The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Oreochromis mossambicus
Oreochromis mossambicus
(Mozambique Tilapia)

Copyright Info
Oreochromis mossambicus (Peters, 1852)

Common name: Mozambique Tilapia

Synonyms and Other Names: Sarotherodon mossambicus, Tilapia mossambica, Mozambique mouthbrooder, Java tilapia, largemouth kurper

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: In general, cichlids (Cichlidae) are superficially similar to sunfishes and black basses (Lepomis and Micropterus; family Centrarchidae). Cichlids can be distinguished from centrarchids by a single nostril opening on each side of the head (vs. two openings in centrarchids) and the presence of a discontinuous or two-part lateral line (vs. a continuous lateral line in centrarchids). Mozambique tilapia are similar to, and could be mistaken for, two other introduced cichlids: blue tilapia O. aureus and Nile tilapia O. niloticus. Distinguishing characteristics, synonyms, an illustration, keys, and a discussion of hybrids were provided by Trewavas (1983); for identification also see Wieland et al. (1982) and Page and Burr (1991). Color photographs appeared in Axelrod et al. (1985).

Size: 40 cm SL (Skelton 1993).

Native Range: Tropical and subtropical Africa. Southern Africa from lower Zambezi to Brak River, and Limpopo system (de Moor and Bruton 1988). Occurs in both fresh and brackish waters.

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Oreochromis mossambicus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL196519923Patsaliga; Pickwick Lake; South Atlantic-Gulf Region
AZ1961200514Bill Williams; Imperial Reservoir; Lower Colorado; Lower Colorado; Lower Colorado Region; Lower Gila; Lower Gila-Painted Rock Reservoir; Lower Salt; Rillito; San Carlos; Upper Gila-San Carlos Reservoir; Upper San Pedro; Upper Verde; Yuma Desert
CA1964202315California Region; Honey-Eagle Lakes; Imperial Reservoir; Los Angeles; Lower Colorado; Lower Colorado; Newport Bay; Salton Sea; San Diego; San Gabriel; San Jacinto; Santa Ana; Seal Beach; Upper Tule; Whitewater River
CO198619862Alamosa-Trinchera; San Luis
FL1972202210Caloosahatchee; Cape Canaveral; Charlotte Harbor; Everglades; Florida Southeast Coast; Little Manatee; Oklawaha; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Tampa Bay; Vero Beach
GA197919792Altamaha; Cumberland-St. Simons
HI195120246Hawaii; Hawaii; Kauai; Maui; Molokai; Oahu
ID198520162Little Lost; Upper Snake-Rock
IL196219861Upper Sangamon
NY197619761Southern Long Island
NC196519842Lower Dan; Upper French Broad
PR195820075Cibuco-Guajataca; Culebrinas-Guanajibo; Eastern Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico; Southern Puerto Rico
TX195620035Middle Guadalupe; San Marcos; Upper Guadalupe; Upper San Antonio; Upper Trinity
VI200220122St. Croix; St. John-St. Thomas

Table last updated 6/14/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Considered a hardy species and very tolerant of high salinities, including growth and reproduction at 35‰ and survival up to 120‰ (Brock 1954; Dial and Wainright 1983; Stickney 1986). However, the Mozambique tilapia reportedly does not survive temperatures below about 10°C (Talwar and Jhingran 1992). A true detritivore, with the ability to assimilate free nonprotein amino acids directly from detritus (Bowen 1980).

Means of Introduction: Similar to O. aureus, this species has been introduced for a wide variety of reasons. Most introductions have been the result of intentional stockings for aquatic plant control by state and federal agencies and private companies, but introductions have also come about from stockings for potential use of the species as an insect control agent (e.g., to control mosquitoes and chironomids), as a sport fish, as a bait fish, and as a food or commercial fish, and through aquarium releases; the species also has been introduced through releases or escapes from fish farms, hatcheries, and zoos (Shapovalov et al. 1981; Dial and Wainright 1983; Courtenay et al. 1984, 1986; Grabowski et al. 1984; Courtenay and Stauffer 1990). This species was brought to Hawaii from Singapore in a small shipment of fish in 1951 (Brock 1960; Maciolek 1984; Randall 1987). The Mozambique tilapia was introduced with the expectation that it would be useful for aquatic plant control in irrigation systems, as a food fish, as a sport fish, and as live bait for tuna fishing (Brock 1960); results were only partially successful (Randall 1987). In California, introductions resulted from escapes or releases from fish farms and from intentional stocking by the state (Shapovalov et al. 1981). The Mozambique tilapia's initial introduction into Dade County, Florida, is believed to have been the result of escapes or releases from aquarium fish farms that cultured the species in the 1960s (Courtenay and Stauffer 1990). In some areas of Florida, this species may have been introduced by local anglers to create a commercial fishery (Dial and Wainright 1983), or intentionally stocked by aquarists (Courtenay and Stauffer 1990). In New York, introduction was probably due to aquarium release (Briggs, personal communication). In Texas, this species was introduced as a result of escapes from the San Antonio Zoo in 1956 and also from state and federal hatcheries during the late 1950s and early 1960s (Brown 1961; Courtenay and McCann 1981). Sources and reasons for many of the introductions have been reviewed by Courtenay and McCann (1981), Wieland et al. (1982), and Courtenay and Stauffer (1990).

