banner image
Gold Coast natural environment

We have one of Australia's most biodiverse cities. Let's explore, celebrate and work together to protect it for the future.

National Relay Service for the hearing impaired Language translation services


Tilapia is a restricted fish species in Queensland. If caught, the species must not be returned to the waterway or another waterway, stream or water body.



Reference photo: NSW Department of Primary
Industries, Tilapia, accessed 4 Jan 2013.

Part of the Cichlidae family, two species have established in Queensland - the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus); and the Spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae).

In Australia, Mozambique tilapia can grow to more than 36 centimetres but are usually found at 20 centimetres and can live up to 13 years. They are recognisable due to three anal fins and an elongated pointed snout. Colour varies but are usually dark grey or almost black (but can be silver) with three black spots on the side. Breeding males can have red tips on their fins.  


Reference photo: NSW Department of Primary
Industries, Tilapia, accessed 4 January 2013.

Spotted tilapia also have three anal fins with a short, rounded snout, range in colour from dark olive-green to light yellowish green and have two to six large black spots along the middle of their sides (more evident in younger fish).

They can reach 30 centimetres but in Australia, seldom reach 24 centimetres. Feeding mainly on aquatic vegetation, they are prolific breeders, laying between 100 and 1700 eggs. Species are mouth brooders and guard young within their mouth until about three weeks after hatching.

Queensland distribution

Several breeding populations of Mozambique tilapia have established in northern Queensland and South East Queensland, especially in reservoirs in the Brisbane area.

On the Gold Coast Tilapia have invaded the Albert, Pimpama, Coomera and Nerang river catchments.

Habitats vary and include reservoirs, lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, drains, swamps, and tidal creeks. The fish are usually found over mud bottoms, often in well vegetated areas.


Impacts of tilapia include

  • native fish outcompeted and replaced;
  • potential to reduce the quality of spawning habitat available for native species;
  • increased water turbidity;
  • uprooted aquatic vegetation;
  • altered erosion patterns;
  • increased bank instability; and
  • introduction of new diseases to native fish populations.

Mozambique tilapia have the ability to limit their physical size (‘stunt’) and mature at an early age. This means they can build their population faster than native fish that can’t reproduce at the same rate. This rapid reproduction strategy, together with their aggressive behaviour, explains how tilapia can quickly exclude native fishes and become the most dominant fish species where they are introduced.

Methods of control

Controlling pest fish species such as tilapia is difficult. The most effective method is to prevent the introduction of pest fish to new waterways. Once established, pest fish management is limited to habitat modification (e.g. manipulating water levels), physical removal through electro-fishing, netting and screening or the use of chemical (pesticides).

Reference: Pest Smart n.d. PestSmart: Tilapia. Accessed 10 January 2013. 

If you catch or see tilapia, report it using the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries online reporting form

Managing invasive fish species - Mozambique tilapia in Robina West Lake

A report was prepared for the City of Gold Coast by Griffith University to investigate the feasibility of electrofishing as a viable technique for mitigating Mozambique tilapia impacts in Robina West Lake.

Download a copy of this report.

Tilapia Busters

The Gold Coast Tilapia Busters event is the biggest pest fish event in South East Queensland.

Run by City of Gold Coast with assistance from My Catch Australia and Gold Coast Fishing Fanatics, the event was launched originally in 2015. A free community event, Tilapia Busters is designed to raise community awareness of Tilapia’s devastating effect on the environment.

Find out when the next Tilapia Busters is being held and join in this fun and free, family-friendly fishing event.

Please note: an indemnity form must be completed online prior to the event.

Complete an indemnity form online

Related information

Jump to key information


Top of page Top of page