Tilapia (/tɪˈlɑːpiə/ tih-LAH-pee-ə) is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the coelotilapine, coptodonine, heterotilapine, oreochromine, pelmatolapiine and tilapiine tribes (formerly all were in Tilapiini), with the economically most important species placed in Coptodonini and Oreochromini. Tilapia are mainly freshwater fish inhabiting shallow streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes, and less commonly found living in brackish water. Historically, they have been of major importance in artisanal fishing in Africa, and they are of increasing importance in aquaculture and aquaponics. Tilapia can become a problematic invasive species in new warm-water habitats such as Australia, whether deliberately or accidentally introduced, but generally not in temperate climates due to their inability to survive in cold water.
Tilapia is the fourth-most consumed fish in the United States dating back to 2002. The popularity of tilapia came about due to its low price, easy preparation, and mild taste.
Escabeche fresh tilapia
Redbelly tilapia, Tilapia zillii (“St. Peter’s fish”) from the Sea of Galilee served in a Tiberias restaurant
Whole tilapia fish can be processed into skinless, boneless (pin-bone[clarification needed] out) fillets: the yield is from 30 to 37%, depending on fillet size and final trim. In some of the commercial strains, the yield has been reported up to 47% at harvest weight.
Tilapia is one of several commercially important aquaculture species (including trout, barramundi and channel catfish) susceptible to off flavors. These ‘muddy’ or ‘musty’ flavors are normally caused by geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol, organic products of ubiquitous cyanobacteria that are often present or bloom sporadically in water bodies and soil. These flavors are no indication of freshness or safety of the fish, but they make the product unattractive to consumers. Simple quality control procedures are known to be effective in ensuring the quality of fish entering the market.
Tilapia have very low levels of mercury, as they are fast-growing, lean, and short-lived, with a primarily vegetarian diet, so do not accumulate mercury found in prey. Tilapia are low in saturated fat, calories, carbohydrates, and sodium, and are a good protein source. They also contain the micronutrients phosphorus, niacin, selenium, vitamin B12, and potassium.
Some research has found that tilapia may be a less nutritious fish than generally believed. The Wake Forest University School of Medicine released a report in 2008 showing that the fish’s omega-3 fatty acid content is often far lower than that of other commonly eaten fish species. The same study also showed that their omega-6 fatty acid levels were unusually high. Multiple studies have evaluated the effects of adding flaxseed derivatives (a vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids) to the feed of farmed tilapia. These studies have found both the more common omega-3 fatty acid found in the flax, ALA and the two types almost unique to animal sources (DHA and EPA), increased in the fish fed this diet. Guided by these findings, tilapia farming techniques could be adjusted to address the nutritional criticisms directed at the fish while retaining its advantage as an omnivore capable of feeding on economically and environmentally inexpensive vegetable protein. Adequate diets for salmon and other carnivorous fish can alternatively be formulated from protein sources such as soybean, although soy-based diets may also change in the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.