What Do Tilapia Eat
Tilapia is one of the most favored fish of the ocean, consumed in more than 100 countries. In fact, tilapia fish is the fourth-most popular fish in the United States when it comes to seafood consumption.
Because tilapia such a common staple in our modern diet, many people ask,
What do Tilapia fish eat?
Come dive in with us as we explore the unique diet of tilapia.
What Does Tilapia Eat?
Tilapia are mainly herbivores, meaning they feed on algae and aquatic plant cells. In fact, they'll feed on just about any plant-based food source. Tilapia are unique because they don't need a ton of protein for survival. For this reason, many people will keep tilapia in small bodies of water like ponds to help reduce algae and improve the overall water quality.
Is Tilapia A Bottom Feeding Fish?
Yes, tilapia are bottom-feeding fish. Tilapia are also filter feeders as well. This means that tilapia will consume just about any contaminants or waste they find in the water.
What Do Tilapia Eat In The Wild?
As we said before, Tilapia will eat just about anything they come by in their natural environment. You'll often find this fish species hanging out in shallower water, as algae tend to grow better in shallower water. Tilapia often eats worms, small fish, insects, and aquatic plants.
They absolutely love eating aquatic plants, including roots, stems, and leaves. They will also often dine on duckweed, water lilies, rooted plants, blue-green algae, and filamentous algae.
Small insects are another favorite. Tilapia love earthworms more than any other insects, though they also enjoy phytoplankton and zooplankton that live in their natural habitats. Some other tasty morsels include aquatic larvae and fly larvae.
What Do Farm-Raised Tilapia Eat?
Farmed tilapia will eat fine fish pellets, for the most part. Humans fill manufacture these pellet formulas through pelletizing, extruding, and cooking foods. Most pellets contain anywhere from 35-40% of protein, which they get from adding soy-based protein or fish meal.
To feed farmed tilapia, farmers will use floating pellets. The unique thing about these foods is that they remain on the surface, allowing farmers to see how much food their tilapia have eaten. The bad thing about floating pellets is that they are pricier than regular pellets.
Some farmed tilapia will eat food such as:
Tilapia will typically feed twice per day, mainly in the morning and right before the sun goes down. The amount of food that they eat depends on the water temperature and the size. They will usually eat far less if they live in colder climates, as their metabolism tends to slow down.
Do Tilapia Eat Other Fish?
Yup! Tilapia will often eat other fish species if they are small enough for the fish to swallow whole. But, of course, it usually goes the other way around, in which larger fish species will most feed on tilapia.
What Do Baby Tilapia Eat?
Baby tilapia, otherwise known as "fry," typically eat phytoplankton, zooplankton, neuston, and detritus.
They generally are anywhere between 0.25 and 0.75 inches long and are often fed bone meal or fish meal so during the fish farming process so they can grow larger.
Young fish that live in the wild will often eat crustaceans.
Is Tilapia Bad For You?
This is a controversial topic. Tilapia is undoubtedly not the best fish for consumption, even though it is the fourth most consumed fish in the United States.
For starters, tilapia have high contaminant levels compared to many other fish.
Tilapia, swai, and basa are most often mass-produced and put into overcrowded tanks. These genetically-engineered fish are often fed soy-based foods as well, though they will eat just about anything, including contaminants and waste.
During farmed tilapia production, farmers will give these fish species antibiotics to keep them alive and kill off any diseases that could infect the whole population. However, organic farmed tilapia production does exist, though these organic tilapia only account for about one percent of tilapia solid in the United States.
Beyond that, tilapia have tons of omega-6 fatty acids. Most people eat way too many omega-6 fatty acids as it is, which exacerbates inflammation. (This is why it has been said that bacon is far healthier than tilapia, however tilapia contain much less sodium and many more nutrients.) If you have an excess of omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, it can lead to heart disease.
So, is it safe to eat tilapia?
However, it's essential to be careful where you get it from.
There are instances in which flesh-eating bacteria have been found in freshwater fish. For example, in November of 2016, a woman from Washington contracted Vibrio vulnificus when she bought fresh tilapia from her local grocery store. While this case was very rare, you want to make sure that there are no toxic chemicals present in the fish you consume because that could result in infection.
Are Tilapia High In Mercury?
The good thing about farmed tilapia production is that it keeps mercury levels low as compared to other fish. In addition, because tilapia usually grow up in close-tank environments, they don't come in contact with many other fish species or pollutants.
Benefits Of Eating Tilapia
For starters, tilapia is rich in vitamin B12. B12 is great for maintaining a healthy nervous system and producing red blood cells. Selenium, phosphorous, potassium, and omega 3 fatty acids - all of which are great for your health, are also found in tilapia.
For those trying to lose those extra pounds, tilapia contains fewer calories and fat than salmon, yet still provides the protein which will keep you full for a longer amount of time.
Eating Tilapia While Pregnant
You can eat tilapia while pregnant. Many health experts say that tilapia is actually one of the best fish species to eat while pregnant or breastfeeding, as they have very low mercury levels.
There are numerous tilapia farms around the world. Because this species isn't great with cold water, farmers will often produce them in climates that are much warmer. The farming standards depend on the individual farm as well as the country, though it's always important for farmers to keep their tanks closed off, as tilapia are invasive species.
If we had to rank them on the hierarchy of the absolute best fish to eat, they would be pretty far down. If you want to add more fish to your diet, you'd be better off going with something like rockfish, cod, or wild salmon. That being said, they are safe to eat and are a healthy alternative to other processed foods.