Status: Established or locally established in seven states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, and Texas. Formerly considered locally established but no longer extant in Georgia, Montana, and North Carolina. Reported from Alabama, Illinois, and New York.

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...


In Hawaii, this species is suspected as a threat to native species such as striped mullet Mugil cephalus (Randall 1987; Devick 1991b). 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). 

Mozambique tilapia may impact native fishes through competition for food and/or space, or through secondary effects. Martin et al. (2010) found that redspotted sunfish (Lepomis miniatus) occupied structured habitat (artificial seagrass) less often in the presence of Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus (a related species to Mozambique tilapia) than in single species laboratory trials. In addition, predators (largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides) consumed significantly more sunfish than tilapia when structure was present, compared to trials without structure.

Remarks: Some records of this species apparently are based on incorrect identifications. For instance, recent electrophoretic evidence indicated that populations in the San Marcos River and in Canyon Reservoir were O. mossambicus x O. aureus hybrids (Howells 1991, 1992b). With the aid of W. Smith-Vaniz, we examined preserved juveniles catalogued as O. mossambicus from the San Marcos River (TCWC 2073.01) and determined them to be O. aureus based on their caudal fin patterns and scale and gill raker counts. Some California records of this species may actually be those of O. urolepis (= O. hornorum) or of hybrids between O. mossambicus and O. urolepis (Swift et al. 1993). The occurrence of O. mossambicus in the United States was reviewed by Courtenay and McCann (1981), Wieland et al. (1982), and Courtenay et al. (1986). The history of this species introduction into the southwestern United States was reviewed by Hoover (1971), Courtenay and Robins (1989), Shapovalov et al. (1981), and Swift et al. (1993). Oreochromis mossambicus has largely replaced redbelly tilapia Tilapia zillii in the Salton Sea and possibly other areas in southern California (Swift et al. 1993). Collection sites and reported localities are mapped for the United States (Courtenay and Hensley 1979; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.), and for the states of Arizona (Minckley 1973; Grabowski et al. 1984) and Florida (Courtenay et al. 1974; Hogg 1976b; Courtenay and Hensley 1979; Kushlan 1986; Loftus and Kushlan 1987).

Because of its presence in Dade County, Florida, Courtenay (1989) indicated that the Mozambique tilapia may eventually enter Everglades National Park.

Electrofishing was an effective way to remove adults from a population during a project in Australia, but the removal was met with questionable success because the number of juveniles greatly increased as the adult numbers decreased (Thuesen et al. 2011).

Bowen (1980) suggested that different detrital nonprotein amino acid concentrations may help to explain variable establishment success and growth of O. mossambicus.

Voucher specimens: Alabama (AUM 24075); California (AUM 24653); Florida (UF 34908, 92216), Idaho (UMMZ 213374).

References: (click for full references)

Axelrod, H.R., W.E. Burgess, N. Pronek, and J.G. Walls. 1985. Dr. Axelrod's atlas of freshwater aquarium fishes. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Bishop Museum. 2000. Pearl Harbor Legacy Project. Available at URL  http://www.bishop.hawaii.org/bishop/invert/phlegacy.html

Bowen, S.H. 1980. Detrital nonprotein amino acids are the key to rapid growth of Tilapia in Lake Valencia, Venezuela. Science 207(4436):1216-1218. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1683334

Briggs, P. T. - Associate Aquatic Biologist, Finfish and Crustaceans Unit, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Stony Brook, New York (letter dated 19 September 1979 to James McCann)

Brock, V.E. 1954. A note on the spawning of Tilapia mossambica in sea water.  Copeia 1954: 72.

Brown, C.J.D. 1971. Fishes of Montana. Montana State University, Bozeman, MT.

Brown, C.J.D., and A.C. Fox. 1966. Mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) in a Montana pond. Copeia 1966(3):614-616.

Brown, W.H. 1961. First record of the African mouthbreeder Tilapia mossambica Peters in Texas. Texas Journal of Science 13:352-354.

