Breeding tilapia

Breeding true tilapia as well as the “tilapia” species in the genera Sarotherodon and Oreochromis is easy. This article will focus on the true tilapias, i.e. the species belonging to the genus Tilapia. The biggest obstacle to breeding tilapia is usually to get a suitable pair. The easiest and cheapest method is to get a group of juveniles and allow them to grow up together, forming pairs themselves as they reach sexually maturity.

Once you have an established pair you can remove the others from the tank or move the breeding pair to another tank. It is not recommendable to keep the breeding pair with the other tilapia fish unless the aquarium is very big due to the aggression these fish show during the breeding season. They will claim a territory and protect their offspring by any means necessary. Leaving the pair in the tank and moving the rest of the fish is usually to be preferred as this reduces the stress the pair suffers.

Another option is to buy an established breeding pair but this is usually much more expensive. Once you have a pair they are not hard to breed if you provide them with a suitable environment and a nutritious diet.

Different tilapia species have slightly different reproductive habits and it is advisable to read up on the specific species you want to breed. All true tilapia are egg layers and most species that are regularly kept in aquariums are open substrate spawners. This means that they spawn on an open surface instead of for instance hiding their eggs in a cave as some other cichlid species do.

Tilapia fish are usually good parents that carefully clean an area they plan to deposit their eggs on. The female places a few eggs on the substrate and the male immediately fertilizes them. This procedure is repeated until all eggs are deposited.  A single spawning can result in a large number of eggs and fry. These will later be moved from the spawning site by the parents. They then protect the eggs and young ones against anything that might want to eat them during the first few weeks.

Tilapia fry is easy to feed and can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp as soon as the yolk sac has been consumed.