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 sparrmanii
Tilapia sparrmanii
(banded tilapia)

Copyright Info
Tilapia sparrmanii Smith, 1840

Common name: banded tilapia

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 of banded tilapia were given in Thys van den Audenaerde 1964, de Moor and Bruton (1988), Eccles (1992), and Skelton (1993). This species is included in keys of Skelton (1993). It was illustrated in de Moor and Bruton (1988) and in Eccles (1992). For color illustrations or photographs of this fish, see Goldstein (1973), Axelrod (1993), and Skelton (1993).

Size: to 23 cm SL (Skelton 1993).

Native Range: Tropical and subtropical Africa: Kasai drainage including the Lulua and Kwango (middle Congo River basin), upper Congo River basin including the upper Lualaba, Luvua, Lake Mweru, Luapula, Lufira, and Upemba region (Thys van den Audenaerde 1964), upper Cuanza, Cunene, Okavango, Lake Ngami, Limpopo, Sabi, Lundi, northern tributaries of the Orange River, and Bangweulu (Teugels and Thys van den Audenaerde 1991), Lake Malawi, and Zambezi system (Skelton 1993); distribution map provided in Philippart and Ruwet (1982).

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 sparrmanii are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL195819912South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Tampa Bay

Table last updated 6/18/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Means of Introduction: Probable fish farm release or escape (Smith-Vaniz, personal communication).

Status: Failed in Florida (Courtenay and Stauffer 1990; Courtenay and Williams 1992).

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


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: In response to suggestions that T. sparrmani be introduced into California, Pelzman (1972) evaluated its life history and recommended it be placed on the prohibited list because of its potential for competition with native sport fishes. In Africa, this species has been introduced outside its native range as a forage fish for bass (de Moor and Bruton 1988). It can tolerate low temperatures of about 7°C (de Moor and Bruton 1988) and, based on its distribution in Africa, T. sparrmani may be "more restricted by high (above 32°C) than low temperatures" (Skelton 1993).

Voucher specimens: Florida (UF 56197, 56198).

References: (click for full references)

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

Burgess, J.E. 1958. The fishes of Six Mile Creek, Hillsborough County, Florida, with particular reference to the presence of exotic species. Paper presented at the 12th annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners, Louisville, KY. Unpublished mimeograph.

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., and J.D. Williams. 1992. Dispersal of exotic species from aquaculture sources, with emphasis on freshwater fishes. 49-81 in A. Rosenfield, and R. Mann, eds. Dispersal of living organisms into aquatic ecosystems. Maryland Sea Grant Publication, College Park, 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.

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.

Goldstein, R.J. 1973. Cichlids of the world. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Pelzman, R.J. 1972. Evaluation of introduction of Tilapia sparrmanii into California. California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Administrative Report 72-3. Unpublished mimeograph.

Philippart, J.-Cl., and J.-Cl. Ruwet. 1982. Ecology and distribution of tilapias. 15-59 in R.S.V. Pullin, and R.H. Lowe-McConnell, eds. The biology and culture of tilapias. ICLARM conference proceedings 7, International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, Manila, Philippines.

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

Smith-Vaniz, W.F., J.D. Williams, L.G. Nico, and W.F. Loftus. Key to the cichlid fishes of Florida. Unpublished mimeograph (in prep).

Teugels, G.G. and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde. 1991. Tilapia. 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 of Africa (CLOFFA). ISNB, Brussels; MRAC, Tervuren; and ORSTOM, Paris. Vol. 4.

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

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Bill Loftus, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 11/1/2012

Peer Review Date: 11/1/2012

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Bill Loftus, and Matt Neilson, 2024, Tilapia sparrmanii Smith, 1840: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=484, Revision Date: 11/1/2012, Peer Review Date: 11/1/2012, Access Date: 6/18/2024

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 [6/18/2024].

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.