Burger J., K. Cooper, D.J. Gochfeld, J.E. Saliva, C. Safina, D. Lipsky, and M. Cochfeld. 1992. Dominance of Tilapia mossambica, an introduced fish species, in three Puerto Rican estuaries.  Estuaries 15: 239-245.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr. 1989. Exotic fishes in the National Park System. Pages 237-252 in L.K. Thomas, ed. Proceedings of the 1986 conference on science in the national parks, volume 5. Management of exotic species in natural communities. U.S. National Park Service and George Wright Society, Washington, DC.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and D.A. Hensley. 1979. Survey of introduced non-native fishes. Phase I Report. Introduced exotic fishes in North America: status 1979. Report Submitted to National Fishery Research Laboratory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gainesville, FL.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and J.A. McCann. 1981. Status and impact of exotic fish presently established in U.S. open waters (September 1, 1980; revised April 1981). In-House Report, National Fishery Research Laboratory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gainesville, FL.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and C.R. Robins. 1989. Fish introductions: good management, mismanagment, or no management? CRC Critical Reviews in Aquatic Sciences 1(1):159-172.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and J.R. Stauffer, Jr.. 1990. The introduced fish problem and the aquarium fish industry. Journal of the World Aquaculture Society 21(3):145-159.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.A. Hensley, J.N. Taylor, and J.A. McCann. 1984. Distribution of exotic fishes in the continental United States. Pages 41-77 in W.R. Courtenay, Jr., and J.R. Stauffer, Jr., eds. Distribution, biology and management of exotic fishes. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.A. Hensley, J.N. Taylor, and J.A. McCann. 1986. Distribution of exotic fishes in North America. Pages 675-698 in C.H. Hocutt, and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.P. Jennings, and J.D. Williams. 1991. Appendix 2: exotic fishes. Pages 97-107 in Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott, eds. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada, 5th edition. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 20. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., H.F. Sahlman, W.W. Miley, II, and D.J. Herrema. 1974. Exotic fishes in fresh and brackish waters of Florida. Biological Conservation 6(4):292-302.

de Moor, I.J., and M.N. Bruton. 1988. Atlas of alien and translocated indigenous aquatic animals in southern Africa. South African National Scientific Programmes Report 144. Foundation for Research Development and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa.

Devick, W.S. 1991a. Disturbances and fluctuations in the Wahiawa Reservoir ecosystem. Project F-14-R-15, Job 4, Study I. Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Devick, W.S. 1991b. Patterns of introductions of aquatic organisms to Hawaiian freshwater habitats. Pages 189-213 in new directions in research, management and conservation of Hawaiian freshwater stream ecosystems. Proceedings of the 1990 symposium on freshwater stream biology and fisheries management, Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Dial, R.S., and S.C. Wainright. 1983. New distributional records for non-native fishes in Florida. Florida Scientist 46(1):8-15.

Erdsman, D.S. 1984.  Exotic fishes in Puerto Rico. Pages 162-176 in W.R. Courtenay, Jr., and J.R. Stauffer, Jr., eds. Distribution, biology and management of exotic fishes. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Farm, B. - U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI.

Gennings, R.M. - Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Atlanta, GA. Response to NBS-G nonindigenous questionaire.

Grabowski, S.J., S.D. Hiebert, and D.M. Lieberman. 1984. Potential for introduction of three species of nonnative fishes into central Arizona via the Central Arizona Project ? A literature review and analysis. REC-ERC-84-7. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver, CO.

Heyne, T., B. Tribbey, M. Brooks, and J. Smith. 1991. First record of Mozambique tilapia in the San Joaquin Valley, California. California Fish and Game 77(1):53-54.

Hogg, R.G. 1976a. Ecology of fishes of the family Cichlidae introduced into the fresh waters of Dade County, Florida. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL. 142 pp.

Hogg, R.G. 1976b. Established exotic cichlid fishes in Dade County, Florida. Florida Scientist 39(2):97-103.

Hoover, F.G. 1971. Status report on Tilapia mossambica (Peters) in southern California. California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Administrative Report 716. Unpublished mimeograph.

Hoover, F.G. and J.A. St. Amant. 1970. Establishment of Tilapia mossambica (Peters) in Bard Valley, Imperial County, California. California Fish and Game 56(1):70-71.

Howells, R.G. 1991. Electrophoretic identification of feral and domestic tilapia in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Management Data Series 62, Austin, TX.

Howells, R.G. 1992a. Annotated list of introduced non-native fishes, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants in Texas waters. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Management Data Series 78, Austin, TX.

Howells, R.G. 1992b. Guide to identification of harmful and potentially harmful fishes, shellfishes and aquatic plants prohibited in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Special Publication, Austin, TX.

Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

Hubbs, C., T. Lucier, G.P. Garrett, R.J. Edwards, S.M. Dean, E. Marsh, and D. Belk. 1978. Survival and abundance of introduced fishes near San Antonio, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 30(4):369-376.

Idaho Fish and Game. 1990. Fisheries Management Plan 1991-1995. Appendix I. A list of Idaho fishes and their distribution by drainage. Idaho Fish and Game.

Knaggs, E.H. 1977. Status of the genus Tilapia in California's estuarine and marine waters. Cal-Nevada Wildlife Transactions 1977:60-67.

Kushlan, J.A. 1986. Exotic fishes of the Everglades: a reconsideration of proven impact. Environmental Conservation 13:67-69.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Loftus, W.F., and J.A. Kushlan. 1987. Freshwater fishes of southern Florida. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum of Biological Science 31(4):255.

Maciolek, J.A. 1984. Exotic fishes in Hawaii and other islands of Oceania. Pages 131-161 in W.R. Courtenay, Jr., and J.R. Stauffer, Jr., eds. Distribution, biology, and management of exotic fishes. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Martin, C.W., M.M. Valentine and J.F. Valentine. 2010. Competitive interactions between invasive Nile tilapia and native fish: the potential for altered trophic exchange and modification of food webs. PLoS ONE 5(12):e14395. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0014395

Menhinick, E.F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Minckley, W.L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

Moyle, P.B. 1976. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Muoneke, M.I. 1988. Tilapia in Texas waters. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries Data Series 9, Austin, TX.

Ogilvie, V.E. 1969. Illustrated checklist of fishes collected from the L-15 Canal (Lake Worth Drainage District) in Palm Beach County, Florida (collection date November 8, 1969). Unpublished Report for the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Randall, J.E. 1987. Introductions of marine fishes to the Hawaiian Islands. Bulletin of Marine Science 41(2):490-502.

Rogers, W.A. 1961. Second progress report on stocking and harvesting of tilapia and channel catfish in Alabama's state-owned and managed public fishing lakes. Federal Aid Project F-10. Alabama Department of Conservation.

Russell, D.J., P.A. Thuesen, and F.E. Thomson. 2012. A review of the biology, ecology, distribution and control of Mozambique tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus (Peters 1852) (Pisces: Cichlidae) with particular emphasis on invasive Australian populations. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 22(3):533-554.

Shapovalov, L., A.J. Cordone, and W.A. Dill. 1981. A list of freshwater and anadromous fishes of California. California Fish and Game 67(1):4-38.

Skelton, P.H. 1993. A complete guide to the freshwater fishes of southern Africa. Southern Book Publishers, Halfway House, South Africa.

Smith, C.L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York state. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1968. Freshwater fishes of Alabama. Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn, AL.

St. Amant, J.A. 1966. Addition of Tilapia mossambica Peters to the California fauna. California Fish and Game 52:54-55.

Stickney, R.R. 1986. Tilapia tolerance of saline waters: a review. The Progressive Fish-Culturist 48(3):161-167.

Swift, C.C., T.R. Haglund, M. Ruiz, and R.N. Fisher. 1993. The status and distribution of the freshwater fishes of southern California. Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Science 92(3):101-167.

Talwar, P.K., and A.G. Jhingran, editors. 1992. Inland fishes of India and adjacent countries. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Two volumes.

Thuesen, P.A., D.J. Russell, F.E. Thomson, M.G. Pearce, T.D. Vallance, and A.E. Hogan. 2011. An evaluation of electofishing as a control measure for an invasive tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) population in nothern Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 62: 110-118.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service.

Tongnunui, S., and F.W.H. Beamish. 2009. Habitat and relative abundance of fishes in small rivers in eastern Thailand. Environmental Biology of Fishes 85:209-220.

Trewavas, E. 1983. Tilapiine fishes of the genera Sarotherodon, Oreochromis, and Danakilia. Publication No. 898. British Museum of Natural History, London, UK.

Wieland, W., W. L. Shelton, and J.S. Ramsey. 1982. Biological synopsis of the Mozambique tilapia (Tilapia mossambica). Final report submitted to the National Fisheries Research Laboratory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gainsville, Florida.

Zuckerman, L.D., and R.J. Behnke. 1986. Introduced fishes in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Pages 435-452 in R.H. Stroud, ed. Fish culture in fisheries management. Proceedings of a symposium on the role of fish culture in fisheries management at Lake Ozark, MO, March 31-April 3, 1985. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 9/4/2019

Peer Review Date: 7/28/2015

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, and Matt Neilson, 2024, Oreochromis mossambicus (Peters, 1852): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=466, Revision Date: 9/4/2019, Peer Review Date: 7/28/2015, Access Date: 6/14/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/14/2024].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted.

For general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.