Common name: zebra tilapia
Synonyms and Other Names: Hornet tilapia
available through www.itis.gov
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).
Size: 30.8 cm SL (Teugels and Thys van den Audenaerde 1992). Photo available in Baensch, H.A. and R. Riehl (1985).
Native Range: Western Africa: Lower reaches of coastal rivers from Guinea-Bissau (Geba and Corubal Rivers) to west Liberia (St. John River) (Teugels and Thys van den Audenaerde 1991).
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Puerto Rico &
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps
In Florida, the zebra tilapia was first collected in 2005 and is now established in Snapper Creek Canal. It has been collected in Tamiami Canal where its status is unknown (Shafland et al. 2008). However, as those two canal systems are linked, it is likely to be established in Tamiami Canal as well.
A single large fish, identified by two experts, was collected from the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, in Virginia in July 2000 (W. Wieland, personal communication). This was the first report of this species in the USA. A second fish was collected from a park in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2004 (Guerin 2004).
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 Tilapia buttikoferi are found here.
Table last updated 9/28/2023
† Populations may not be currently present.
Ecology: Prefers freshwater lakes and coastal rivers in tropical/subtropical areas. Male-female pairs cooperatively excavate a depression or pit in the sediment until they reach a solid substrate. Both pairs guard nest and young.
Means of Introduction: Aquarium releases, despite being illegal to keep in FL.
Status: Established in Florida. Failed in Virginia and Michigan.
Impact of Introduction: Unknown. Likely to be similar to closely related T. mariae in Florida.
References: (click for full references)
Baensch, H.A. and R. Riehl. 1985. Aquarien atlas. Band 2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur-und Heimtierkunde GmbH, Melle, Germany. 1216 p.
Guerin, M. 2004. Strange Fish Identification The Jump [online]. http://www.thejump.net
Shafland, PL, KB Gestring, and MS Stanford. 2008. Florida's Exotic Freshwater Fishes - 2007. Florida Scientist 71(3):220-245.
Teugels, G.G. and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde. 1991. Tilapia. p. 482-508. In J. Daget, J.P. Gosse, G.G. Teugels and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde (eds.) Check-list of the freshwater fishes in Africa (CLOFFA). ISNB, Brussels; MRAC, Tervuren; and ORSTOM, Paris. Vol. 4.
Teugels, G.G. and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde. 1992. Cichlidae. p. 714-779. In C. Levêque, D. Paugy and G.G. Teugels (eds.) Faune des poissons d'eaux dounces et saumâtres d'Afrique de l'Ouest. Tome 2. Coll. Faune Tropicale n° 28. Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgique and ORSTOM, Paris. 902 p.
Werner Wieland, Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA
Pam Fuller, Bill Loftus, and Matt Neilson
Revision Date: 3/31/2020
Peer Review Date: 11/1/2012
Pam Fuller, Bill Loftus, and Matt Neilson, 2023, Tilapia buttikoferi (Hubrecht, 1881): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=481, Revision Date: 3/31/2020, Peer Review Date: 11/1/2012, Access Date: 9/29/2023
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.