occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: Native to tropical and subtropical Africa and Middle East (Fuller et al. 1999). Now more widely distributed across Africa. Established in parts of Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas; possibly established in Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania; reported from Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas (Fuller et al. 1999).
Length: 51 cm
Habitat Type: Freshwater
Comments: Warm ponds and impoundments, including power plant cooling reservoirs; tidal creeks. Able to live and reproduce in fresh and brackish water. Lower temperature tolerance is about 13 C, but can tolerate 5 C for brief periods in freshwater. Annually stocked in ponds and lakes in Alabama.
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Comments: Eats mainly phytoplankton.
Diseases and Parasites
Life History and Behavior
Maternal mouthbrooder. Requires water temperature of 20 C for spawning.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Oreochromis aureus
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Oreochromis aureus
Public Records: 36
Specimens with Barcodes: 54
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Management Requirements: Hales (1991) recommended that the Georgia population be eradiacated, if possible.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Comments: Widely used for control of aquatic vegetation (despite little if any demonstrated success). Juveniles used as bait (Hales 1991).
Species Impact: Regarded as an undesirable exotic in the U.S.; in many lakes in Florida and Texas it is adversly affecting reproduction of native centrarchids (Courtenay and Stauffer 1984). Implicated in declines of native freshwater mussels and threatens some endangered fishes in Texas (R. G. Howells, pers. comm., 2003; see also Fuller et al. 1999). See Hales (1991) for additional references on detrimental effects of introduced populations.
The blue tilapia or Israeli tilapia, Oreochromis aureus, is a species of fish in the Cichlidae family. Native to Northern and Western Africa, and the Middle East, through introductions it is now also established elsewhere, including parts of the United States, where it has been declared an invasive species and has caused significant environmental damage. It is known as blue kurper in South Africa.
The blue tilapia is a freshwater fish with a high tolerance for brackish water. Adults are usually 5 to 8 in (13 to 20 cm) in length and weigh 5 to 6 lb (2.3 to 2.7 kg); the largest recorded specimen was more than 21 inches (53 cm) long and weighed more than 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Blue tilapia are mouthbrooders, and broods range from 160 to 1600 eggs per female. O. aureus is primarily herbivorous, but will occasionally consume zooplankton; the young include small invertebrates in their diet. 
The blue tilapia is native to Northern and Western Africa, and the Middle East, from the Senegal, Niger, Benue and lower Nile Rivers in Africa to the Jordan River in the Middle East. Through introductions, the fish can be found in the United States in Texas, Alabama, Florida, and Nevada. It has also been established in Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. The original stocks of O. aureus in the United States were from Israel.
Oreochromis aureus has been introduced in many places around the world for use as a food fish, and frequently in order to control aquatic vegetation. Its presence may have in many cases been mis-documented as Oreochromis niloticus, because the two species were only recently distinguished.
In the United States
Since its introduction into Florida in 1961, the fish has increased its range and frequency of occurrence. It is now the most widespread foreign species in Florida, with established populations as far north as Lake Alice, in Gainesville. It is a major management problem for the National Park Service due to its predominance in Taylor Slough in Everglades National Park, where it has changed the fish community structure. The species is also expanding its range in Texas. It was at one time responsible for inhibition of the population of largemouth bass in Lake Trinidad (in Henderson county) until it was extirpated, and is implicated in the unionid mussel declines in two bodies of water in Texas. It is also blamed for a severe decline in native fish populations in Warm Springs Natural Area, Nevada.
- "Oreochromis aureus". FishBase. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- "Fact Sheet for Oreochromis aureus (Steindachner, 1864)". Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
- "Blue Kurper". Flyloops. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
- "Florida's Exotic Freshwater Fishes". State of Florida, Division of Freshwater Fisheries. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
- "NAS Species Fact Sheet". US Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-06-30.
- "Global Invasive Species Database". Retrieved 31 July 2014.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Has been confused with Tilapia nilotica in much of the literature (Lee et al. 1980). Formerly known as Tilapia aurea.
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