BLUE TILAPIA

BLUE TILAPIA

Oreochromis Aureus

Description: 

Tilapia (o aureus) is one of the most popular freshwater fish out there, it is a green algae-eating, invasive species commonly found in brackish waters, native to Africa and the Middle East. They are currently thriving in much of the U.S, especially in Florida. Its popularity stems from being cheap to produce, easy to maintain, and presenting a mild taste.

Not all tilapias are of the same breed. This page will explain all about blue tilapia, including how they look, what they eat, how to catch them, and how to prepare them for food.

Everything You Need to Know about Blue Tilapia

Tilapia (o aureus) is one of the most popular freshwater fish out there, it is a green algae-eating, invasive species commonly found in brackish waters, native to Africa and the Middle East. They are currently thriving in much of the U.S, especially in Florida. Its popularity stems from being cheap to produce, easy to maintain, and presenting a mild taste.

Not all tilapias are of the same breed. This page will explain all about blue tilapia, including how they look, what they eat, how to catch them, and how to prepare them for food.

Introduction to Blue Tilapia, Oreochromis Aureus

Tilapia is a common name for close to 100 different species of fish which are all native to the Middle East and parts of Africa. The blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus), also known as Israeli tilapia, is one of the most popular types, especially in the farming world.

Its scientific name, Oreochromis Aureus,  from the Greek words oreos meaning “of the mountains” and chroma meaning “color”. Aureus stems from the Latin word aurum meaning “gold”.  Oreochromis aureus blue tilapia were first described by Steindachner in 1864 and have been given many similar names in the 19th century. In its long list of scientific names, the most popular is chromis Aureus Steindachner, 1864 along with the oreochromis aureus.

Oreochromis aureus blue tilapia: Class- Actinopterygii, Order- Perciformes, Family- Cichidae.

Tilapia aurea steindachner is originally from North Africa and the Middle East, but have been introduced to many other parts of Africa and the Middle East along with East Asia, the Caribbean, areas of Central and South America, and some Pacific Islands.

It is now thriving in much of the United States and especially abundant in Florida waters. The o aureus, blue tilapia is most recognizable with its mostly blue-gray color.

Appearance

Young Blue Tilapia fish are grayer with a black spot on the dorsal fin near the rear. They become more blue-gray as adults with a white belly and 20 to 26-gill rakers. Adults often show other colors as well in their fins, this coloring helps determine the fish’s gender during the breeding season. Male fish sport vermilion and pink shades on its fins, while females have pale orange accents on their dorsal and caudal fins.  They both have a broken lateral line and a spiny dorsal fin joined with the soft fin.

The blue tilapia species grow rapidly during the first few months. They average 5 to 6 pounds by the time they are 3 to 5 years of age. A common weight for them is 2 to 4 pounds. The males are larger than females at each age.

The record of the largest blue tilapia caught in Florida weighed 9.57 pounds and measured over 21 inches long. To be considered a big catch, the fish must be over 5 pounds and longer than 18 inches.

O Aureus as an Invasive Species

The blue tilapia (o aureus) is considered an invasive species to the United States since its introduction in Florida in the 1960s. This species was introduced mostly through stocking and experimental work by both private and state companies. They were then released by individuals hoping to use this species as a sport fish, forage for warm water predatory fish, a food source, and as a form of aquatic plant control. Accidental escapes from the aquaculture facilities, experimental control areas, and other holding sites also contributed to the spread of the blue tilapia.

If a species is improperly introduced in foreign environments, it can easily change the fish’s community structure in its new habitats. Invasive species have the power to cause problems for the native fishes by out-competing them for food, habitat, and other necessary resources that could threaten the fragile ecosystem. Blue tilapia has become a major management problem with the National Park Service because of the invaded portions of Everglades National Park.

Blue tilapias usually gather in schools and are notorious for invading spring runs while seeking warmth during the winter. This species will often take over the water bottom by digging numerous large nests, sometimes smothering the eggs of sunfish and largemouth bass.

When stocked appropriately o aureus fishes can be beneficial, especially being efficient consumers who eat toxic algae. Research has found that a majority of filamentous algae and green algae was well controlled and submerged pond weeds minimized in the areas tilapia were stocked.

Habitat

Its native range includes African countries such as Senegal, Niger, and other small rivers and lakes. Through aquaponics, it has been introduced in fish farms and water systems in other parts of the world. They are established now in many inland and coastal areas of the United States including parts of Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas. Blue Tilapia have been in abundance and high densities in Florida’s waters for over a decade. Their ability to reproduce in both fresh and brackish environments makes it easier for their populations to grow in a variety of habitats. Blue tilapia thrive in water temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Diet

Young blue tilapia will eat more of a varied diet than the adults, this includes small crustaceans such as copepods and cladocerans (water fleas). The fingerlings will indulge in small invertebrates whenever they get the chance.

The adults are primarily herbivores but will adapt their eating habits to their surrounding environment. These o aureus tilapia are usually found feeding on types of filamentous algae, blue-green algae, rooted plants, twigs, and other organic debris. But will also indulge in the occasional small fish and zooplankton.

