What Is the Origin of Tilapia Fish?

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Tilapia is a popular food fish that has been part of a traditional Mediterranean diet for at least 4,000 years. The tilapia later became a Christian symbol; to this day, it is sometimes referred to as St. Peter's fish.

The Native Habitat of Tilapia Fish

Tilapia were originally found in freshwater areas of the Mediterranean. The fish were raised for food in ancient Egypt and have long been a staple of Mediterranean diets.

Tilapia as an Introduced Species

Today, tilapia is farmed as a food source in many areas outside its native range. It is an important product in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Central and South American countries and the United States. Tilapia has become invasive in parts of the United States, dominating the environment into which it has been introduced. The fish can only thrive in waters that stay relatively warm year round.

Commercial Tilapia

Most tilapia on the market is farmed in East or Southeast Asia. In the United States, Chinese and Taiwanese tilapia is usually only available frozen. Tilapia from Central and South America and the United States is farmed using more sustainable methods than those used in other countries. The tilapia populations in the Americas are also less vulnerable to pollution.