MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are key regulators of gene expression in multicellular organisms. The elucidation of miRNA function and evolution depends on the identification and characterization of miRNA repertoire of strategic organisms, as the fast-evolving cichlid fishes. Using RNA-seq and comparative genomics we carried out an in-depth report of miRNAs in Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), an emergent model organism to investigate evo-devo mechanisms. Five hundred known miRNAs and almost one hundred putative novel vertebrate miRNAs have been identified, many of which seem to be teleost-specific, cichlid-specific or tilapia-specific. Abundant miRNA isoforms (isomiRs) were identified with modifications in both 5p and 3p miRNA transcripts. Changes in arm usage (arm switching) of nine miRNAs were detected in early development, adult stage and even between male and female samples. We found an increasing complexity of miRNA expression during ontogenetic development, revealing a remarkable synchronism between the rate of new miRNAs recruitment and morphological changes. Overall, our results enlarge vertebrate miRNA collection and reveal a notable differential ratio of miRNA arms and isoforms influenced by sex and developmental life stage, providing a better picture of the evolutionary and spatiotemporal dynamics of miRNAs.