niloticus, is an extremely hardy and adaptable species of tilapia that can be found in freshwater and brackish water habitats around the world. Despite its somewhat unpleasant sounding name, this species of fish is popular with aquarists as well as fish farmers because it has very few predators, produces lots of eggs, has a high tolerance for poor water quality, and grows quickly under ideal conditions.

Oreochromis niloticus, is an African freshwater fish in the Cichlidae family. It’s commonly farmed due to its high tolerance to warm waters and its resistance to disease, making it an ideal choice of fish to raise at home as well. Provided with proper care, your own aquarium can become home to hundreds of these colorful fish! This Nile tilapia care sheet will teach you everything you need to know about keeping your own tilapia tank!

The Nile tilapia, also known as the African tilapia, is an omnivorous freshwater fish that lives in the fresh waters of eastern Africa, including Egypt and Sudan. It thrives in temperatures around 79 degrees Fahrenheit, but can survive in colder or warmer water as well.

Here’s what you need to know about caring for and maintaining this species in captivity!

Origin and descriptions

nile tilapia

The Nile tilapia is an aquarium fish, indigenous to Egypt. They are also known as nilotica, blackfin, or redbelly tilapia, among others. Oreochromis niloticus belongs to Order Perciformes and Class Actinopterygii. They are closely related to other cichlids such as moori and blue tilapias.

Many people believe they should not be kept in a community tank because of their territorial nature and tendency towards aggression; however, there have been many hobbyists who have kept them with relative success. It’s important to choose tank mates wisely since they can be aggressive toward similar-looking species as well as aggressive towards smaller fish that fit into their mouths.

Therefore, it is recommended to keep them alone or with peaceful bottom dwellers that don’t resemble those they might see in their natural habitat.

Paracheirodon axelrodi (Cardinal Tetra Fish)

Species profile

The Nile tilapia is an air-breathing fish that can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, making it an ideal species for tropical and subtropical aquaculture. It was first described by Regan in 1910. Nile tilapia is native to freshwater lakes and large rivers in Africa but has been introduced to countries all over Asia, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.

It also occurs as a feral population in several countries with tropical climates such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The Nile tilapia has become very popular in aquaculture because it reaches market size faster than most other cultured fishes, usually at 10–12 months after hatching. In addition, they are highly resistant to disease and bacterial infections. In fact, they have become notorious for their ability to survive without proper treatment or maintenance of their water quality.

Nile tilapia scientific name

The scientific name of Nile tilapia is Oreochromis niloticus

Nile tilapia habitat

The Nile tilapia is a cichlid native to Africa and can be found in lakes, rivers, and streams. It is tolerant of water temperature ranges from 22-30°C or 72-86°F but prefers temperatures between 22-28°C or 71-82°F. They are generally quite adaptable in terms of water hardness, pH, and dissolved oxygen.

Their ideal habitat consists of plenty of covers such as overhanging vegetation, rock piles, and artificial structures like docks or piers that provide additional shelter for when they feel threatened. There should also be plentiful food sources since they are omnivorous fish. As mentioned previously, they are intolerant of low dissolved oxygen levels so you should also strive to keep your nitrate levels under control since high nitrates indicate anaerobic conditions which will quickly lead to problems with your fish population’s health and welfare.

Nile tilapia size and weight

The Nile tilapia can grow up to 24 inches (60 centimeters) in length and weigh up to 5 kg.

Nile tilapia tank size

The minimum recommended tank size for an adult Nile tilapia is 200 gallons (909 liters). A juvenile can be grown in smaller tanks of 20 gallons (76 liters) or more.

Tank set up

If you’re thinking of adding Nile tilapia to your fish tank, a 200-gallon or larger tank is recommended. A tank that is too small will put undue stress on your fish, which can decrease their lifespan. The ideal temperature for these fish is between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit; fluctuating beyond these ranges will negatively impact fish health.

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Avoid introducing these fish into an aquarium with incompatible bottom dwellers such as catfish, loaches, and freshwater eels. Most importantly, all tanks should be equipped with a device that uses aeration to remove ammonia from nitrogen waste generated by fish excrement. Ensure you have adequate filtration in place before introducing any fish into your aquarium as it may otherwise affect water quality—and subsequently kill off your new pets.

Nile tilapia tank mates

Although they are usually very passive, Nile tilapia should not be kept with other fish that have more aggressive personalities. These fish tend to stay toward themselves, so you can also keep them with semi-aggressive bottom feeders like loaches and Plecostomus as well as dwarf cichlids. However, try to avoid keeping them with other species of fish that inhabit open water because they will try to eat each other.

