Spotted Tilapia: Tiliapia mariae
Light yellow to bronze with 6-9 bars or spots along side;
stouter but similar body and mouth shape to native sunfishes; small
ones tend to have bars that turn into spots in larger fish (see
photo); some have reddish markings on the chin or throat area,
especially when spawning; sometimes erroneously referred to as an
First collected in 1974, it rapidly became the most abundant
fish in the canal system of Miami-Dade County where it made up
about 25% of the fishes by number and weight; now widespread south
of Lake Okeechobee; so abundant that butterfly peacock was
introduced to help control it. Native range is West Africa.
Prefers slow-flowing canals, ponds, and lakes; common throughout
south Florida; may be increasing in some areas, but not as abundant
in Miami-Dade County as in 1980s.
Spawning Habitats: Unlike other
tilapia in Florida, this tilapia is a substrate spawner that lays
about 2,000 sticky eggs on hard, flat surfaces; both parents guard
young aggressively until about one inch long; sexually mature at 7
inches; some observed spawning year around, but most spawning seems
to occur in cooler months between November and March.
Feeding Habits: Omnivorous,
feeding on wide variety of food items, although most stomachs
contain detritus, diatoms, algae, and sand indicating this tilapia,
like most others, feed low on the food chain.
Age and Growth
Grows to 13 inches and about 3 pounds; males grow larger with
all fish over 10 inches typically being males.
Commonly caught by cane-pole anglers, but not as aggressive as
most native sunfishes; no bag or size limits, but must not be
possessed alive (see note below).
Fishing Tips and Facts:
Special Note: Possession and transport of live tilapia in Florida is illegal without a special permit (except blue tilapia); can only be possessed if dead, so anglers wanting to eat this fish should immediately place them on ice.