Lakeway Tilapia - The tilapia farming experts.

Is tilapia legal?

A guide by Lakeway Tilapia

Call Lakeway Tilapia at (865) 262-8289 today!

Tilapia legal information

By purchasing tilapia from Lakeway Tilapia, you agree to keep them on your own property and out of public waterways. Don't be the idiot who releases unwanted tilapia into the wild. The future of private tilapia farming is at stake.

About this page

For several years we relied upon each state to provide accurate information to their own residents. As a result, this page contained little more than a collection of links and phone numbers to individual state resources. Unfortunately there were several problems with this approach. The biggest being that the phone numbers, web links and appointed officials were constantly changing. It became impossible for us to stay on top of all of the monthly changes across 50 states and 16 territories.

Another big problem with the content on this page had to do with the tilapia legal information itself. As it turns out, most of the people picking up the phones didn't have answers. We could call three times and get three different responses to the same question. This was also frustrating for our readers who let us know about it on a regular basis. This page was costing a fortune in time to maintain and we weren't getting anything in return, so we were left with only one solution.

Instead of relying on county clerks and secretaries responding to inquiries for which they have no knowledge, we are going to provide you with a starting point so that you can do your own research. In cases where a particular state has contacted us with more specific information for inclusion, we will offer a bit more detail.

Above all else

Most of the customers to which we ship are not required to have any kind of permit to possess live tilapia. If you are one of the few who are required to have a permit, then it's up to you to decide whether or not to get one. It is not our job to police our customers, so we will not ask. It is neither practical nor possible for us to verify things outside of our field of view, such as the truthfulness of the information that you may or may not have provided to your state officials. We will only do the things that are actually required of us. For example, we will include a transportation permit or a copy of your permit with your shipment if needed, but nothing more.

Questions about purchasing tilapia

Here are the three most common questions about purchasing tilapia. Please note that we have chosen our words very carefully. You are safe to assume that the facts expressed below are accurate but please do not infer anything outside of what has actually been stated.

Is it legal for me to buy tilapia?

Yes. It is absolutely legal for you to buy tilapia fry and fingerlings from Lakeway Tilapia.

I live in ..., can I buy tilapia?

It does not matter where you live. There are absolutely no laws, enacted by any State Legislature, preventing you from buying anything from Lakeway Tilapia.

Will you ship to me in ...?

Yes. Lakeway Tilapia will ship to all 50 states and 16 US territories.

State specific information

Generally speaking, state legislatures do not pass laws prohibiting or limiting aquaculture. States usually leave those decisions up to appointed individuals who set guidelines to aid in the protection of the environment, indigenous wildlife, and certain industries. As for private tilapia farming, their primary concern is with irresponsible people who allow their tilapia to get into state managed lakes and rivers.

Important point: People who set up aquaponics systems then give their fish names and treat them like pets are at the heart of the problem. All animal farming involves killing animals. The fish in aquaponics are no different. Please do not release them. The most humane way to kill tilapia is to put them into a bucket of ice water.

The states below have very easy to follow requirements or offer easy solutions that give their residents an opportunity to enjoy tilapia aquaculture and aquaponics. Wherever possible, we will focus on the easiest solution rather than the legal text. For instance, there's no point in telling you all the rigmarole to getting a permit in Texas, if we can simply advise you to get Mozambique.


The Alaskan salmon industry has flexed their muscles to get all forms of aquaculture (other than salmon) outlawed in Alaska. Fortunately, we can still sell you tilapia of any species as pets. Just promise that you won't eat them.


Okay Canada is not a state, but the rules for Canada are almost the same as for Alaska, so now seems like a good time to mention it. While Canada has not outlawed aquaculture to prevent business competition from non-salmon species, they do make buying fish farming stock from non-Canadian sources a bit more involved. Fortunately, like Alaska, they have no restrictions on fish sold as pets. We are required to include a copy of your importation permit when we ship your fish, or they'll send them back to us.


You can raise Blue and Nile tilapia, as well as their hybrids without a permit in most Florida counties. There are however, a few counties in the panhandle that require a permit for Blue, Nile and their hybrids. They are Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, and Wakulla. In addition, you are required to have a conditional permit anywhere in the state if you intend to raise Mozambique or Wami.


Hawaii requires a little bit of work on your part. The state officials will intercept your tilapia at the airport, open the box and look for the importation permit. It's no trouble however, Lakeway Tilapia is on the approved senders list for nearly every state that keeps such lists. Just make sure that you mail us the paperwork to include with the shipment.


Raising tilapia legally in Illinois is easy, but requires a tiny bit of paperwork. The process that they would like you to follow is that you receive an aquaculture permit and a letter of authorization from the IDNR before you start farming your tilapia. There is also a restricted species transportation permit that we are supposed to include with each shipment. You can get the ball rolling by calling 630-360-4182. Note that like Hawaii, we will not ship tilapia into Illinois without including the transportation permit. Please contact us if you experience any challenges.


Oregon residents are limited to Mozambique and there is no approval process for any other species. The general idea is that Mozambique have such a poor tolerance to cold water that they can't survive in Oregon's lakes and rivers. The good news is, we offer Orange Mozambique for Oregonians who wish to farm tilapia worry free.


In our own state of Tennessee, you can raise any tilapia you like without permission except for Wami and Wami Hybrids. Both of those require written permission from the TWRA. Contact us if you are interested in the procedure.


In spite of the fact that every river in Texas, from the Rio Grande to the Canadian, has a variety of tilapia, Texas only allows it's residents to raise Mozambique without going through a lengthy approval process. Not surprising, the approval process involves an evaluation of how you intend to prevent your tilapia from escaping your farm in the event of a flood. Our Orange Mozambique are a perfect choice for Texans who care about keeping the government out of their private tilapia farms.

Additional information

Inspection and certification

Some sites are mis-reporting that a USDA Meat Processing License is required to sell processed filets. This is incorrect. Seafood falls under the FDA, not the USDA. To sell processed filets, you will need a HACCP certification. HACCP is an acronym for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. Cornel University and the National Seafood HACCP Alliance offer an online course that you can complete before taking a final exam in person. Visit for more information.
As you sell your fully grown tilapia, you may encounter buyers who require a health certificate. If this is the case, you will need to contact a private testing lab as there are no government labs that perform this service. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service might be able to assist you in finding a local testing lab. Visit to learn more or to find your local state office.

We've also set up a page to help you understand more about tilapia health inspections here.