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Pangasius Vs. Tilapia: And You Thought You Knew the Difference

Pangasius Vs. Tilapia - What's the Difference?
Both Pangasius and Tilapia are freshwater fish and are fast climbing the list of America's favorite seafood products. However, while appraising the Pangasius vs. Tilapia, a fair number of differences came forth.
Vanessa D' Souza
Last Updated: May 8, 2018
An Interesting Fact

Tilapia is also referred to as "St. Peter's fish". It is believed to be the fish fed by Jesus, to over five thousand people in the "Fish and Loaves" miracle as mentioned in the Bible.

The juvenile Pangasius are also known as the Iridescent Shark.
Tilapia is not the name of one fish, but an umbrella name for over a dozen species of the cichlid fish, while Pangasius is a term used to refer to a variety of imported freshwater basa fish.
Both Tilapia and Pangasius are freshwater white fish, which are bred for consumption in the global market. Both fish are characterized by similar traits and have their origins in tropical regions. They are easily adaptable to various production systems and also acceptable to low quality feeds. However, the differences between them far outweigh their similarity.
Pangasius Tilapia
The Origins It first originated from Upper Laos and is a native to the Mekong river, which includes the regions of China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is native to Africa, and is today, one of the most widely bred fish globally. The Nile and Mozambique species, are the most commonly bred ones.
The Identification They belong to the cat-fish family, have fins which are dark gray or black and are silver in color and have no scales. The young ones have a black stripe which runs along the lateral line and another stripe runs below the lateral line. They also have a shiny, iridescent skin which is why they are also called Iridescent Sharks. Fully-grown adult Pangasius are uniformly gray, and do not have either the stripes or the iridescent skin. The adults can grow up to 4 feet in length and can weigh a maximum of 97 lb. The Pangasius can live for 20 years or more. It has a small head, but a tall profile. It is generally bluish gray in color and has light vertical stripes. It has a thick body and a light-colored belly. It can grow on an average of 2% of their body weight. They are likely to gain 1 pound for every 1.5 pounds of food they consume. They can grow to an average of 18 inches in length, and weigh up to 1 pound. The Nile or Black tilapia, Blue tilapia, and Mozambique or red tilapia, are most commonly bred. Although the names imply different colors, the color of the edible portions remain the same.
The Diet They are omnivores and eat all kinds of live, fresh, flake foods. They eat brine shrimp, blood worms, live crickets and worms. However as they grow older, they lose their teeth and tend to become more herbivores. They have eating habits of a herbivore. They eat algae, which they filter through the tiny combs in their gills. On fish farms, they are generally fed other vegetable matter and grain. They also serve as a biological control to aquatic plant menace.
The Habitat They mostly live in freshwater, and prefer large bodies of water and a tropical climate, similar to their native Mekong river. They can also tolerate brackish water with a salt concentration of 0.7% - 1%. They also have an additional respiratory organ, helping them breathe in an environment with inadequate oxygen. These are one of the most adaptable species and can be found in many freshwater habitats like lakes, wetlands, shallow streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes. Only a few species of Tilapia are tolerant to brackish water.
Mating And Spawning
They require 2 - 3 years to reach sexual maturity. It is a migratory species and moves upstream to breed. The mating season starts by May or June, during the flood season, as the water levels are high. The spawned eggs attach themselves to the roots of the trees growing along the rivers. After breeding within a day, the eggs grow into larva and drift downstream. A single female can produce more than 50,000 eggs per spawn and can spawn up to four times during the breeding season.
They grow fast and reach sexual maturity within 6 months. The spawning begins when the water temperature is above 20oCelsius (68o F). The male digs a nest at the bottom of the pond with its mouth. The male then mates with the female, after which the female spawns in the nest. The male then fertilizes the egg. The female holds and incubates the eggs in her mouth until they hatch. The "fry" remain in the female's mouth and are often released to feed themselves. They even seek refuge in the female's mouth when threatened. This continues for about 3 weeks and is known as mouthbrooding.
Taste The best quality fillets of this fish have white flesh. However, average quality is either light-pink or beige in color. The flesh turns white after cooking and has a moist, sweet taste, a mild flavor and a delicate texture. It is also known as the "aquatic chicken", because it breeds easily and does not have a fishy taste, instead a bland taste. It has no taste of its owns, but it adopts the taste of whatever ingredients are added.
The success of Pangasius and Tilapia as imported freshwater fish and their ascent in the list of widely consumed sea-food products indicates a shift of food preferences from traditional to more modern or exotic. Both fish are similar in nutrition and have been widely accepted by consumers around the world.