Does Swai Fish Have Fins And Scales: Is It Safe to Eat?

Swai fish, like most other catfish, do not have scales. They have five sets of fins, though. They have dorsal fins, caudal fins, pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins. These fins help them swim efficiently and maintain their balance and stability under the water. 

The absence of scales raises some challenges for swai fish. They are more prone to predators, parasites, and other environmental elements. However, their thicker skins, mucous secretions, and other behaviors help them survive without scales. 

You can eat swai fish, and they are somewhat safe if collected from a trusted source. Eating them has both positive and negative aspects. It is important to consider both the pros and cons before you incorporate or rule out this fish from your diet. 

What Is A Swai Fish?

Swai fish has many names in different parts of the world. Their scientific name is Pangasius hypophthalmus. The other names it is known by include pangasius, basa, tra, etc. The fish is popular in several countries because of their affordable price. 

Swai fish is native to freshwater in the Mekong river, Southeast Asia. However, their popularity has recently increased in the United States. Here are some other key features of the fish:

  • Swai fish is adapted to warm water environments
  • Swai fish are omnivorous, meaning that they can eat a wide variety of food. From eating small fish to crustaceous and plant matter, they eat it all. It makes them easy fish to keep on farms.
  • This fish has a rapid growth rate if you can manage proper water quality
  • They are low in fat and offer mild flavor along with a flaky texture. 
  • They are bottom feeders. It means that the fish feed on the food it finds at the bottom of the water.

How Many Fins Does a Swai Have?

Swai fish, like most other fins, have several fins. The exact number varies depending on which development stage the fish is in. 

1. Dorsal Fins

The adult ones usually have two dorsal fins. You will notice that one fin is close to the head while the other is close to the tail. The front fins, which are near the head, have spines on them. It helps them keep their balance and stability. The second dorsal fin has soft rays and helps in swimming. 

The primary responsibility of the dorsal fins is to ensure the fish does not lose its stability and balance. The structure of the fins helps the purpose. 

2. Anal Fins

Swai fish have a pair of anal fins near the anal. These fins help them in navigation and stability. When they need to change their direction during swimming, they use the anal fins to do it swiftly. It saves them from getting hit by underwater elements. 

3. Other fins

Apart from dorsal and anal fins, swai also have caudal, pectoral, and pelvic fins. Swai fish have two pectoral fins in their midsection. There is one pectoral fin on both sides of the fish. This helps them maintain their balance while swimming. The pelvic fins, located on the ventral side, collaborate and aid in the functionality of the fins. 

The caudal fin, which is also known as the tail fin, helps the fish move forward. This fin is comparatively wider and stronger. With the thrashing of the tail, they can gain the momentum and energy for roaming around. 

Why Does Swais Fish Not Have Scales?

Though swai fish have fins, they do not have any scales. It makes them an interesting creature of freshwater. You must be aware of the importance of scales in the life of swai. However, the fish has evolved to adjust accordingly and get advantages.

  • The lack of scales makes swai fish lightweight. They do not have to bear the extra weight of the scales. It makes them faster in swimming, and they can swim using less energy compared to fishes that have scales. 
  • Swai fish have evolved to survive without the scales. Their skin is much thicker than that of most other fish. It prevents parasites and other harmful objects from entering their bodies. 

Distinct Physical Features of the Swai Fish?

Swai fish have several unique features that make them easy to recognize. You should focus on these features when purchasing them. 

  • Swai fish have an elongated and slender body.
  • The lack of scales makes their skin smooth. However, the skin is thicker than other fish.
  • Swai fish have an excellent and powerful vision both above and underwater. Their eyes are large and placed upon their heads. This gives them a unique appearance, as most freshwater fish have eyes on the side of their head. 
  • Another distinct feature of this fish is that they have barbels around their mouth area. You can easily distinguish this fish from other fishes if you remember this. 
  • Their color can vary depending on the location. In most cases, the fish has a grayish-white coloration. 

Is Swai Fish Healthy to Eat?

Now, here is an important question. Can you eat swai fish? Well, many people eat them regularly. However, there are a few things you need to consider. 

1. Nutritional Value of Swai Fish

NutrientAmount (per 113 gm)
Omega-3 fat11 mg
Protein15 grams
Selenium26% of the RDI
Vitamin B129% of the RDI
Cholesterol45 grams
Carbs0 grams
Sodium350 mg

You can see from the table that the swai fish do not offer a wide range of nutrients. And the amount is also not very high. There are still some good reasons for you to both add or remove it from your diet. 