Some common tank mates are loaches, Plecostomus, rainbowfish, and Tetras. Be sure to research any potential tank mates thoroughly before putting them in a community tank. Also remember that when you first introduce your fish, it may take a little time for them to become comfortable with each other.


nile tilapia

Oreochromis niloticus can be a bit more difficult to breed than most fish, but breeding programs are growing in popularity. They do best with other cichlids and thus should not be kept by themselves. They will often spawn in open water and any tank mates will eat their eggs, so it is recommended that they be spawned in an aquarium that can be closed off after spawning occurs.

Nile tilapia are egg-layers. Once you have a male and female, put them in separate tanks with a small divider between them. The male will fertilize all of her eggs when she releases them. Then remove that divider, add some plants to help stabilize water conditions, and wait! In about two weeks you’ll have hundreds of baby tilapia fry swimming around happily.

The fry can reach sexual maturity within 6 months of hatching. These tilapia grow rapidly like many other mouthbrooding species of tilapia, becoming sexually mature at about 1 year old and capable of reaching sizes over 10 inches (25 cm). These fish have been known to live up to 10 years when cared for properly.

Hemichromis Bimaculatus (Jewel Cichlid)

Feed them crushed-up flake food or frozen brine shrimp until they grow big enough to eat newly hatched baby brine shrimp or microworms. You can start feeding them solid foods (like blanched zucchini) after a couple of months, at which point it is best for their health if you move them into new tanks.

Are Nile tilapia aggressive or peaceful?

Nile tilapia are very aggressive fish and will eat smaller fish if given a chance. They will also eat small invertebrates like snails and crayfish.

Nile tilapia care

nile tilapia

They are omnivores and will eat both live and frozen foods. Keep at least three fish per five gallons of water to avoid territorial behavior, with more for tanks larger than 200 gallons. Make sure you give them hiding places and that you clean your tank regularly so it does not get too dirty. This will help reduce stress on your fish, which lowers the chances of disease.

Nile tilapia diet

Nile tilapia are omnivores and will eat almost anything they can fit in their mouths. They prefer meaty foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, flake food, mosquito larvae, and tubifex worms but will also feed on plants like water hyacinths. Offer a variety of both if you want to keep your fish healthy. You can also feed them algae wafers but they’re not a very good source of nutrition so offer them sparingly.

Water parameters

nile tilapia

The water in which you keep your fish should be soft and slightly acidic, in a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0. The lower end of that range is best, as it mimics conditions in their natural habitat. Hardness should also be kept low (no more than 12 dH), because these fish are soft-water fish by nature. As for temperature, Nile tilapia can handle an aquarium’s normal temperature range without any problems at all. In fact, they prefer warmer water. 20°C (68°F) is considered ideal for healthy tilapia populations.

Nile tilapia lifespan

Nile tilapia can live up to 10 years in captivity, but on average, they normally live only 5 to 7 years.

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Parasites and diseases

Because they are often raised in crowded, unsanitary conditions, Nile tilapia are vulnerable to a variety of parasitic and bacterial infections. Many of these can be treated with antibiotics or another type of medication prescribed by your vet. In some cases (like red spot disease), it is recommended that you euthanize affected fish so that they do not spread their illness to other members of your aquarium community.

If you decide to bring home newly-purchased Nile tilapia from a pet store, carefully examine them for signs of infection before putting them into your tank; if possible, quarantine new arrivals for several weeks before introducing them into your main aquarium. If any fish show signs of sickness—such as unusual bleeding, swelling, or color changes—contact your veterinarian immediately.


Nile tilapia should not be kept with any fish that are large enough to eat them. The most commonly offered tankmates include tetras, smaller barbs, danios, and rasboras. Avoid keeping them with nippy species such as rummynose tetras or rainbowfish. While omnivorous, Nile tilapia are primarily piscivores (fish-eaters) and should not be kept with other vegetarian fishes such as goldfish.

Some common predators are Silver Arowana, Chain Pickerel (Esox niger), Pike (Esox lucius), Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), Crappie (Pomoxis spp.), Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus), and also any larger fish with large mouths. The breeding of juvenile tilapia can be interrupted by largemouth bass or northern pike.

Do they make good pets?

Not really. Nile tilapia aren’t a great pet for families with small children. Because of their size, however, they’re a bit safer than many other fish. But your kids may enjoy watching them, and if you keep an eye on them as they play near your tank or pond, you shouldn’t have any problems.