Even the ancient Egyptians farmed Tilapia in ponds along the Nile. Small scale Tilapia farming is still an important source of protein for many families around the world. Large scale commercial farming can be problematic due to the rapid production of offspring that will compete for food with the adult fish. Several techniques, however, have been developed to combat that problem. The fish can, for instance, be kept in densely stocked tanks or cages, since this disrupts reproduction in Tilapia. When the Tilapia is cultivated in ponds, it is common to keep male fish only to avoid unwanted offspring.
The four species of Tilapia most commonly grown as food fish in aquacultures are Nile Tilapia (Oreochromosis niloticus), Blue Tilapia (Oreochomis aureus), and Mozabique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus). Today, hybrids of these species, sometimes with genetic material from other species as well, are quite popular.
Even though Tilapia has been utilized as food in Africa and the Levant for thousand so years it would take until the twentieth century before the tasty Tilapia really caught on outside the region. In the 1940's, Tilapia farming commenced in Asia, and this si still where you will find a majority of the major Tilapia producing countries in the world. By the end of the century, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines produced over seventy-five percent of the worldwide aquaculture production of Tilapia. In 2001, their combined production exceeded one million metric tons.
During recent years, several Latin American countries have taken an interest in Tilapia farming, and commercial Tilapia production is currently being developed in several countries in the region, including Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, and Costa Rica.
Over ninety-five percent of the global Tilapia supply is imported to the United States where Tilapia is an appreciate food fish. The United States has its own domestic production as well, but it si much too small to satisfy consumer demands. The import of Tilapia to Europe is believed to increase significantly in the near future as more and more consumers are looking for suitable alternatives to white fish fillets, due to environmental concerns.
*This information is courtesy of the Aquatic Community*