Hawaiian Gold Tilapia

Hawaiian Gold Tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus

The Hawaiian Gold Tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus, whose common Spanish name is tilapia del Hawaii, is a species in the Cichlid and Tilapia or Cichlidae Family, are known collectively as tilapias and mojarras de agua dulce in Mexico. This fish is actually a yellow variant of the Mozambique Tilapia that was developed by the Hawaiians for its beauty. The fish is also known as the Golden Tilapia and the Lucky Golden Fish and believed to bring fortune to businesses. As a result of human introduction, they are now found on a limited basis in several global warm weather locations. Globally, there are thirty-two species in the genus Oreochromis, four of which are found in the majority of freshwater systems within Mexico. The Hawaiian Gold Tilapia have been introduced in Mexico fairly recently.

The Hawaiian Gold Tilapias have an overall “bluegill” profile with deep compressed bodies. Pure bread species are a uniform golden color with an orange tint. They have a mid-sized head and small eyes. Their anal fin has three spines and nine or ten rays; their caudal fin is rounded; and their dorsal fin is continuous with a long base and has fifteen to eighteen spines and ten to thirteen soft rays. They have sixteen to twenty-two gill rakers on their first arch and their lateral line is interrupted. Their body is covered with cycloid scales.

The Hawaiian Gold Tilapias are extremely hardy and grow quickly to 16 inches in length. They are very tolerant of poor water quality, pollution, low oxygen conditions, and temperatures between 24oC (75oF) and 37oC (98oF), and are disease resistant, however, they cannot survive in water temperatures below 21oC (70oF) making them of limited interest in the United States (except for Hawaii). The maximum recorded length is 40 cm (16 inches) and they weigh up to 1.1 kg (2.5 pounds). They are opportunistic omnivores consuming diatoms, invertebrates, small fry, and vegetation ranging from macroalgae to rooted plants to decaying plant material. They are active diurnally. Their behavioral patterns are not well documented but they are assumed to be very similar to or identical to the Mozambique Tilapia.

The Hawaiian Gold Tilapias with consistent coloration are ready available on the internet in batches of 25 to 500 one-inch fish at a price of approximately $2.00 per fish. They are recommended for first-time small scale aquaculturists. They are a very easy tilapia strain to breed and maintain due to their environmental adaptability noting the temperature limits for this fish. Fish that are golden with black spots are deemed of poor quality. They can also be used for the development of sustainable food systems.

In Mexican waters the Hawaiian Gold Talapia can be found in most of the fresh water systems and where they are absent they will soon be present.

The Hawaiian Gold Tilapia cannot be confused with any other species due to its uniform coloration.

The Hawaiian Gold Tilapias are utilized mostly as ornamental fish and placed in small ponds within large gardens. They are also sold on a very limited basis is some of the Asian markets in Southern California with farmed fish presumably imported from Hawaii. Due to their bright and aesthetically pleasing color they command higher prices than the Mozambique Tilapia.

Hawaiian Gold Tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus. Fish caught from a garden pond within the Mayan Palace complex, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, April 2015. Length: 15 cm (5.9 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.