Fun Spotted Tilapia Facts For Kids

Christian Mba
Oct 20, 2022 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
One of the most interesting spotted tilapia facts is that it is aggressive, territorial, and incredibly protective of its eggs.

The spotted tilapia is a ray-finned fish cichlid from the Pelmatolapia genus of fish. The species is endemic to the African continent and is found in central and west Africa.

It is a very adaptable and robust fish. It can live in shallow or deep waters and can handle varying levels of salinity, preferring brackish and freshwater.

It can also survive in varying temperatures of water. This Tilapia mariae (spotted tilapia) is perhaps best known for being a very aggressive, territorial, and invasive species.

It multiplies very quickly and shows great parental care towards its offspring, chasing predators away constantly. In places outside its natural habitat of Africa, like south Florida and Australia, this invasive species has been introduced and it has quickly become the dominant fish.

In its Australian habitat, it has been declared a restricted fish. It has numerous predators and threats like larger fish, birds, nematode parasites, and humans but it still thrives.

In its African habitat, the Niger River Delta, exploration poses a threat to this spotted tilapia fish. The conservation status of the spotted tilapia is currently Least Concern under the IUCN.

For more great content, check out these milkfish facts and Congo tetra facts for kids.

Spotted Tilapia Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a spotted tilapia?

The spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae) is a type of fish.

What class of animal does a spotted tilapia belong to?

The spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae) belongs to the Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) class of animals.

How many spotted tilapia are there in the world?

It is unclear how many spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae) there are in the world.

Where does a spotted tilapia live?

Spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae) are endemic to the continent of Africa, mainly central and west Africa. They are found from Cameroon to Benin and Ghana to Côte d'Ivoire. Outside this native range, they have been introduced to and have thrived in Australia and in south Florida in the USA.

What is a spotted tilapia's habitat?

The spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae) species is highly adaptive to its habitats. The spotted tilapia range consists of both shallow and deep waters.

They are at ease in flowing and still waters and near debris, substrate, mud-bottoms, and rocks. They also like living in lakes, ponds, and slow canals in their south Florida habitat. They like temperatures around 77-91.4 F (25-33 C) but can survive at temperatures between 51.8-98.6 F (11-37 C) too.

Even though they prefer freshwater and brackish waters, they can live in the saline waters of estuaries with ease. Coastal and weedy waters, medium-sized rivers, forest streams, small streams, outcroppings, and warm springs, are all various habitats that spotted tilapia are comfortable in.

Who do spotted tilapia live with?

Being prolific breeders, spotted tilapia (Pelmatilapia mariae) fish are seldom seen alone. They are alone when feeding, but exist in schools as juveniles and are seen in pairs a lot of the time. They are a very territorial and aggressive species by nature.

How long does a spotted tilapia live?

The average spotted tilapia life-span is 10-13 years.

How do they reproduce?

Spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae) fish are prolific and adaptable breeders. After reaching a length of 6 in (15.2 cm), spotted tilapia fish begin breeding, all year long, with peaks coming in July to September and March to April.

The number of eggs laid is close to 2,000 on nests of hard substances like logs, plants, or rocks. The eggs hatch three days after being laid.

The size of the eggs depends on the quality of care provided to them, the eggs tend to be bigger if more parental care is involved. This tilapia mariae (spotted tilapia) fish is monogamous and they work together to ensure their offspring's well-being.

The parental roles are well-defined.

Females build the nest and watch the eggs, and males watch out for predators. After three days, juvenile tilapias form a school, with young males becoming more active and females chasing away predators.

The parental care lasts until the tilapia is 1-1.2 in (2.5-3 cm) long. This biparental care is the key as to why spotted tilapia are considered to be an aggressive, territorial, and invasive species.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae) species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature is Least Concern.

Spotted Tilapia Fun Facts

What do spotted tilapia look like?

Spotted tilapia (Pelmatolapia mariae) have snouts that are round and short. They are an overall light yellow or olive green color. They have three anal spines and about nine dark black bars on their sides.

Adults have more prominent dark bars than young juveniles. Between these bars, in the middle between two and six dark spots are present.

The bars on the juvenile's body become spots as they grow. The bodies and mouth shapes of spotted tilapia are similar to those of native sunfishes. Some spotted tilapia individuals have an 'oscar', which is a reddish marking on the throat or chin.

Their single-looking dorsal fin is actually two dorsal fins. Their rear dorsal fin has 13 soft rays and their dorsal fin also has 16 spines. Also, the anal fin has 11 tapering rays at the rear and three spines at the front.

The eyes of spotted tilapia fish are red. Spotted tilapia fish also display slight sexual dimorphism.

