Is Tilapia A Real Fish? (Explained)

Fresh tilapia fish with aromatic herbs spices and vegetables ingredients


With it being the fourth most common fish consumed in the United States, Tilapia has become a popular choice of fish for many.

Its mild flavor and low price are a couple of the reasons people tend to choose Tilapia.

There has been quite a bit of debate over whether Tilapia is considered a real fish.

Whether you are just curious or concerned about how Tilapia is made, here is what you need to know about Tilapia and whether it is a real fish.


Is Tilapia A Real Fish?

Tilapia fish freshwater for cooking food


Yes, Tilapia is a real fish.

Although there have been rumors about Tilapia being a genetically engineered fish, it is a real fish that has native roots in the Middle East and Africa.

Currently, Tilapia is not typically a wild-caught fish and is farmed all over the world.

Because it is grown on fish farms, it can be produced in mass quantities, which makes it easily accessible and lower in price than other fish.


Are There Different Types Of Tilapia?

Aquaculture farmers hold quality tilapia yields in hand


Tilapia is not just one type of fish.

It is actually the name of almost 100 different species of cichlid fish.

However, there are three main varieties of Tilapia that people purchase for consumption.


1. Nile Tilapia

Nile tilapia


Nile Tilapia is native to the northern half of Africa and the Levante region including Israel and Lebanon.

They are considered to have one of the fastest growth rates and can reach one to two pounds in only seven months.

For this type of Tilapia to thrive and grow quickly, they like warm water with temperatures around 88 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, though they are known to be adaptable and can withstand colder water temperatures if required.

They should also be fed three times per day to ensure a fast growth rate.

Nile Tilapia is found in many stores and restaurants across the United States.


2. Mozambique Tilapia

Oreochromis Mossambicus Tilapia Fish


Mozambique Tilapia are native to Africa and were originally brought to the United States to help with aquatic plant control due to their eating plants as a major part of their diet.

The Mozambique Tilapia has a slower growth rate than the Nile Tilapia and grow approximately two pounds per year.

This type of Tilapia requires feedings three to five times per day in order to speed up its growth rate.

Unlike the Nile Tilapia, the Mozambique Tilapia cannot withstand cold water temperatures.

They require temperatures of 82 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.


3. Blue Tilapia

The blue Tilapia


Blue Tilapia is native to Northern and Western Africa as well as the Middle East.

They tend to grow quickly during the first few months and will usually reach anywhere from two to four pounds.

Although they are considered an invasive species, they have proven to be excellent at maintaining toxic algae.

They have been introduced in areas where algae are overgrown, and the levels reduce significantly with the introduction of the Blue Tilapia.

Blue Tilapia can withstand a wide range of water temperatures.

They can live and even thrive in water temperatures as cold as 46 degrees and up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.


How Is Tilapia Farmed?

Nile tilapia fish


According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Tilapia is farmed in both intensive and extensive aquaculture systems.

Open air earthen ponds are commonly chosen by farmers to grow Tilapia.

If the conditions are ideal, females will spawn every 17 days and market-size fish can be grown in seven to 10 months.

Tilapia do not do well in cold conditions, so farms are usually in warmer climates to grow healthy and large-sized fish.


What Is Aquaculture?

Farm fish Salmon aquaculture blue water floating cages


Aquaculture, which is also known as aquafarming, is the practice of raising aquatic organisms such as fish, algae, and other aquatic plants and crustaceans.

These aquatic organisms can be raised in fresh or salt water depending upon the organism and what type of environment they thrive in.

Aquaculture is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing food sectors.

There are many benefits of aquaculture, including:

  • Helping to repopulate endangered species.
  • Breeding for zoos and aquariums.
  • Providing food for human consumption.
  • Boosting populations of wild freshwater and saltwater species.

There are two main types of aquaculture farming.

These involve farming in onshore tanks and farming in natural environments.

Fish that are farmed in a natural environment are in large floating cages in fresh or salt water depending on the fish.