Oreochromis Aureus Reproduction

Blue tilapia reproduce year-round but the highest activity occurs from January through May.

The blue tilapia species is a mouthbrooder like other African cichlids. The males first build a nest where the female lays her eggs before the male fertilizes them. Once the eggs are fertilized, the female picks up the eggs in her mouth and keeps them safe until the fry are ready to be released.

These o aureus fish lay between 160 to 1600 eggs at a time. The eggs take around 70-90 hours to hatch. The female stays in the spawning areas, holding the hatched larvae and providing parental care for 6 to 10 days until the young reach the swim-up stage.

Blue tilapia reproduce quite rapidly,  however, the rate people are fishing for them helps control the population and restore the ecosystem in some habitats.

How to Catch or Harvest the Blue

Tilapia, O Aureus

Blue tilapia are popular among bow fishermen and urban anglers fishing small ponds, but are especially sought after by anybody looking to try one of these freshwater fishes, because wild-caught food fish is always preferred to farmed.  O Aureus (Blue tilapia) is the only of the tilapia family that you are allowed to possess and transport live in Florida without a special permit.

Fishing for Blue Tilapia

Blue tilapia can be caught at any time of the day, sunrise, mid-day, or sunset.

O Aureus fish are sometimes tricky to find and spook easily. Here are some tips on how to catch blue tilapia:

Tip 1: Pick the Best Baits

As the blue tilapias are mostly herbivores, you can avoid spending money on buying live baits such as worms and minnows. Instead, you can use peas, corn, or pieces of bread to lure the fish to your hook. Use smaller hooks and shorter lures to lure in this species.

Tip 2: Use the Right Tackle

A light tackle and a small lure are a good combination if you want to catch tilapia successfully. It is best paired with a light- to mid-action rod, a spinning reel with a monofilament fishing line, and a #4 hook. A few small floats can also help you ensure a good catch above spawning pools.

Tip 3: Focus on Shallow Waters

Blue tilapia are more likely to be found in shallow, brackish waters. During their breeding season, the fish seek shallow water with a lot of vegetation where they can hide.

Just be stealthy in approaching those areas, as the fish are easily spooked, and you haul no catch this time.

Tip 4: Fish During Spawning Season

These fish are territorial, you can take advantage of that by casting into their spawning area where they will likely attack your lure to protect its territory.

It is much harder to fish for tilapias when they are not in their breeding season. Therefore, you can increase your chances of getting these fish during spring or autumn. You can also have a higher chance of finding a school of fish in places where there is a lot of vegetation.

Harvesting Blue Tilapia

If you own even a small tilapia business, you would have much fish in your ponds. There, you need to make sure that your fish is at least 500 grams heavy before you harvest it.

Example Blue Apron Tilapia Recipe

Now that you know what blue tilapias are, what they look like, and how to catch them, here are ways to cook them. These are various recipes from Blue Apron, some of which you can use blue tilapia as your main fish. Here is one example recipe which you can do at home.

Miso Butter-Glazed Tilapia with Vegetable Lo Mein

Ingredients

  • 2 blue tilapia fillets
  • ½ lb fresh lo mein noodles
  • 1 tbsp sweet white miso paste
  • 10 oz baby bok choy
  • 6 oz carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsps butter
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp black and white sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsps vegetarian ponzu sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin

Instructions

  • Fill a medium pot ¾ of the way up with salted water. Set to high heat and cover until boiling. 
  • Wash and dry the fresh produce.
  • Peel the carrots, halve them lengthwise, and thinly slice them on an angle.
  • Cut and discard the end roots of the bok choy, then roughly chop.
  • Peel then roughly chop two cloves of garlic.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the miso paste, 1 tbsp of mirin, and 2 tbsps of water until smooth.
  • In a nonstick medium pan, heat the sesame oil on medium-high heat.
  • Add the sliced carrots in an even layer.
  • Cook for 2 to 3 minutes without stirring, or until lightly browned.
  • Add the chopped bok choy. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally or until slightly softened.
  • Add the chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently or until softened.
  • Transfer to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Wipe out the pan.
  • Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • In the same pan, drizzle olive oil and set to medium-high heat until hot.
  • Add the seasoned fish.
  • Cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Flip and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the butter and glaze.
  • Cook for 1 to 2 minutes while frequently spooning the mixture over the fish until it is glazed and cooked through.
  • Turn off the heat.
  • Meanwhile, add the noodles to a pot of boiling water. Stir gently.
  • Cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until tender.
  • Turn off the heat.
  • Drain thoroughly and rinse under warm water for 30 seconds to 1 minute to prevent sticking.
  • Return the noodles to the pot.
  • To the pot of noodles, add the cooked vegetables, ponzu sauce, remaining mirin, and 2 tbsps of water.
  • Cook on medium-high heat, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes or until thoroughly combined.
  • Taste, then season with salt and pepper if desired.
  • Serve the finished noodles topped with the glazed fish.
  • Garnish with the sesame seeds.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT BLUE TILAPIA

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