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Thread: Tilapia

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    Admin denise's Avatar
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    Tilapia

    Tilapia

    by Tyler Phillips


    Tilapia is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlids, that inhabit a variety of fresh water habitats including shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes.

    Tilapia consume aquatic plants, such as "undesirable" submerged plants, duckweed and many types of algae.
    Because of this specialized diet, tilapia rarely compete with other "pond" fish for food. Instead, they play an important role in purifying the ecosystem, as they substantially reduce oxygen-depleting detritus. As a result, the presence of tilapia in a habitat often increases the population, size and health of other fish.

    In the United States and Thailand, tilapia are used as a natural plant control method, reducing and at times eliminating the need for toxic chemicals and heavy metal-based algaecides. Arizona stocks tilapia in the canals that serve as the drinking water sources for many of their big cities.

    More recently in Kenya, tilapia are used to help control mosquito populations (which are vectors of malaria). They consume mosquito larvae, which reduces the numbers of adult females, the disease’s vector.

    In Florida, the spotted tilapia, Tilapia mariae, is commonly spotted in South Florida canals. A native of West Africa, it is became established in box cut canals of South Florida in the 1970's, but has since rapidly extended its range to more than 8 counties springs and streams. Spotted tilapia inhabit calm, warm waters, both juveniles and adults can be found near structures, such as weedy shores or limestone outcroppings.


    Spotted tilapia vary in appearance according to their age. Juveniles are not spotted, but instead have a series of black bars along their body and dorsal fins. It is believed this disruptive pattern provides them with camouflage. As they grow older, the juvenile pattern of bars fade or disappear completely. A series of irregular, large spots centered near the mid-line of the body develop. It is this series of spots that give the species it's common name. Some adults maintain a faint barred pattern.

    In addition to the distinctive spots; adult spotted tilapia may also have an occasional pink patch, or a darker body tone depending upon the physical condition of the fish or its environment. Tilapia can also rapidly change their color in responce to various stimuli. Their iris is red.


    We often see spotted tilapia when diving down the run at Blue Springs....


    The reproduction cycle of spotted tilapia is well understood. They forms bonds, and remain together to care for their young! They mate in spring and fall, and possibly related to lunar cycles (unusual for freshwater fish). Females produce 200-400 bluish colored eggs, which stick to the underside of rocks. Two days after spawning, the female removes the fertile eggs to a nearby pit, and returns to the original spawning site to consume any infertile eggs!


    Denise Byrne
    Marine Biologist/OW, Tech and Cave Instructor
    denise@dayo.com
    Orlando, Florida

  2. #2
    Diver Metaldector's Avatar
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    The Tilapia at Blue Spring get to some really huge sizes. One day I was there when several "State" DNR people were spearfishing near the swim dock. They were killing the Tilapia as an invasive species along with the armored catfish. I met them in the parking area and they showed me several plastic bags with the fish. The Tilapia was in one bag and the catfish in another. "We destroy these fish", said the DNR person nudging the bag with the cat fish. What about that other bag, I asked? (Meaning the Tilapia), "That", she said, "Is dinner!"
    When I die, pull my cold wet dive light from my hand.

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