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What is Tilapia?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 16, 2024
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“Tilapia” is an umbrella term for many kinds of fish in the Cichlidae family. It's a term used for three species of fish: Oreochromis, Sarotherodon, and Tilapia fish. One unusual characteristic of most cichlid fish is that they are mouth brooders. This means that, while rearing their young, they often carry their hatched babies about in their mouths, especially while traveling from one destination to another and when they perceive danger. Once the fish grow large enough to care for themselves (and too large to fit between their parents' jaws), they are on their own.

These species of fish generally reside in shallow, freshwater ponds, lakes, and streams. The fish consume mostly aquatic plants, algae, and some insect larva. Because of their specific appetites, tilapia have become quite important in the world of aquaculture. Whether accidentally or deliberately introduced into a new aquatic environment, they often create imbalance in the ecosystem.

In one particular case, however, these generally invasive fish have been an incredible blessing. Tilapia were introduced to the waters of Kenya in order to curb the spread of malaria. Adult female mosquitoes carry the disease and the fish consume mosquito larva. The fish, simply with their appetite, helped reduce the number of mosquitoes, and therefore, the spread of malaria in Kenya.

Tilapia are also a delicious fish to eat. This flavorful white fish can be baked, fried, and even added to stews in order to create dishes. A rather common fish, tilapia can be found in the seafood section of most grocery stores. If a local market does not carry it fresh, shoppers may want to look into purchasing the fish in a flash-frozen form that generally does well to capture the flavor of the fish.

For a lovely seafood treat, foil-wrapped fillets of tilapia can be baked in a small amount of butter with chopped green onions, black pepper, lemon, and sea salt. For a kick, the black pepper can be substituted with flakes of red pepper. This dish goes well with a simple green salad, baked potato, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, most chefs agree that Sauvignon Blanc is the best wine to pair with tilapia dishes of any sort.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By anon30909 — On Apr 26, 2009

Is talipia fish the kind of fish Jesus caught in the Sea of Galilee?

By somerset — On Jul 19, 2008

A study conducted at Wake Forest University reports that farmed raised tilapia might have high levels of omega 6 fatty acids, and low levels of omega 3 fatty acids. That combination is unhealthful, in particular to people who already have asthma, hearth disease or are genetically predisposed to heart problems.

In the study, there is no mention of wild tilapia, only farm raised. The reason they left out wild tilapia in the study might be the difference in diet. The diet of farm raised tilapia consists of inexpensive corn based food that seems to contribute to this shift in omega fatty acids.

Fish is generally an excellent source of omega 3, a highly recommended acid that fights inflammation. However, not all fish seems to be equally healthy. The best source is wild caught fish, but even some farm raised fish like salmon and trout have a much higher level of omega 3.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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