Tilapia is a large genus in the cichlid family (Cichlidae). Tilapia is rapidly becoming one of the most popular seafood in the United States, with the National Marine Fisheries Service ranking it the fifth most consumed seafood. In fact, American’s annual consumption of tilapia has quadrupled over the last 4 years, from a quarter pound per person in 2003 to more than a pound in 2007. Researchers predict tilapia is destined to be one of the most important farmed seafood products of the century.
Tilapia is a popular food fish and many species can easily be cultivated in ponds. It has been an important source of protein Africa and the Levant for thousands of years and the Ancient Egyptians cultivated tilapia in ponds along the Nile. The fish even has its very own hieroglyph.
Today, Tilapia is a popular food fish all over the world and it is also kept in aquariums. The traditional way of farming tilapia is in ponds where the fish can make use of naturally occurring food. In many parts of the world, farm animals such as chicken and pigs are raised in conjunction with the fish ponds since their manure can be used to make the pond more rich in tilapia food. During the 20th century, two new methods for farming tilapia developed: tank farming and cage farming.
Since tilapia is such a popular food fish it has been introduced to many different parts of the world and is now found in the wild on all continents except Antarctica.
Sometimes it has been deliberately introduced as food fish to lakes and other bodies of water, sometimes fish have managed to escape from fish farms. Tilapia has also been introduced in order to combat mosquitoes and aquatic weeds. Since many tilapia species are highly adaptable it is easy for them to thrive in their new homes and tilapia have become a problematic invasive species in several countries.
Tilapia has been farm-raised as far back as ancient Egypt, and now such farming occurs in more than 85 countries. Tilapia is considered sustainable thanks to its herbivore eating habits, feeding mainly on plankton, filamentous algae, aquatic macrophytes and other vegetable matter. As a result, wild tilapia does not accumulate pollutants and other toxins in their bodies. On fish farms Tilapia are fed mostly on grain and are also prone to be toxin-free.