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.

Tilapia rendalli
Tilapia rendalli
(redbreast tilapia)

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Tilapia rendalli (Boulenger, 1897)

Common name: redbreast tilapia

Synonyms and Other Names: Coptodon rendalli

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). Distinguishing characteristics, a key, and a color illustration of redbreast tilapia were given by Skelton (1993). Identifying traits and an illustration were also given by Eccles (1992). Color photographs were given in Axelrod (1993). Identification of this species in the United States has been problematic and some reports in the literature on nonindigenous species may be misidentifications (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.) or hybrids (Courtenay et al. 1984; Taylor et al. 1986; Howells 1991b). Redbreast tilapia is nearly identical to redbelly tilapia Tilapia zillii, and the two species frequently hybridize; many reports or specimens of T. rendalli may potentially be T. zillii or their hybrids. Both redbreast and redbelly tilapia are superficially similar to another North American introduced cichlid, spotted tilapia Tilapia mariae: spotted tilapia lacks the red ventral coloration present in T. rendalli, has lateral vertical stripes that extend onto the dorsal fin, and 5-6 square black blotches along the side (lacking in T. rendalli).

Size: 40 cm (Skelton 1993).

Native Range: Tropical and subtropical Africa. Kasai drainage, upper Congo River, Cunene, Okavango, Limpopo and Zambezi system, Lakes Tanganyika and Malawi, east coastal rivers south to Phongolo, and coastal lakes to Lake Sibaya; also occurs in estuaries in Mozambique and Natal (Thys van den Audenaerde 1964; de Moor and Bruton 1988; Teugels et al. 1991; Skelton 1993).

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 Tilapia rendalli are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
HI198419913Kauai; Maui; Oahu
PR196620146Cibuco-Guajataca; Culebrinas-Guanajibo; Eastern Puerto Rico; Greater Antilles; Puerto Rico; Southern Puerto Rico

Table last updated 8/3/2021

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Redbreast tilapia is generally an omnivorous, opportunisitc feeder throughout its life, with adult tilapia shifting towards herbivory as the primary feeding mode (Fryer and Iles, 1972; Lazzaro 1991; Arcifa and Meschiatti 1996). Redbreast tilapia is tolerant of a broad range of temperatures (8-40°C; Philippart and Ruwet 1982) and salinity to 19‰ (Skelton 1993), as well a high levels of silt (Buermann et al. 1997). This species is a substrate spawner, with fishes forming monogamous pairs and exhibiting biparental guarding behavior. Nests are generally shallow, saucer-shaped depression in the substrate, but nests may include deeper pits or tunnels (Ribbink et al. 1981).

Means of Introduction: This species was brought to Hawaii as a shipment of 52 fish from Africa in 1957; these fish were bred in tanks by the state, and resulting offspring were stocked in Wahiawa Reservoir in 1958 and 1959 and on Maui in 1959. According to Devick (1991b), these intentional introductions were undertaken for aquaculture (aku bait) and weed control. The were intentionally introduced into Puerto Rico for week control and angling.

Status: Although this species was formerly considered established and spreading in Hawaii (Maciolek 1984), or at least established (Courtenay et al. 1991), its recent status in the state is considered uncertain (Devick 1991a). Established in Puerto Rico.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

Remarks: This species is referenced as T. melanopleura in previous reports concerning introduced species (e.g., Maciolek 1984; Devick 1991a, 1991b). A report of T. melanopleura in Alabama by Smith-Vaniz (1968) was based on incorrect identifications of fish later shown to be T. zillii (Smith-Vaniz, personal communication). Barrett (1983) tentatively re-identified some California specimens, previously reported to be T. zillii, as T. rendalli; he based his determination on various morphological characters and color patterns. These fish were taken from near Blythe, Riverside County. Tilapia rendalli is a popular angling species in Africa, is important in aquaculture and fisheries, and also is used for weed control in reservoirs (Skelton 1993). This species is widely targeted by anglers in the Humacao Natural Reserve lagoon system in Puerto Rico (Ferrer Montaño and Dribble 2008). Dunz and Schliewen (2013) revised the genus Tilapia, moving T. rendalli to Coptodon rendalli.

Voucher specimens: Puerto Rico (NCSM 45885).