The dorsal and caudal fins of male spotted tilapia are slightly longer than a female's and males also display white spots that shimmer, which are absent from females. Males also grow bigger than females sometimes. A juvenile tilapia has a single black spot on the backside of the dorsal fin.

The Spotted Tilapia under water

How cute are they?

As far as beautiful fish go, spotted tilapia are kinda cute. The average spotted tilapia size is small, but it doesn't quite match the beauty of species like the clown triggerfish.

The goldish body color and the dark stripes on the sides of their bodies definitely add some aesthetic value, but this is diminished by the fact that spotted tilapia are aggressive breeders and often prove an invasive species to the ecological systems they inhabit.

How do they communicate?

Like most other fish species, spotted tilapia communicate via motion, gestures, and chemicals that can be smelt or tasted.  The courtship and territorial behavior of spotted tilapia fish involve up to nine distinct color changes!

How big is a spotted tilapia?

Spotted tilapia fish are 7-15.5 in (17.8-39.4 cm) long which makes them five to 10 times bigger than the white cloud mountain minnow, three to six times bigger than the neon tetra, and three to 14 times smaller than the requiem shark.

How fast can a spotted tilapia swim?

The swimming speed of the spotted tilapia fish is measured in terms of its body length (BL) per second (s). Over a prolonged period, it can swim at speeds of 1.9-16.3 BL/s. Over a sustained period, it swims at an average of 1.9 BL/s. It is able to achieve speeds greater than 16.3 BL/s when alarmed.

How much does a spotted tilapia weigh?

Adult spotted tilapia fish weigh up to 3 lb (1.4 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males and females of the spotted tilapia species do not have specific names.

What would you call a baby spotted tilapia?

A baby spotted tilapia would be called a 'juvenile' or a 'fry'.

What do they eat?

Spotted tilapia are largely herbivores, feeding on periphyton, phytoplankton, algae, cassava, and plant matter. They are also known to eat insects and shrimp though.

They themselves are under threat from larger fish, reptiles, birds, humans, electric catfish, African pike, obscure snakehead, and nematode parasites.

Are they poisonous?

No, spotted tilapia are not poisonous, though they do prove to a detrimental and invasive species to other fish.

Would they make a good pet?

No, spotted tilapia would not make a good pet. They are defensive, territorial, aggressive, and a much too invasive species to have and own as a pet.

Did you know...

Spotted tilapia is the common name of the Pelmatolapia mariae fish. Another common name is the black mangrove cichlid. It is also known as the spotted mangrove cichlid too.

Studies have revealed that tilapia fish in Florida may contain an unhealthy ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Incorrect levels of omega 6 is linked to an increased probability of developing asthma and arthritis and can cause inflammation in the body. For this reason, Florida tilapia do not make for good eating fishes.

It is not illegal to catch or kill tilapia in places like India, the USA, and Australia, but farming of tilapia is not allowed at all or is restricted to only licensed people in many places because of the invasive nature of the fish.

If you catch a tilapia fish, you must humanely kill it and then either bury them away from water or throw them away in a bin.

Tilapia is a real fish, not a man-made fish.

Different types of tilapia

There are close to 100 different types of tilapia fish belonging to six different tribes, namely the Tilapiine,  Pelmatolapiine, Oreochromime, Heterotilapine, Coptodonine, and Ceolotilpine tribes. Formerly, these were all part of a single tribe, the Tilapiini.

A few prominent species from the various tribes and genera are Coelotilapia joka, the Mozambique tilapia, the blue tilapia, the Nile tilapia, the blackchin tilapia, the spotted tilapia, the redbreast tilapia, and the zebra tilapia.

Of these, the zebra, redbreast, and blackchin tilapia are sometimes used for their aesthetic looks, and the Nile, blue, and Mozambique tilapia are the most commercially viable tilapia species. Tilapia fish often hybridize among themselves as well as between tilapia and completely different species of fish.

Why is tilapia banned in Australia?

Two main species of tilapia, the Mozambique tilapia, and the spotted tilapia are currently banned in Australia because of their invasive nature. The introduction of tilapia to Australia happened in the '70s. and this began a huge growth in the fish's distribution there.

Tilapia females are able to carry their small juveniles and eggs in their mouths, enabling them to survive long after they die. Thus, new infestations are never far away. The Biosecurity Act in 2014 declared them a noxious, restricted fish species.

They have been banned because of their dominating and invasive nature. They reproduce quickly and take over ponds and other habitats, even saline ones, withstanding tough climates and high salinity, and eating simple foods.

Spotted tilapia distribution has a negative effect on other fish species and native marine communities. They also are protective of their offspring and bullish with other fish.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our black phantom tetra fun facts for kids and pigfish interesting facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our Spotted Tilapia coloring pages.

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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