Aquatic Chicken

Tilapia nilotica have become the culinary opposite of catfish: they actually taste good without breading and spices. Members of the Cichlid family from East Africa, the several tilapia species and their hybrid sub-varieties, look much like snappers or perch, and can live in either fresh or brackish (salty) water. These "perfect fish" are 98% vegetarian, thrive on agricultural waste, and grow rapidly in relatively high temperatures. TreeHuggers may be alert to the biodiversity hits from their spread, some to supply the US and Europe, and some for protein in developing economies.
Tilapia has been dubbed "the aquatic chicken", because it can be grown in a variety of situations from backyards to intensive "battery" farms.

By expanding the uses of indoor systems, tilapia production could expand in areas closer to major markets. U.S. growers can focus on fresh and live fish sold at a premium price compared to imported frozen filets. Tilapia production is already dispersed throughout the United States.

tilapia lettuce hydroponic system.jpeg
Some growers have experimented with mixing hydroponic vegetable growing with Tilapia production.

Overall consumption rates in developed nations have increased fantastically in the last decade. More importantly, poor quality frozen imports have lost market share and higher quality fresh and frozen imports have gained share. If you hated it the last time you tried it, its time to try again: this TreeHugger has found the quality to be 100% better than before.

Various South American and Asian nations have emerged as major US and European suppliers of high quality tilapia filets. One way to stay clear of the careless third world aquaculture of Tilapia, is to "Homesource"; and one way to do that is by getting some background from the American Tilapia Association. They have a link to US-based tilapia farms. The organization does not directly sell tilapia however.

TreeHuggers in Europe feel free to comment if you have a suggested avenue there as well!

There is little chance of the exotic Tilapia surviving year round in the natural temperate waters of the northern half of the US or far northern Europe. In warm regions, however, they can become pests that disrupt native ecosystems.

Tilapia’s continued large-scale introduction could contribute to the extinction of less aggressive, indigenous fish throughout the tropical and sub-tropical world. Development agencies such as USAID and the World Bank continue to push for the spread of tilapia, and, reportedly, it is now being farmed in more than 85 countries.

Being bottom feeders essentially, they are vulnerable to rapidly bio-accumulating pollutants that concentrate in sediments. Another reason to favor quality farm razed fish over wild.

Nutrition is looking good.

Favorite recipe: fry in virgin olive oil with garlic and black pepper. Salt and sprinkle fresh lime juice before serving.

by: John Laumer