The fish that are typically farmed in natural environments include salmon, trout, and sea bass.

Farming fish in onshore tanks involves special tanks on land filled with water.

The type of water will depend on the fish and the environment they need to be raised in.


Who Monitors The Farming Of Tilapia?

Many tilapia pop up to breathe on the surface


With so much concern over the farming of Tilapia, some organizations help to oversee aquaculture practices to ensure that not only Tilapia but any fish that are farm raised are being raised responsibly.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council is the world’s leading certification for food that is raised on farms.

The ASC has developed very high standards for food production within farms and has quite a few requirements including water quality, responsibly sourced feed, disease prevention, and animal welfare.

Not only do they monitor the raising of the animals, but they also ensure that workers are treated and compensated fairly for the work they are doing.

For a farm to become ASC certified, it must be able to pass an inspection from the organization and meet every requirement that the ASC has.

If they do pass the inspection, then they can sell their products with the ASC logo, which is something that quite a few people look for when purchasing a product.


Is Tilapia Good For You?

Grilled tilapia steak and fresh vegetable salad on a plate close-up


Tilapia is a healthy fish to eat.

It is recommended by doctors for pregnant and breastfeeding women because it is low in mercury content, and Tilapia are not prone to contaminants.

They only eat plants, plankton, and bugs which eliminates a lot of the risk of them becoming contaminated with bacteria.

Tilapia provides an excellent source of protein and healthy fats.

A small filet of Tilapia that is approximately 100 grams will have about 26 grams of protein and five grams of fat.

It is also high in vitamins and minerals such as choline, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, and phosphorus which are all excellent nutrients that are needed in the human diet.

The selenium content in Tilapia is beneficial for cancer prevention.

Selenium has been proven to play a role in preventing not only cancer but also heart disease, cognitive decline, and thyroid disease.

Tilapia holds 88% of your recommended daily selenium intake.

Omega-3s in Tilapia are beneficial for heart health.

Unsaturated fats are known to reduce cholesterol, help with blood clotting, lower blood pressure, and help to decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Tilapia has been said to not have as many healthy fats as other types of fish.

Although Tilapia may not pack as many Omega-3s as other types of fish such as salmon, it still carries more Omega-3s than turkey, pork, chicken, or beef.

Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium can all be found in Tilapia and they all help with the overall health of your bones.


How Does It Compare To Other Fish?

Raw fish fillet of tilapia


When compared to other fish, Tilapia still holds its own in nutritional value even though certain levels of vitamins and minerals will vary between fish.

Salmon has almost the same amount of protein as Tilapia.

However, Salmon does contain a higher percentage of Omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins.

Salmon actually has nine times more Omega-3 fatty acids than Tilapia.

They both have similar amounts of selenium, calcium, and magnesium.

Therefore, Tilapia is a less expensive choice with a very comparable nutritional value.

Cod is another inexpensive whitefish that can frequently be compared to Tilapia.

When looking at the nutritional information, they are very similar in the amount of protein that a filet of each will hold.

Cod contains slightly more vitamin B6, thiamin, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc.

However, Tilapia has higher amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin B15, iron, and selenium.

The comparison of Tilapia to these other two popular types of fish that are purchased for consumption proves that Tilapia offers a high level of nutritional value for an inexpensive price.


How Does Tilapia Taste?

Fried tilapia fish and rice


Tilapia is a white fish with an extremely mild flavor.

The flavor is so mild that some people have stated it is almost flavorless and will take on the flavor of whatever seasoning or marinade you choose to use.

When compared in taste to other fish, Tilapia has been said to have a slightly sweeter flavor, similar to red snapper or striped bass.

Some people have said that Tilapia can taste dirty or earthy, but when purchased from a responsible source, Tilapia should not have a bad taste and should remain almost flavorless.


Where Is The Best Place To Buy Tilapia?

buy fresh fish in the supermarket


Tilapia can be purchased in almost any grocery store as well as Costco, Walmart, and Target.

