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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

​Fin-tastic Facts About The Swai Fish For Kids

Swai fish facts can make you hungry if you are a seafood lover.

If you are a seafood lover, then these facts about the Swai fish will interest you. The Swai is an iridescent shark catfish native to Asia specifically found in the Mekong River and Chao Phraya river in Vietnam and Thailand respectively. Swai is largely consumed all over the world especially in the United States and Australia as a cheap replacement for American catfish. They also make great aquarium fishes because of their looks and faint iridescent glow underwater as juveniles. Presently, their extreme commercialization (breeding more in less space) has led to illegal production of Swai and the malpractice of inducing antibiotics into the sick fishes making them not safe to eat, even though they are full of nutrition. Swai is extremely cheap to raise and feed as they are omnivores with a huge appetite and will eat anything that fits in their mouths, which is why they are available at a very cheap price of $2 per pound.

Whether you have ever had Swai as a pet or a dish or not, read on to know more about this beautiful catfish. To learn more about other animals, then visit lamprey facts and skate fish facts.

Swai Fish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Swai Fish?

The Swai fish is an iridescent shark catfish or a Pangasius.

What class of animal does a Swai Fish belong to?

The Swai fish belongs to the Actinopterygii class of fishes.

How many Swai Fish are there in the world?

It is unclear about the exact population for these Vietnamese catfish or the Swai fish. It is endangered in its natural habitats i.e. in the freshwater rivers such as the Mekong river in Vietnam as it is a freshwater fish. But this Asian catfish is also farmed in freshwaters like ponds, rice paddies and other similar structures, and natural or man-made fish farms as livestock for their meat which has some amounts of healthy omega-3.

Where does a Swai Fish live?

Iridescent sharks are mostly native to Asia. The wild pangasius is known to live mostly in the Mekong River in Vietnam and the river Chao Phraya in Thailand. The Swai fish also belong to the same order as Pangasius and some of them migrate upstream from the Mekong delta or the Maeklong basin and some migrate downstream.

What is a Swai Fish's habitat?

The Asian catfish or the Swai fish are freshwater fish, so they live in freshwater rivers, ponds, lakes, rice paddies, fish farms, or even aquariums. As the Swai fish meat is extremely popular in most parts of the world especially the United States and Australia as seafood, fish farming of these catfish, Swai fish, Basa fish (also a type of catfish) has become a very popular industry in Vietnam and Thailand.

Who do Swai Fish live with?

The Swai fish is a type of iridescent shark but despite the name, it is not a shark but a catfish. Both these types of fish are egg-laying creatures and live in huge clusters and they also migrate in shoals (a group of fish), in their natural habitat. The juvenile Swai fish are known to school together and separate as adults.

How long does a Swai Fish live?

Swai fish can live up to 20 years in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

The Swai fish are egg-laying creatures. They migrate upstream to their breeding grounds during late summer and monsoon season which is also the flooding season as they prefer laying eggs in high waters. The female Swai catfish may lay up 4000-100,000 eggs in one season, then the male Swai catfish fertilizes the eggs with his sperm while swimming together in the nest built by either the female or both male and female catfish. Once they are fertilized, the male chases the female away and guards the eggs until they hatch.

What is their conservation status?

The wild Swai fish is listed as Endangered in their natural habitat in the IUCN red list due to excessive fishing of these Vietnamese catfish. But they also come under the Least Concern category as they are conserved in fisheries through fish farming in Vietnam mostly for commercial use. The main problem Pangasius face currently is the absence of genetic variation. Due to the lack of varied options to mate from, the pangasius bred in captivity will show less genetic variation than the wild Swai fish. The farmers in the fish farming business do not consider such characteristics while breeding them.

Swai Fish Fun Facts

What do Swai Fish look like?

The Swai is an iridescent shark catfish also called the Siamese shark or Sutchi catfish. Most of them have silver scales, beige skin, and small whiskers. Like most shark catfish, the Pangasius also have a small dorsal fin on top of their bodies and the edge of their fins have a shiny iridescent glow underwater, making them a popular choice for aquariums. The adults are uniformly gray but the juvenile has two black stripes along and below the lateral line.

Swai fish facts are fun to read for their nutrition facts.

How cute are they?

The Swai fish is largely consumed as cheap catfish meat. That said, these iridescent shark catfish have a shiny silver body with a shark-like dorsal fin, small whiskers, and most importantly the faint iridescent glow at the end of the fins that make them quite a beautiful creature to look at and definitely makes them cute.

How do they communicate?

The Swai fish like most catfish smell their prey through their taste buds. Catfish also produce a sound and amplifies the vibration with the help of an organ attached to their swimbladder to communicate with other catfish. The Pangasius as aquarium pets tends to get scared easily and tend to knock on the glass to communicate their emotions.

How big is a Swai Fish?

