Tilapia have many of the same traits that make their family, the cichlids, widespread in the aquarium trade. Though several genera of fish sell under the name "tilapia," most have more or less the same aquarium care requirements. These fish feature bright colors and the same interesting behavior seen across the cichlid family.
The only care difference across different tilapia species is their minimum aquarium size. Smaller species of tilapia can thrive in an aquarium as small as 40 gallons, though larger species need at least 70 gallons survive. Like many larger cichlids, they love to dig. This combined with their appetite for green matter means live plants do not make a good decoration for a tilapia aquarium. Rocks and driftwood tend to work better. If you really like the look of plants, artificial plants are an option, but you will have to frequently rebury them.
Generally tilapia can adapt to most aquarium conditions, provided you avoid extreme conditions and keep the water clean. Keep the water temperature below 74 degrees, and the pH between 6 and 8. Most tap water falls within these parameters, which means you don't need to do much to the water beyond regular dechlorination. Still, keep up on your water changes to make sure the water remains clean. Poor water quality can stress tilapia, making them more prone to illness.
Feeding Your Tilapia
Tilapia have an omnivorous diet, allowing them to subsist on a wide range of aquarium foods. They do lean more toward vegetable matter, so you should make it a point to include green foods in their diet. This can include nori—a seaweed available at pet shops and specialty grocery stores—and spirulina-based flake or pellet foods. Tilapia also relish the occasional animal-based food, like brine shrimp or bloodworms. You can procure these live or frozen at many pet shops.
Roommates for Your Tilapia
The cichlid family is known for aggression toward both other species and conspecifics. However, within this group, the tilapia have a relatively easygoing nature. They can safely share an aquarium with larger catfish, barbs and African tetras like the Congo tetra. Tilapia can also share an aquarium with other semi-aggressive African river cichlids. They usually ignore others of the same species and get alone fine. However, tilapia do get somewhat territorial when breeding and may chase other members of their own species around.
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