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.

Lates niloticus
Lates niloticus
(Nile perch)

Copyright Info
Lates niloticus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name: Nile perch

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Injurious: This species is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as injurious wildlife.

Identification: Dorsal fin VII-VIII+II (10-14).  Anal fin III (8-9).  Lateral line scales 63-73.  Gill rakers 16-17.  Caudal fin rounded. Pre-orbital and pre-opercular bones armed with spines; a large spine on the free edge of the operculum. Dark greyish-blue dorsally, greyish-silver on flank and ventrally.  Summarized from Howells (1992) and Froese and Pauly (2005).

Size: Maximum size about 2 m and 200 kg

Native Range: Much of central, western and eastern Africa:  Nile River (below Murchison Falls), as well as the Congo, Niger, Volga, Senegal rivers and lakes Chad and Turkana (Greenwood 1966).  Also present in the brackish Lake Mariot near Alexandria, Egypt.

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

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Scientists from Texas traveled to Tanzania in 1974-1975 to investigate the introduction potential of Lates spp. into Texas reservoirs (Thompson et al. 1977).  Temperature tolerance and trophic dynamics were studied for three species (L. angustifrons, L. microlepis and L. mariae).  Subsequently, several individuals of these three species were shipped to Heart of the Hills Research Station (HOHRS) in Ingram, Texas in 1975 (Rutledge and Lyons 1976).  Also in 1975, Nile perch (L. niloticus) were transferred from Lake Turkana, Kenya, to HOHRS.  All fishes were held in indoor, closed-circulating systems (Rutledge and Lyons 1976). 

From 1978 to 1985, Lates spp. were released into various Texas reservoirs (Howells and Garrett 1992).  Almost 70,000 Lates sp. larvae were stocked into Victor Braunig (Bexar Co.), Coleto Creek (Goliad Co.) and Fairfield (Freestone Co.) reservoirs between 1978 and 1984.  In 1985, two L. angustifrons, six L. mariae and six L. niloticus were released into Smithers Reservoir (Ft. Bend Co.).  It was thought that the fishes would provide good sportfishing opportunities as well as reduce populations of "rough" fishes (e.g., Cyprinus carpio, Dorosoma cepedianum, Ictiobus bubalis, Carpiodes carpio) through predation (Thompson et al. 1977).  It is thought that the introductions were relatively unsuccessful and that the introduced Lates spp. have since been extirpated (Howells and Garrett 1992; Clugston 1990; Texas Parks and Wildlife News 1993).

One individual (115.5 cm, 27.2 kg) was collected from Smithers Reservoir in January 1990 (Howells and Garrett 1992). It is believed that this fish died due to cold water temperatures

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 Lates niloticus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
TX197919924Lower Brazos; Lower Guadalupe; Lower Trinity-Tehuacana; Upper San Antonio

Table last updated 6/16/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The species inhabits a wide variety of habitats, including rivers, lakes, irrigation channels.  It is relatively intolerant of low-oxygen waters, and therefore is somewhat restricted from entering swamps (Schofield and Chapman 2000).

Juvenile Nile perch feed on invertebrates (e.g., ephemeropteran naiads, anisopterans, zygopterans and chironomids) when small then switch to fishes with growth (Schofield and Chapman 1999).  When fish prey is abundant, the Nile perch is piscivorous from a very small size (as small as 4 cm TL; Schofield and Chapman, unpublished data).  The species is flexible in its feeding habits, and quickly adapts to new prey resources (Ogari and Dadzie 1988; Chapman et al. 2003).

Lower lethal temperatures have been reported from 12-15 ºC (Midgley 1968; Hopson 1972; Jensen 1975 -- All from Rutledge and Lyons 1976).

The Nile perch reaches maturity at about 60-90 cm TL.

Means of Introduction: Intentional stocking by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for sport fishing.

Status: All populations are probably extirpated (Howells 1992a, 1992b).

Impact of Introduction: Unknown in Texas.

The introduction of the Nile perch into the Lake Victoria basin has caused the extinction of at least 200 species of endemic fishes and significant changes in the trophic function and diversity of the lake (Ogutu-Ohwayo 1990, Kaufman 1992; Witte et al. 1992).  Cascading effects of these losses of native fish diversity and abundance have also occurred, such as algal blooms and insect outbreaks.  Similar to Lake Victoria, declines in native fish diversity and distribution have occurred in other lakes with the introduction of Nile perch (e.g., Lake Kyoga basin, Mbabazi et al. 2004).

The Nile perch hosts a number of parasites, including helminths, cestodes, acanthocephalans and myxozoans (Emere 2000; Kostoingue et al. 2003).