In the case of Swai fish, the male fish and female fish are almost similar in size. An adult Swai fish can reach up to 4.3 ft (130 cm) in length and weigh up to 97 lb (44 kg). They are comparatively on the larger side of the catfish family as they are a little bigger and have more meat than the catfish, Basa.

How fast can a Swai Fish swim?

It is currently unclear about the exact swimming speed of Swai fish due to a lack of sufficient information and research.

How much does a Swai Fish weigh?

A fully grown adult Swai fish can normally weigh between 50-100 lb (22.7-45.4 kg), and the largest ever Swai fish captured was 97 lb (44 kg).  

What are their male and female names of the species?

As most fishes, in general, don't have separate names for males and females, the Swai doesn't either.

What would you call a baby Swai Fish?

Swai catfish babies are called fry just like all types of fish babies are called.

What do they eat?

Swai fish or the Pangasius are omnivores and will eat anything they can find as they have a never-ending appetite, especially in their natural habitat. As young fish, Swai tend to eat more live and meaty food and as they get older they follow a plant-based diet. In aquarium tanks and fisheries, they require a balanced diet, and the best options to feed them are bloodworms, brine shrimps, worms, and feeder fish.

Are they dangerous?

Swai fish is naturally harmless and timid in nature. In fact, iridescent sharks are known for their skittish and nervous nature, and they are easily scared. In their natural habitat, they are often harassed by larger more aggressive fish. The Swai fish is a peaceful fish, even in aquariums, they are kept in a relatively peaceful corner as they can get easily scared of loud noises or any human passing by the tank.

Would they make a good pet?

The Swai catfish can make an excellent pet if you are looking for a pet that won't require constant attention and high maintenance. They are beautiful fish and live up to 20 years. It is highly advised to model the tank for the Swai fish based on a river which means a lot of open swimming space with rocks and driftwood at the bottom of the tank with a soft muddy bed. They get very stressed when alone so it is better to have a cluster of four to five Swai fish as pets than a singular iridescent shark catfish swimming in stress. Thus, they require an open middle water column where they will spend most of their time. A 300-gallon tank is ideal for an adult Swai fish but an extra 150 gallon should be added for every fish you add.  

Did you know...

The Swai fish is also called 'naked catfish' as they do not have any bony plates on their body.

There have been instances where the iridescent shark catfish has jumped out of the tank or cracked the glass when getting startled.

Iridescent sharks or Swai fish do not sleep.

Even though both Swai and Basa fish meat are popular replacements for American catfish, Pangasius is forbidden to be marketed as catfish in the United States.

The Swai fish are also deep-water fish and are often regarded as bottom feeders.

Do people eat Swai fish?

As commercially produced catfish, Swai fish are eating fish and are largely consumed for their meat and is a popular replacement for American catfish in the United States, Australia, and several European countries. Even though they are found naturally in Vietnam, the high demand for Swai meat has lead to excessive fishing and ultimately the scarcity of the catfish. In the present day, they are bred in controlled farming environments and freshwater until they are big enough to be harvested for consumption. Swai fish is absolutely safe to eat given they were bred in an ideal and fair farming environment and are a very good source of nutrition full of protein, and high amounts of Selenium, Niacin, and vitamin B12. Most catfish meat is known to have a flaky texture but the Swai has a tougher texture and blander taste than its relative species like the Basa. The Pangasius have relatively lower mercury content i.e. two parts per billion, but if consumed on a regular basis in high quantities may be fatal and cause health problems. Eating various types of fish that are wild-caught can be very beneficial for your health as well. Like most seafood, Swai is also rich in healthy fats like omega-3. Nutrition facts on Swai meat according to USDA says that a 4-ounce fillet of Swai can provide 70 calories, 15 g protein, 1.5 g fat, 350 mg sodium (variable), 450 mg of cholesterol, and 17 mg of EPA and DHA.  

Swai has become popular meat in demand, thus often farmers do malpractice and wrongly breed these fish in unhealthy farming environments. They are often illegally marketed to replace American catfish in the seafood industry. A wild-caught Swai is much safer to eat than a commercially raised frozen fish we find in the supermarkets. In several illegal fish farms, they are raised in filthy waters, treated with antibiotics when they get sick which gives rise to several microbes and if consumed can lead to several health problems as only 2% of seafood is checked for antibiotics drug residue.

Differences and similarities with other common fish

Swai fish is closely related to Basa and both are native to the Mekong River in Vietnam and often mistaken with each other. The Swai also has a close resemblance to Tilapia and like Basa and Swai, it is a freshwater fish and highly consumed for its meat as well.  

The Basa has whiter meat whereas Swai is more beige and a 4-ounce Basa fillet is thicker than that of Swai. Tilapia is not native to Vietnam or Asia, they are found throughout the world in freshwaters. The nutrition content of Swai, Basa, and Tilapia are also different though not by far. All three of them contain similar amounts of mercury and omega-3 fatty acids which are good for the health.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including codfish, or fluke fish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our fish coloring pages.

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