Tilapia has been named as the ‘food fish of the 21st century’ and has become the most important farmed fish. China is the world leader in tilapia production and export. Identifying information and functional requirements is critical in developing an efficient traceability system because traceability has become a fundamental prerequisite for exporting aquaculture products. Results: This paper examines the export-oriented tilapia chains and information flow in the chains, and identifies the key actors, information requirements and information-capturing points. Unified Modeling Language (UML) technology is adopted to describe the information and functionality requirement for chain traceability. The barriers of traceability system adoption are also identified. Conclusion: The results show that the traceability data consist of four categories that must be recorded by each link in the chain. The functionality requirement is classified into four categories from the fundamental information record to decisive quality control; the top three barriers to the traceability system adoption are: high costs of implementing the system, lack of experienced and professional staff; and low level of government involvement and support.