• Tilapia Mozambique mouthbrooder: declared noxious fish
    Tilapia Mozambique mouthbrooder: declared noxious fish
  • Drawing of a black mangrove cichlid
    Drawing of a black mangrove cichlid
  • Spotted Tilapia: Declared noxious fish
    Spotted Tilapia: Declared noxious fish

General information

This fish is declared noxious in Queensland. It is unlawful to possess noxious fish alive or dead or to use them as bait. It is illegal to place or release noxious fish alive or dead into Queensland waterways. Penalties of up to $200,000 apply.

We need your help to stop the spread of tilapia:

  1. Know how to identify tilapia.
  2. Don't spread tilapia between waterways.
  3. Report sightings of tilapia .
Scientific name

Tilapia, Oreochromis and Sarotherodon spp.

  • part of the Cichlidae family.
  • two species have established in Queensland - the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) and the spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae)
  • O. mossambicus can grow to more than 36 cm and can live up to 13 years. They are usually dark grey or almost black but can be silver with 2-5 dark blotches/spots on the side. Breeding males can have red tips on their fins
  • T. mariae range from dark olive-green to light yellow and they have 8 or 9 dark bars or blotches on the sides (more evident in younger fish). They can grow to 30 cm
  • both species are deep-bodied with a thin profile and have long pointed fins.
  • originate from the warm, fresh and salty waters of Africa, South and Central America, southern India and Sri Lanka
  • several breeding populations of O. mossambicus have established in North Queensland and South East Queensland
  • T. mariae has established populations around Cairns.
  • O. mossambicus are hardy fish and can survive temperatures between 8 and 42oC, although they require temperatures of about 16oC to remain active and feed. They can also withstand high salinites and low dissolved oxygen
  • T. mariae is less tolerant of cooler temperatures and therefore has a lower latitudinal range.
  • omnivorous
  • O. mossambicus feed mainly on plankton, insects and weed but will take a wide variety of other foods
  • T. mariae mainly eats plants.
  • sexually mature at three years or less in favourable conditions
  • O. mossambicus are able to reach sexual maturity at small sizes in poor conditions or when they are overcrowded. This is known as 'stunting' and results in large populations of mature fish with small body sizes
  • O. mossambicus are mouth brooders - females protect eggs and larvae from predators by holding them in their mouths. Males build large circular breeding nests in soft silt or muddy substrate
  • T. mariae lay their eggs on hard substrate.
Environmental impacts
  • have successfully invaded and dominated many aquatic habitats due to their highly efficient reproductive strategy, simple food requirements and their ability to live in a variety of conditions
  • unlike many native freshwater fishes, tilapia are able to retreat downstream into highly saline waters during drought and move back upstream when conditions improve
  • affect native species when competing for habitat and food, behaving aggressively and disturbing plant beds when building nests.


  • Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2001, Control of Exotic Pest Fishes: An operational strategy for Queensland freshwaters . Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane.
  • Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 1997, Fish Guide. Saltwater, Freshwater and Noxious Species. The Great Outdoors Publications, Brisbane
  • Eschymer, WN, (1998), Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.
  • Grant, EM, 1997, Grant's Guide To Fishes. EM Grant Pty Limited, Brisbane
  • Merrick, JR and Schmida GE, 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes: Biology and Management. Griffin Press Limited, South Australia

Further information

Last updated 30 January 2014