It is extremely rare to find wild-caught Tilapia, so when purchasing the fish in the store, you will be looking at farm-raised Tilapia.

How and where the Tilapia has been farmed and raised plays a large role in the quality of the fish.

Most Tilapia can be raised in a variety of conditions, but fresh lake-grown Tilapia that has been raised in Honduras or Mexico is always high in quality.

Seventy percent of Tilapia that is consumed in the United States comes from these two countries, and they do not use chemicals or antibiotics.

You can also purchase frozen Tilapia at the grocery store that is from Indonesia or Mexico and this will typically be responsibly grown.

Any Tilapia that has the ASC logo is always going to be a reliable source of farm-raised Tilapia because they have had to follow strict regulations and meet certain standards.


What Is The Best Brand Of Tilapia?

Raw fish fillet of tilapia on a cutting Board


One of the best brands of Tilapia that you can buy is Regal Springs Tilapia.

They have been highly regarded due to their responsible farming practices and high quality of fish.

Regal Springs has more than 30 years of experience in the industry and has become number one in premium white fish aquaculture.

This company raises fish in Indonesia, Honduras, and Mexico.

The fish are raised in deepwater pens and fed a high-quality vegetarian diet, which leads to high-quality and healthy fish.


Where Can You Buy Regal Springs Tilapia?

thinking woman


Regal Springs Tilapia can be purchased at many major grocery stores including Target, Publix, Costco, Giant Eagle, and Ingles.

Many times, if you ask for Tilapia that has been raised in Honduras, Mexico, or Indonesia, it will be a Regal Springs Tilapia.


Is Tilapia From China Safe To Eat?

fresh tilapia are placed on stalls


Yes, you can safely eat Tilapia from China, but it is important to do your research on exactly where that Tilapia is farmed in China.

Many people have stated that people should not consume Tilapia from China because their farming practices do not have many restrictions.

This leads to the fish being treated with antibiotics and other harmful chemicals.

It has also been stated that some Tilapia that are farmed in China are fed feces instead of a high-quality vegetarian diet.

As with any Tilapia, it is critical to know where the fish you are eating is coming from.

Some people choose to avoid Tilapia from China to avoid the risk, but up to 70% of the fish that is imported into the United States comes from China.


How Do You Cook Tilapia?

Fish on grill


Tilapia is a very universal type of fish that can be cooked in almost any way that you wish.

When cooking Tilapia, you can bake it, grill it, steam it, or even fry it.

Since it has such a mild flavor, it can be seasoned in unlimited ways and is a great fish to add to almost any dish.

It is important to cook Tilapia until it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it is cooked thoroughly.

The flesh will turn white and be flaky once it is fully cooked.

If you are worried about your Tilapia having a fishy flavor, then you can add slices of fresh ginger while you are cooking to help neutralize the taste.

Along with ginger, you can also use something acidic such as vinegar or lemon juice to remove some of the taste and smell.

Many people will bake or fry Tilapia and eat it with mixed vegetables, pasta, potatoes, or even on top of a salad.


Is Tilapia Bad For The Environment

Red Tilapia fish swimming in a pond


When you research Tilapia, you are likely to find plenty of information stating that Tilapia is not a good fish to consume and that it is harmful to the environment.

The claim that Tilapia is harmful to the environment stems from the practice of aquaculture.

This is due to the possibility of fish escaping from the farming enclosures and contaminating wild populations of fish as well as the runoff from antibiotic or chemical use.

This creates concern about drinking water becoming contaminated.

Although these are possibilities, if Tilapia is farmed properly and responsibly, then these should not be issues.

Many companies that farm Tilapia do so in a responsible manner, and therefore, there is zero harm to the environment.



Contrary to popular belief, Tilapia is a real fish that is wild caught in certain areas across the world but commonly farmed in many different locations.

With its mild taste and great nutritional value, it is a great choice for a healthy yet inexpensive fish that can be cooked in a wide variety of ways.

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