Today’s featured seafood is tilapia.
Tilapia is actually a name to describe hundreds of species (and hybrids) of cichlids that fall under the tribe tilapiine cichlidae under the family of Cichlidae. They range from Africa to the Middle East and live in mainly freshwater ponds, lakes and rivers but are also found in brackish water.
They are most commonly known as a food fish since they are the third most important farm-raised fish after salmon and carp. They are considered great for aquaculture because they are omnivorous (giving them a low feed conversion ratio), easy to breed (because they don’t have a planktonic stage), can be stocked quite densely and grow very quickly. There is some controversy over whether they are as healthy to eat as other fish because they don’t yield as high a ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid but physicians attest that they are still part of a healthy diet and a good source of protein.
Tilapia are also considered a poster child of “green” aquaculture when they are farmed inland (with low risk of escapes and contained waste and disease), especially in warmer climates where the tanks do not need energy to be kept warm. However, when escapes do occur they can quickly establish themselves as invasive species, as they have already done in Florida and Texas.
Fun fact: Tilapia feature quite prominently in the Bible. They are sometimes known as “St Peter’s fish” since the fish that Peter caught carrying a shekel coin in its mouth described in Matthew 17:24-27 was a tilapia. Tilapia are also thought to feature in the Bible story where Jesus fed 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
Image source here.