Is Swai Fish Healthy to Eat
Is Swai Fish Healthy to Eat

2. Why You May Eat Swai Fish

Here are some of the valid reasons that might encourage you to add swai fish to your diet. 

i. The Price Is Affordable

This is a clear fact that the price of swai fish is comparatively low. This encourages many people to opt for the fish. As the fish does not have scales, many people avoid eating them. It makes them less in demand, so the price does not go high. While eating them regularly is not a good choice, you can have them sometimes to save some money

ii. The Taste Is Not Bad

The taste will not disappoint you if you have not tried it yet. The fish has a mild taste that makes it good for both adults and children. The flavor of the fish easily gets mixed with other food items. You can have them with other foods, and both will complicate each other. This makes them an ideal choice for cooking various items. 

iii. It Adds Some Variations to Your Diet

Eating the same fish can bore anyone. Swai fish can save you from this boredom. The fish can add some variation to your diet. As the fish itself is versatile, you can prepare different dishes and improve your food habits. As the fish is not expensive either, you can easily add some variation to your diet without increasing the cost much. 

3. Reasons for Not Eating Swai Fish

Despite having some benefits, there are some pretty good reasons to avoid eating swai fish. You must go through these before purchasing them.

i. They Contain Harmful Microbes

One of the major reasons for not eating these fish is that they contain high amounts of microbes. Some studies claim that about 80% of swai fish contain harmful vibrio bacteria. Consuming this fish can cause some serious issues to your health. 

Besides, in most cases, these fishes are not technically considered catfish. They do not go through the same kind of research treatment. Therefore, you have little chance to know whether the fish you are buying is safe or not. 

ii. These Fishes Are Often Drugged

As the fish do not have any scales, they are prone to parasite infection. Their skin comes to direct interaction with various underwater objects. All these make them vulnerable to various diseases. 

Commercial farms use different types of antibiotics and drugs on them. It enhances their survival rate. At the same time, it makes them harmful to your health. Some research shows that swai fish can increase your cancer risk. 

iii. Not A Very Healthy Food

You need to think about the foods you are eating. Are they meeting your daily nutrition demands? Your health can be at risk if you do not eat proper nutritious food. Swai fish does not offer all the necessary nutrition you need. It lacks protein and contains a small amount of vitamins and minerals. This makes them not so ideal for eating regularly.

Alternative to Swai Fish for Eating

There are many other alternative fishes that you can add to your diet. These fishes are safe and contain much more nutritional value. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, tilapia, etc., are some healthy alternatives to swai fish. 

  • These fish contain a good amount of vitamins that your body needs to stay healthy.
  • They offer you different types of minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, manganese, etc. These minerals are important for your bones’ health
  • Fishes like sardines, tilapia, and whiting fish contain a very low amount of mercury. It makes them the least harmful to your health. Additionally, they are also low in sugar, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. 
  • All these fish provide you with protein, the building block of your cells. You need protein to stay healthy and strong. Protein plays an important role in strengthening your immune system. 
  • These fish also have a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. This nutrient is crucial for your brain health. 

Other Fishes that Do Not Have Scales

Swai fish is not the only fish without scales. There are hundreds of other fish that have the same feature. It makes them somewhat similar to some extent. Here is a list of fish that do not have scales on their body. 

Parasitic CatfishJellynose Fish
Sea DevilSlickhead
Barbeled DragonfishEel
AnglerfishSmooth Dogfish Shark
Blind CavefishHagfish
Snakehead FishOcean Sunfish
RatfishCusk Eel


Is Swai Fish Kosher?

No, swai fish is not kosher. They have fins but no scales. A fish needs to have both fins and scales to be considered kosher. However, many people still eat these fish because of their affordable price. 

Does Swai Fish Have Bones?

The filets of swai fish are boneless. It makes them convenient to cook and easy to eat for children and seniors. However, the lack of nutritional value makes them not an ideal choice for children. 

Is Swai Fish High in Mercury?

Swai fish is not usually high in mercury. They still contain a trace amount of mercury. It makes them somewhat harmful to eat. They also contain other germs, microbes, and waste, which make them often unhealthy to eat. 

Is Swai fish a shark?

No, swai is not a shark. They have some similarities with sharks, especially their dorsal fins, which are similar to sharks. Therefore, many people mistake them for sharks, which is not true. They do not possess any biological connection to sharks. 

Is swai fish an unclean fish to eat?

On a surface level, swai fish are considered safe and clean. Many people purchase and eat them. However, the problem with these fishes is that they often bear germs and bacteria. This makes them harmful to consume. 

Is Swai healthier than tilapia?

No, swai is not healthier than tilapia. Swai does have some food value, but it is much less than tilapia. Tilapia fish are packed with different vitamins and minerals, which make them a popular fish across different parts of the globe. 

Is Swai considered a white fish?

Yes, swai is considered a white fish. They have neutral-favored white flesh. It encourages many people to eat them. However, their not having scales and not containing much food value often make them a cheaper option. 

Are swai and the Asian catfish the same?

Yes, swai is also called Asian catfish in some parts of the world. However, the US laws do not allow the fish to be called in this name any longer. You had better call it swai, basa, or other permitted names. 


Swai fish do not have scales, and this makes them vulnerable to various underwater issues. They contain harmful substances and microbes that make them harmful to consume. You should be careful and read the product details carefully while purchasing them. There are some healthier alternatives available as well that you can replace swai with.

Leave a Comment