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Tilapia

Yes, this is the same fish you purchase in the grocery store. They were introduced to Florida in 1961. Named Nile Perch, they were expected to be a spectacular sport fish that would encourage fishermen to visit our state, as well as solve many of our waterweed problems. If something sounds too good to be true…

 

Needless to say, this did not work out. These fish now thrive in most of south Florida, especially neighborhood ponds.

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Weed control?

Many people think Tilapia solve algae problems by eating unwanted plants. This rarely happens. 

 

Tilapia grow well because they survive in poor quality water. Conditions that kill bass and bluegills don’t affect Tilapia.

They are aggressive reproducers, breeding three times each year. They start reproducing at six months old and produce over 500 babies per year. Two fish in your pond could become a thousand in one year. The fish that was intended to help our lakes has become a pest.

The only reason they don’t completely take over more lakes is that they are tropical fish and water temperatures below 65° cause a great deal of stress. Thousands of Tilapia die each year from the cold temperatures in winter. One of Beautiful Ponds’ clients had to remove 20,000 pounds of dead Tilapia one January, because the water temperature dropped so low.

Tilapia will never ‘go away’. They can be helpful for very specific weed control situations, but should be considered carefully. 

 

It is illegal to possess live Tilapia without a license. Consult with a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist if you want more information or want to stock these fish in your pond. Their website offers more information: Blue Tilapia | FWC (myfwc.com)

 

Erosion 

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When Tilapia overpopulate a lake, they usually cause erosion problems. They fan the water near the shore creating round “bowls” in the sand. These nests, or reproductive sites, are about 20 inches in diameter and about ten inches deep. 

After the fish abandon the nest, soil from the shore collapses into the hole. A few dozen Tilapia nests don’t cause problems, but hundreds of fish creating nests two or three times a year adds up to erosion problems. Beautiful Ponds staff regularly remove Tilapia to reduce erosion problems.