Remarks: Harrison (1991) found difficulties in separating the different Lates species introduced into African lakes. He recommended a reappraisal of Nile perch taxonomy. As such, the positive identification of one or more of the Lates species introduced to Texas may eventually also be called into question.

The Nile perch is of great commercial importance in East Africa (especially the Lake Victoria Basin), where the fishery has brought modernization (e.g., electricity) and profitability to fishing villages that were traditionally based on subsistence fishing (Abila 1998).  Fishing pressure has been so strong in the Lake Victoria basin that measures aimed at protecting the fish stocks (e.g., mesh size restrictions for gill nets) have been implemented (Ogutu-Ohwayo 2004).

References: (click for full references)

Abila, R. O.  1998.  The patterns and trends of marketing and consumption of the fish of Lake Victoria (Kenyan waters).  African Journal of Tropical Hydrobiology and Fisheries 8: 35-40.

Chapman, L. J., C. A. Chapman, P. J. Schofield, J. P. Olowo, L. S. Kaufman, O. Seehausen & R. Ogutu-Ohwayo.  2003.  Fish faunal resurgence in Lake Nabugabo, East Africa.  Conservation Biology 17(2): 500-511.

Emere, M. C.  2000.  Parasitic infection of the Nile perch Lates niloticus (L.) in River Kaduna.  Journal of Aquatic Sciences 15: 51-54.

Eschmeyer, W. N., C. J. Ferraris, Jr., M. D. Hoang and D. J. Long.  1998.  A Catalogue of the Species of Fishes.  Preliminary Version 2, November 1996.  California Academy of Sciences.  Available online at:  http://www.calacademy.org/research/ichthyology/species/.

Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2005. FishBase.  http://www.fishbase.org.

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

Howells, R. G. and G. P. Garrett.  1992.  Status of some exotic sport fishes in Texas waters.  Texas Journal of Science 44: 317-324.

Kaufman, L.  1992.  Catastrophic change in species-rich freshwater ecosystems:  the lessons of Lake Victoria.  Bioscience 42: 846-858.

Kostoingue, B., M. Fall, C. Diebakate, N. Faye and B. S. Toguebaye.  2003.  Light and electronic observations on Henneguya ghaffari (Myxosporea, Bivalvulida) infecting the gills and intestine of Nile perch Lates niloticus (Pisces: Teleostei) from Chad and Senegal.  Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 54: 79-83.

Mbabazi, D., R. Ogutu-Ohwayo, S. B. Wandera and Y. Kiziito.  2004.  Fish species and trophic diversity of haplochromine cichlids in the Kyoga satellite lakes (Uganda).  African Journal of Ecology 42: 59-68.

Ogari, J. and S. Dadzie.  1988.  The food of the Nile perch, Lates niloticus (L.), after the disappearance of the haplochromine cichlids in the Nyanza Gulf of Lake Victoria (Kenya). Journal of Fish Biology 32: 571-577.

Ogutu-Ohwayo, R.  2004.  Management of the Nile perch, Lates niloticus fishery in Lake Victoria in light of the changes in its life history characteristics.  African Journal of Ecology 42: 306-314.

Rutledge, W. P. and B. W. Lyons.  1976.  Texas peacock bass and Nile perch:  status report.  Thirtieth Annual Conference, Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners.

Schofield, P. J. and L. J. Chapman.  1999.  Interactions between Nile perch, Lates niloticus, and other fishes in Lake Nabugabo, Uganda.  Environmental Biology of Fishes 55: 343-358.

Schofield, P. J. and L. J. Chapman.  2000.  Hypoxia tolerance of introduced Nile perch:  implications for survival of indigenous fishes in the Lake Victoria basin.  African Zoology 38: 35-42.

Thompson, K. W., C. Hubbs and B. W. Lyons.  1977.  Analysis of potential environmental factors, especially thermal, which would influence the survivorship of exotic Nile perch if introduced into artificially heated reservoirs in Texas.  Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Technical Series No. 22.37 pp.

Witte, F., T. Goldschmidt, P. C. Goudswaard, W. Ligtveoet, M. J. P. van Oijen and J. H. Wanink.  1992.  Species extinction and concomitant ecological changes in Lake Victoria.  Netherlands Journal of Zoology 42: 214-232.

FishBase Summary

Author: Schofield, P.J.

Revision Date: 9/15/2011

Peer Review Date: 9/15/2011

Citation Information:
Schofield, P.J., 2024, Lates niloticus (Linnaeus, 1758): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=412, Revision Date: 9/15/2011, Peer Review Date: 9/15/2011, Access Date: 6/17/2024

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.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/17/2024].

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