How to Tell if Tilapia is Bad?

When tilapia reaches a certain point in its life, it is likely spoiled or contaminated. It is common to assume that it can be cooked within four minutes, and the fish can rot and become contaminated with pathogens such as ciguatera or scombroid. If you do not notice any of these signs, your tilapia is probably good to eat. How to tell whether your tilapia is bad, check for the appearance of ammonia. It may smell fishy at first but will grow stronger after cooking. It also smells like rotten fish or spoiled ground beef.

How to Tell if Tilapia Is Bad

Tilapia that has been refrigerated for more than 90 minutes will develop foul odors and turn grayish or whitish.  If you notice any of these signs, discard the fish. You can acquire two types of food poisoning from eating fish. Ciguatera poisoning and scombroid poisoning are the two types of poisoning. Abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are signs of ciguatera toxicity. Headaches, muscle aches, and itchy, tingling, or numb skin are possible symptoms.

How to Tell if Tilapia is Bad?

Another indicator that tilapia is terrible is if the fish has been spoiled. Fish that have been spoiled are more likely to be contaminated with ciguatera or scombroid, which are found in the fish’s internal organs. Fortunately, most people do not eat these parts of tilapia. So it’s unlikely to cause any harm.

As previously stated, Tilapia is a very adaptable fish to cook with, and it’s the ideal fish for picky non-fish eaters because its flavor is nearly non-existent.  While many people enjoy this fish. There are some essential differences between it and other fish you may have purchased and preserved. Let’s begin by discussing how to buy fresh Tilapia and what to look for:


The flesh of fresh fish should be stiff and resistant to the pressure of a finger poking it. The skin of Tilapia should also appear a little strange, as it is generally covered in a protective coating of mucus, which the fish secretes to defend itself from harmful water-borne pathogens.

It’s important to remember that the film mentioned above should only be used on the fish’s skin, not the flesh or fillet. The flesh should be firm, with glossy flakes of muscle, and the indentation should dissipate fast. If you poke it lightly with your finger once the skin has been removed.

Another thing to bear in mind is the color of the meat. The flesh of raw fillets will have prominent red bloodlines or veins, and the flesh will be pinkish-white in color. Once cooked, the flesh will turn white. But do note, one side of the fish will be slightly darker, as this is the side that the skin was on.


Any fluid flowing from fresh fish, including Tilapia, or sitting in it in the case of pre-packaged fish should be avoided.

While Tilapia fillets or whole fish can often be sold with the skin on and the film membrane intact, any runny liquids pooling around the fish or fillet should never be sold.


Fresh seafood, including saltwater and freshwater fish, should not have a ‘fishy’ odor, and you should smell a slight sense of fish and the waterways from where it came. Tilapia is no exception.

The foul odor is created by various internal sections of the fish’s body degrading over time, resulting in an extremely ‘fishy’ odor. So, if the fish you’re choosing smells fishy or isn’t clean enough to have just come out of the water in the last few hours, don’t buy it because it’s far from fresh!


Freshness can be judged by looking for firm flakes, a stiff body, and clear eyes in any whole fish. When purchasing a filleted fish, though, the situation is similar.

Even if you don’t have a whole fish to test for hardness, the fillets should be stiff and the flakes firm enough to withstand pressure from a poking finger.

If the flake falls apart or your finger leaves a mark that does not fade quickly, the fish is old and should not be purchased.


How long has the Tilapia been iced or refrigerated? It may come as a surprise to learn that you should not keep fish refrigerated for lengthy periods and that it can go wrong in your refrigerator.

Many people assume that if the fish is kept sealed and cool in the fridge, it will last an unlimited amount of time, and this is incorrect and will undoubtedly spoil the fish.

Instead, eat your Tilapia as soon as possible, preferably the same day you buy it, and only keep it for 1-2 days if necessary.

What does Tilapia Taste Like?

The flesh of cooked tilapia is white, tender, and firm, with a flaky texture. The taste of tilapia is influenced by the growth environment, such as water quality and feed, but good-quality tilapia has a mild, sweet flavor. The flavor of tilapia varies depending on whether it is caught in the wild in the ocean or is a farmed aqua-culture version. The flavor of this fish will be influenced by its environment.

