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Can Tilapia Live In Saltwater? (What You Should Know)

Can Tilapia Live In Saltwater?

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Undoubtedly, tilapia is one of the essential freshwater species of this century due to their ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions. Though they are freshwater fish, experts believed that tilapia might have come from marine origins resulting in their tolerance to various water quality environments. With the current high competition and scarcity of freshwater in numerous regions worldwide, this magnified the need to cultivate aquaculture species in brackish waters. And with the tilapia’s capability to survive harsh surroundings, they are the best candidates to endure this environment. However, can tilapia live in saltwater?  

Yes, tilapia can live in saltwater; however, growers will primarily need to select the proper tilapia variety to raise in this type of surrounding. And to have a clear insight into this topic, we will explain water salinity and evaluate the tolerance capacity of the different tilapia species against brackish waters. 

In this article, we will cover saline water and assess the saltwater resilience of the tilapia fish. 

What Is Water Salinity?

Water salinity is simply the number of dissolved salts in a proportion of water. The salt that we refer to in this case does not only pertain to sodium chloride but includes magnesium, calcium, and potassium. 

Some may be wondering, how do these elements reach the ocean? Activities such as volcanic eruptions or simple ways like stone disintegrating into the sand and converting to salt are just a few examples.  In particular, the standard seawater carries 35 parts of dissolved salt per thousand parts of water. Freshwater, in contrast, contains 100 parts of salt per million parts of water. 

Why Is Water Salinity Vital?

So, why is understanding water salinity important? It is vital to learn about water salinity because this matter impacts the density of seawater. Water with steeper levels of salinity becomes heavier and will likely plunge below less salty water. When this happens, it can disrupt marine existence as well as ocean movements. 

Keep in mind that marine species and other fish, unlike some wildlife and humans, are persistently retaining a stable balance between the water surrounding them and the water inside their bodies. This cycle is known as osmoregulation. And to maintain this balancing routine, salt holds a crucial role in the process. The salt level in the environment should always be stable; otherwise, the marine animals or other fish living in them dies. Unless, of course, they can adjust to their new surroundings. 

Can Tilapia Live in Saltwater?

Which leads us then to the topic, can tilapia live in saltwater? As mentioned earlier, the answer to this question is yes; however, saltwater tolerance varies greatly between tilapia species. Let’s look at the common types of tilapia and assess their salinity tolerance. 

Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus)

A favorite among aquaponic practitioners raising fish and vegetables for food consumption is the Mozambique tilapia. The reason behind this is because these varieties feature high-quality meat and mild-tasting fillets. 

Furthermore, Mozambique types can tolerate low water conditions for extended periods, such as less than 2 mg/L, low dissolved oxygen. When it comes to salinity tolerance, they are the hardiest of the group. This variety can withstand 120% water salinity, and can even reproduce at saline waters of 49%. Their fry can likewise survive at 69% water salinity.  

Blue tilapia (Oreochromis aureus)

On the other hand, the Blue tilapia is popular among those cultivating fish in colder areas because these varieties are cold tolerant. Although they are slow-growing compared to the other tilapias, Blue tilapia types can withstand low temperatures such as 46°F. They are an economical choice for growers residing in cold temperatures because they do not need to purchase pricey heating equipment

When it comes to saline tolerance, the Blue varieties can survive low salinity levels compared to the Mozambique tilapias. These types can endure saline waters of 36% to 44%. Fish reproduction happens at 19%. However, if gradually adjusted to the environment, Blue tilapia can withstand water salinity up to 54%. 

Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)

And finally, we have the Nile tilapia. These types can likewise tolerate cold temperatures; however, fish reproduction will begin only at 68°F. Nile varieties prefer eating algae, phytoplankton, and small insects. They are also a cost-effective choice for tilapia growers because these fish do not require expensive whole feeds.  

However, when it comes to tolerance to salt waters, the Nile tilapia is less salinity-tolerant than the other two species. If gradually adjusted to the saline environment, these types can tolerate only up to 36% water salinity. 


The global competition and shortage of freshwater have reinforced the need to develop aquaculture species in saline waters. Understanding water salinity is essential since this matter significantly affects the proportion of seawater and impacts marine life. 

With the resilience of the tilapia fish, these species are the leading candidates to survive this type of environment. And with the right variety, tilapia can live in saltwater. To learn the proper guidelines in caring for tilapia, click here

The Campbells love finding sustainable and fun ways to increase their independence from traditional brick and motor supermarkets. Aquaponics provides a full lifecycle food source for families and a great hobby. #aquaponicslifestyle

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