The sex chromosomes of tilapias (family Cichlidae; genera Oreochromis, Sarotherodon and Tilapia) have been studied for over 50 years, which has gained interest from both agricultural and basic scientific perspectives. Several closely related tilapia species which can interbreed have been studied, and it has been repeatedly demonstrated that there is variation within and between species in the chromosomal sex-determination mechanism. Both male and female heterogametic sex-determination systems have been characterized, as well as epistatic and environmental influences on sex determination. Three different linkage groups (LG1, LG3 and LG23) have been identified as sex-associated chromosomes and have been subjected to further cytogenetic research and analyses of the genes located around the sex-determining region. Variation in the genetic and physical characteristics of the sex chromosomes makes tilapias an excellent model system for studying the evolution of vertebrate sex chromosomes. This review summarizes the progress made along 5 decades of research and the current knowledge of the tilapias' sex chromosomes.