How to Tell if Tilapia Is Bad?

How to Tell if Tilapia is Bad When Frozen?

  • According to the FDA, any food that has been reliably stored at or below 0 C/32 F will keep indefinitely.
  • On the other hand, the manner of storage has an impact on the Tilapia.
  • How can you tell if your Tilapia is terrible if it’s frozen? Freezer burn is commonly visible as a chalky-white discoloration of the flesh that rests on top of the natural or expected color.
  • The length of time spent in the freezer is also a helpful indicator; anything more than 12 months is unwise.
  • Frozen Tilapia that has spoiled after being thawed will appear like spoiled raw fish, as shown in the indicators above.
  • Any rotten fish should be thrown away right away.

How Long Does Tilapia Last?

So, now that you’ve purchased your fish, whether from a fisherman or a supermarket, how long do you expect it to last? The times can vary greatly depending on where you keep it; read on to learn more:

In the Fridge

Any fish will stay in your fridge for 1-2 days if kept below 4 degrees Celsius/39 degrees Fahrenheit; it is unwise to eat the fish because it may have rotted but not yet shown apparent signs of it.

It’s safer to buy and eat fresh fish or consume pre-packaged fish long before the ‘Use By’ date on pre-packaged fish.

In the Freezer

Any food, including Tilapia, will stay indefinitely in a freezer kept at 0 C/32 F.

However, because the temperature of most freezers fluctuates as they are opened and closed, it is best not to keep your Tilapia for more than 6-9 months or longer than 12 months.

On the Countertop

Once the temperature rises above 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the fish begins to turn rapidly, which occurs quickly at room temperature. As a general rule, any fish should not be left at room temperature (average of 25 C/77 F) for more than 70 minutes and no more than 90 minutes in extreme cases.

Fish left for longer than this is more likely to spoil quickly, and eating spoiled fish can cause gastroenterological severe sickness or even death in certain situations. Any fish left out at room temperature for more than 90 minutes should be discarded.

How to Store Tilapia?

Store your Tilapia in an airtight container, whether in the fridge, freezer, or on the counter. But, after that, what do you do with it?

In the Fridge

Your whole or filleted Tilapia will stay for 1-2 days in the back of your fridge, where it’s constantly cooler, with no further storing instructions.

Avoid leaving fish or other sensitive foods towards the front of the fridge since the door’s opening, and closing will impact the temperature, perhaps causing spoiling.

However, right before cooking, you can use the airtight container to marinade or infuse some flavors into the fish. Make sure your fish is still fresh!

In the Freezer

Any fish should not be placed directly on frozen surfaces because this can cause freezer burn and spoilage. Instead, wrap it in several layers of greaseproof paper or thick plastic (such as old bread bags). Before placing it in a freezer-safe airtight container.

This will ensure that the sub-zero temperatures do not harm the fish. You may also gently infuse your Tilapia fillets with herbs and spices by freezing them. Then, once thawed, grill for deliciously flavorful fish.

On the Countertop

As stated in the preceding paragraph, leaving any fish on a countertop for an extended period is dangerous. However, doing so right before cooking is fine. When the temperature of the fish reaches 4 C/32 F. It’s time to infuse it with herbs and spices. Boil the fish as soon as possible and store it in an airtight container in the interim.


When tilapia is unfrozen, it can be stored for several days or frozen for nine months. However, the quality of the fish will decrease after eight months. The fish can be refrozen for up to six months, but it should never be left at room temperature. If you buy frozen tilapia, make sure to refrigerate it right after thawing it.

If you notice a foul odor in your tilapia, it may be infected or have a sexually transmitted disease. Similarly, it is likely to be wrong if it smells like ammonia. Frozen tilapia can be kept indefinitely, and as long as the packaging is intact, it won’t spoil. In case of freezer burn, it may be dry and will not taste as good as fresh. Once cooked, tilapia is usually best kept in shallow airtight containers.

The best method is to wrap the fish in heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Cooked tilapia will last three to four days in the refrigerator. However, it is essential to avoid eating tilapia that smells sour and is slimy or has a dull color. Fresh tilapia can also be stored in the refrigerator, but refrigeration only slows, not preventing bacterial growth.