References: (click for full references)

Arcifa, M.S., and A.J. Meschiatti. 1996. Tilapia rendalli in the Lake Monte Alegre, a case of planktivory. Acta Limnologica Brasiliensis 8:221-229.

Ashe, D.E., T.N. Churchill, R.L. Noble, and C.G. Lilyestrom. 1998. Temporal variability in the littoral fish community of a Puerto Rico reservoir. Proceedings of the Annual Conference Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 52:39-48.

Axelrod, H.R. 1993. The most complete colored lexicon of cichlids. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Barrett, P.J. 1983. Systematics of fishes of the genus Tilapia (Perciformes: Cichlidae) in the lower Colorado River basin. Unpublished M.S. thesis, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.

Buermann, Y., H.H. Du Preez, G.J. Steyn, and L. Smit. 1997. Tolerance levels of redbreast tilapia, Tilapia rendalli (Boulenger, 1896) to natural suspended silt. Hydrobiologia 344:11-18.

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. 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.

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.

Dunz, A.R., and U.K. Schliewen. 2013. Molecular phylogeny and revised classification of the haplotilapiine cichlid fishes formerly referred to as "Tilapia". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 68:64-80. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2013.03.015.

Eccles, D.H. 1992. FAO species identification sheets for fishery purposes: field guide to the freshwater fishes of Tanzania. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy.

Erdsman, D.S. 1984. Exotic fishes in Puerto Rico. Pages162-176 in W.R. Courtenay, Jr. and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. eds. Distribution, biology, and management of exotic fishes. John Hopkins. Baltimore and London.

Ferrer Montaño, O.J., and E.D. Dribble. 2008. Linking environment and angling success at Humacao Natural Reserve lagoon system, Puerto Rico. Ciencia 16(2):156-166.

Fryer, G., and T.D. Iles. 1972. The cichlid fishes of the Great Lakes of Africa. T.F.H Publications, Neptune City, NJ.

Hida, T.S., and D.A. Thomson. 1962. Introduction of the threadfin shad to Hawaii. Progressive Fish-Culturist 24:159-163.

Lazzaro, X. 1991. Feeding convergence in South American and African zooplanktivorous cichlids Geophagus brasiliensis and Tilapia rendalli. Environmental Biology of Fishes 31:283-293.

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.

Morita, C.M. 1981. Freshwater fishing in Hawaii. Division of Aquatic Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Honolulu, HI.

Neal, J.W., C.G. Lilyestrom, and T.J. Kwak. 2009. Factors influencing tropical island freshwater fishes: species, status, and management implications in Puerto Rico. Fisheries 34(11):546-554.

Philippart, J.-C., and J.-C. Ruwet. 1982. Ecology and distribution of tilapias. Pages 15-60 in Pullin, R.S.V, and R.H. Lowe-McConnell, eds. The biology and culture of tilapias. ICLARM Conference Preceedings 7. International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management. Manila, Philippines.

Ribbink, A.J., A.C. Marsh, and B.A. Marsh. 1981. Nest-building and communal care of young by Tilapia rendalli Dumeril (Pisces, Cichlidae) in Lake Malawi. Environmental Biology of Fishes 6(2):219-222.

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

Smith-Vaniz, W. - Ichthyologist, National Biological Service, Gainesville, FL.

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

Teugels, G.G., and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde. 1991. Tilapia. Pages 482-508 in Daget, J., J.-P. Gosse, G.G. Teugels, and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde, eds. Check-list of the freshwater fishes of Africa (CLOFFA). Volume 4. ORSTOM. Paris, France.

Thys van den Audenaerde, D.F.E. 1964. Révision systématique des espèces congolaises du genre Tilapia (Pisces, Cichlidae). Annales Du Musée Royale de l'Afrique Centrale (série Zoologie) 124:1-155.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Matt Neilson, and Bill Loftus

Revision Date: 6/11/2019

Peer Review Date: 4/15/2012

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Matt Neilson, and Bill Loftus, 2021, Tilapia rendalli (Boulenger, 1897): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=483, Revision Date: 6/11/2019, Peer Review Date: 4/15/2012, Access Date: 8/3/2021

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. [2021]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [8/3/2021].

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