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      Oreochromis mossambicus (Line drawing: T. Voekler, WikiMedia Commons) - Click for full size
    Taxonomic name: Oreochromis mossambicus (Peters, 1852)
    Synonyms: Chromis dumerilii Steindachner, 1864, Chromis natalensis Weber, 1897, Chromis vorax Pfeffer, 1893, Sarotherodon mossambicus (Peters, 1852), Tilapia arnoldi Gilchrist & Thompson, 1917, Tilapia mossambica (Peters, 1852)
    Common names: blou kurper (Afrikaans-South Africa), common tilapia (English-Fiji), fai chau chak ue (Cantonese-Hong Kong), Java tilapia (English-Fiji), kawasuzume (Japanese), kurper bream (English-Hong Kong), malea (Fijian), mojarra (Spanish-Mexico), mosambik-maulbrüter (German), Mozambikskaya tilapiya (Russian-Russian Federation), Mozambique cichlid (English-India), Mozambique mouth-breeder (English), Mozambique mouthbrooder (English), Mozambique tilapia (English), mphende (Nyanja-Malawi), mujair (Javanese-Indonesia), nkobue (Sena-Mozambique), tilapia (English-Bangladesh), tilapia del Mozambique (Spanish), tilapia du Mozambique (French), tilapia mossambica (Dominican Republic), tilapia mozámbica (Spanish-Mexico), trey tilapia khmao (Khmer-Cambodia), weißkehlbarsch (German), wu-kuo yu (Mandarin-Taiwan)
    Organism type: fish
    Oreochromis mossambicus (Mozambique tilapia) has spread worldwide through introductions for aquaculture. Established populations of Oreochromis mossambicus in the wild are as a result of intentional release or escapes from fish farms. Oreochromis mossambicus is omnivorous and feeds on almost anything, from algae to insects.
    28-31 vertebrae; dorsal spines XV-XVII; total dorsal rays 26-29; 30-32 lateral line scales; anal spines III, lower outer gill rakers 14-20; fine pharyngeal teeth; breeding males black (not in some cultured strains) with white lower parts on head; red dorsal and caudal fin margins; remnants of striped and barred pattern often visible in females, juveniles and non-breeding makes, as a series of mid-lateral and dorsal blotches; jaws of adult males greatly enlarged, concave dorsal head profile; male genital papilla simple or slightly notched; caudal fin not densely scaled.
    Similar Species
    Oreochromis spp.

    Occurs in:
    estuarine habitats, lakes, marine habitats, water courses, wetlands
    Habitat description
    Many tilapias (Oreochromis spp.) can live quite happily in seawater. The fact that they have not typically invaded coral reefs is perhaps due to predation by marine fishes. (Courtenay, W., pers. comm., 2004). Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) is very hardy and tolerates the high salinities of atoll lagoons, such as that at Fanning Atoll (Lobel, 1980). Thought to be ideal pond fish, they readily produce stunted stocks when overcrowded, as has been observed on Pagan in the Northern Mariana Islands (Eldredge, 2000).
    General impacts
    When introduced, Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) may be a possible threat to native species through competition for food and nest space. Juveniles have been documented to feed on other fish (de Moor et al. 1986). Tilapia are now generally considered to be pests. Eradication has been suggested on Tarawa and Nauru (Eldredge, 2000).

    In Hawai‘i, this species is suspected to be a threat to native species such as striped mullet (Mugil cephalus) (Randall 1987; Devick 1991). Tilapia also have been considered a major factor in the decline of the desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) in the Salton Sea area (Courtenay and Robins, 1989; Swift et al. 1993). Because of its presence in Dade County, Florida, Courtenay (1989) indicated that the Mozambique tilapia may eventually enter Everglades National Park.

    Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) are easy to keep and breed in captivity.
    The so-called red tilapia in aquaculture is a hybrid between O. mossambicus and either O. niloticus or O. hornorum. O. mossambicus is the research subject of many physiological and biochemical studies in Asia.
    The mouthbrooding habit of this species allows it to nurture and carry its young long distances to invade habitats far from the original site of introduction (Costa-Pierce, 2003).
    Outside of Asia exotic tilapia fishes were not imported directly from Africa, but arrived as transits from third or fourth party sources. Founder populations may be morphologically and meristically distinct in Africa but are still reproductively compatible due to their recent divergence (Costa-Pierce, 2003).
    Geographical range
    Native range: Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) are native to the lower river parts and coastal regions of southern Africa, from just north of the Zambezi delta southwards to Bushman's River (eastern Cape).
    Known introduced range: Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) have been introduced to various tropical and subtropical waters all over the world. O. mossambicus has been introduced to 19 Pacific island territories.
    Introduction pathways to new locations
    Aquaculture: Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) have been introduced to many locations mainly for aquaculture. Mozambique tilapia has been directly introduced as a fishery resource by governmental agencies and individual anglers into natural waters throughout Central America and in Africa.
    Natural dispersal: Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) are hardy and can easily establish in natural waters near aquaculture ponds or cages, from which they may escape during loading-harvesting or via containment failures.
    Pet/aquarium trade:
    Taken to botanical garden/zoo:

    Local dispersal methods
    Escape from confinement: Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) are hardy and can easily establish in natural waters near aquaculture ponds or cages, from which they may escape during loading-harvesting or via containment failures.
    Management information
    Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) are hardy and can easily establish in natural waters near aquaculture ponds or cages, from which they may escape during loading-harvesting or via containment failures. Mozambique tilapia are particularly hardy, resistant to wide varieties of water salinity oxygen and pollution levels, and can migrate long distances. They are difficult to catch by angling. They occupy a wide range of habitats, and reproduce rapidly and successfully. Removal from natural water resources where they have established may be impossible. The most effective management is complete isolation of individuals from natural waters to prevent introductions. Established populations may require intensive fishing to prevent overpopulations from affecting native populations (Jeffrey McCrary pers.comm May 2005).

    Preventative measures: The use of potentially invasive alien species for aquaculture and their accidental release/or escape can have negative impacts on native biodiversity and ecosystems. Hewitt et al, (2006) Alien Species in Aquaculture: Considerations for responsible use aims to first provide decision makers and managers with information on the existing international and regional regulations that address the use of alien species in aquaculture, either directly or indirectly; and three examples of national responses to this issue (Australia, New Zealand and Chile). The publication also provides recommendations for a ‘simple’ set of guidelines and principles for developing countries that can be applied at a regional or domestic level for the responsible management of Alien Species use in aquaculture development. These guidelines focus primarily on marine systems, however may equally be applied to freshwater.

    Copp et al, (2005) Risk identification and assessment of non-native freshwater fishes presents a conceptual risk assessment approach for freshwater fish species that addresses the first two elements (hazard identification, hazard assessment) of the UK environmental risk strategy. The paper presents a few worked examples of assessments on species to facilitate discussion. The electronic Decision-support tools- Invasive-species identification tool kits that includes a freshwater and marine fish invasives scoring kit are made available on the Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science) page for free download (subject to Crown Copyright (2007-2008)).

    Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) are opportunistic feeders; juveniles are mainly omnivorous, while adults mainly feed on detritus.
    Egg-layer. Male builds spawning bowers. Up to 1775 ripe eggs in one female. Hatching after 3-5 days; fry released 10-14 days after spawning, but mouthbrooded for about another week; more than one brood per season.
    Reproductive performance of tilapias is affected by salinity, which suppresses the aggression of dominant males. O. mossambicus can reproduce at 35 and 49 ppt (Bhujel, 2000).
    Lifecycle stages
    Size and age of sexual maturity varies according to environmental conditions, with spawning in ponds at 2-3 months and 6-10cm for females and 7-13cm for males at intervals of 1- 5 months. In natural conditions sexual maturity at greater age and size.
    This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders
    Reviewed by: Dr. Jos Snoeks, Africa Museum, Belgium.
    Compiled by: Dr. Jos Snoeks, Africa Museum, Leuvensesteenweg, Tervuren, Belgium & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
    Last Modified: Thursday, 22 June 2006

ISSG Landcare Research NBII IUCN University of Auckland