Swai Fish: Should You Eat or Avoid It?

Written by Resurchify | Updated on: February 13, 2023

Swai Fish: Should You Eat or Avoid It?

Swai dish is a freshwater fish found commonly in south Asian countries. They are native to Vietnam and widely found in Thailand. It is widely exported, and it is very popular among fish eaters. In this article, we will talk about it. 

The scientific name of the Swai fish is Pangasianodon hypophthalmus. They belong to the Pangasiidae family of the Animalia kingdom. It is the reason they are also known as panga or pangasius. Swai fish is also known as Iridescent shark panga, pangasius, sutchi, striped catfish, Vietnamese catfish, and tra. 

Characteristics of the fish are as follows:

  • They have prominent silver scales and are beige.  
  • They have whiskers. (due to this, they are often called a type of Asian catfish)
  • They are around 2-4 feet in height. 
  • The average weight of the fish is around 22 - 45 kilograms. 
  • Some of the unique characteristics of these fish are shark-like dorsal fins and the shiny edges of their fins. 
  • They are omnivorous fish. They have a large appetite and thus can consume plants and even small fishes. 

If the fish is left to grow, it grows a lot bigger. They are often called sharks due to their shark-like skin and fins. 


They grow in freshwater. They are found in the Mekong river that flows in Southeast Asia. The flow upstream during late summers.  They are native to Vietnam, but can also be naturally found in Thailand.

Commercially Farmed Swai Fish

The wild Swai fish is considered endangered. It is because Swai fish has no significant defense system making it primary prey for birds, animals, and even humans. Thus, to keep this species alive, they are farmed in an artificial setting to be used as livestock. 

For this purpose, they are bred in a man-made pond, rice field, and other safe water bodies. They are fed high-fiber food such as barley, oats, and other grain. 

Uses of Swai Fish

  • They are popular to be used as livestock. They are used to make many fish dishes as the white flesh of the fish have a sweet flavor and a tough texture. 
  • They are largely exported to other countries from south Asian countries. It should be noted that wild Swai fish is an endangered species and thus should not be fished directly from the source river. The livestock Swai fish is bred in an artificial setting. 
  • It is often used in the aquarium. For this purpose, their growth is stunted with the use of medications. 

Swai Fish for Cooking

It has a sweet and mild taste. It has a tough texture. It is considered a cheaper alternative to the American catfish. 

They are rich in nutrients, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and B12. They are also found to have linoleic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid(EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). It makes it highly chosen by fish eaters. They are available in the frozen food section of food markets. If you live in a South Asian country, you might even find it fresh. The meat cat is used like any other fish. It can be fried, baked, broiled, or used any way you like.

They are found to be good for your heart, brain, and eyes. 

Risks Involved In The Consumption Of Swai Fish

Swai fish is safe for consumption, but the farming process is what induces the risk. One should check labels before purchasing and buying good quality fish only. Here are some of the risks that are induced due to bad farming practices. 

Chemical Contamination: when the farmer exposes the pound or water body in which the fish grows to chemicals this can happen. The chemical products could be antibiotics, breeding products, or just water-cleaning products. All of this could stick to the fish. If the fish is in these conditions for more time it can cause problems. It is because the chemicals can absorb in the scales and skin. 

Metal Contamination: Studies found traces of cadmium, lead, nickel, copper, and mercury in a majority of the fish samples. These contaminants can cause serious health issues

Bacterial Contamination: often the farmers do not focus on the water at all. It can lead to bacterial or microbial contamination of the fish. You may not even be able to see this.

There was chaos when some restaurants in western countries, used Asian catfish as an alternative to catfish in their dishes without the knowledge of the customers. It was because the Asian catfish is much cheaper and similar to the expensive catfish. FDA took steps and made strict rules for the proper labeling of fish and its use of it. 

The farming practices of Swai make its consumption so debatable. It is because of the following reasons:

Use of Chemicals

A lot of cultivators use chemical products in the water to improve breeding. Some of these chemicals are harmful to the animals, livestock, and humans living in that area and using the same water. 

Fish Life

To increase the yield of fish, they use products to increase the rate of reproduction. It can affect the health and life of fish. It is because the products used can affect its immune system and reproduction. 

Use of Antibiotics

Farms sometimes use excessive antibiotics which can have adverse effects.

Is Swai Fish Safe For Consumption?

A Swai fish is raised in a good pound, which is taken good care of and also labeled properly so you can eat it without any problem.

 It is seen that some of the commercial cultivation pounds are not that good. Also, they have poor caretakers of such farms, who just focus on breeding to sell more. They just want to focus on quantity and not quality, thus fish from those pounds might be contaminated. Thus, you must read the labels of the fish you buy very thoroughly. 

If you are still skeptical about the Swai fish you can try other alternatives such as salmon, tilapia, basa, haddock, and many more. These are close alternatives with slight differences in taste and texture of meat.

Fish Fraud

It is also known as seafood fraud. Here there are many unfair practices done by fishers and fish marketers to gain more profits. These unfair practices include: 


Here one species of fish is substituted with some other cheaper species. Here the fish are marketed wrongly without changing labels. The fish has many similarities and thus can mislead local buyers and even restaurant owners. 


Ice is used excessively in the packaging. It increases the weight of the fish package but decreases the weight of the fish meat in the package. It leads to less quantity of fish compared to what it might be labeled. 


Sometimes the fish are transported to other locations to avoid taxes and tariffs. It not only harms the import and export, but also the quality of the fish. Often to increase profit, some may fish accessive cheaper fish. It leads to an imbalance in the species of marine life. It can make some species endangered as seen in the Swai fish.

This fish fraud has many harms to many people:

  • The owner and chefs are charged for some fish and served with other similar fish. It might affect the dish and even lead to problems for the chef.  
  • Risk to the marine life balance. Overfishing and fish exploitation have been common nowadays. 
  • The health of people is at risk. To increase profit, they often mislead the consumers by providing different fish, or low-quality fish. It might have risk factors for the health of consumers.

Safety Measures While Consuming Swai Fish

As mentioned earlier Swai is a fish that is a cheaper alternative to many fishes. This makes it a perfect fish for one to be scammed with fish fraud. 


There are mainly three colors of Swai fish meat available in the market. It can be helpful to identify the quality of the fish. 

The Swai fish meat could be white, pink, or yellow. They are also available in light pink and light yellow colors.

  • The white and light pink color of Swai fish represents that it is of high quality and from a good source plant. It also indicates that the fish is not treated or treated to a very minimal amount. It makes it safe for consumption and is preferred by chefs. 
  • The pink color of the meat indicates that it is not bleed well. It indicates the second-tier quality of the fish. Bleeding the fish refers to the concept of cutting the fish in their artery or near the gills to kill them and preserve the meat. It helps to keep the good quality of the meat for longer and use of raw fish meat easier. 
  • The yellow color indicated the low quality of the fish. It is the cheapest fish cut. The yellow color indicated that the water in which they grew lacked oxygen and other minerals or the water was of low quality. 

One can buy white flesh fish for consumption and not worry about any issues. Although it is advised to purchase from a trusted seller only. One can also buy pink flesh and make sure to clean it thoroughly before use. The chances of it being contaminated are high. Thus, they are better avoided.

To Avoid Fraud

  • Make sure to buy fish from authentic sellers only.
  • Read the labels. Ensure the information provided is well written and not missing out on some vital information. This information includes the source location of the fish and other necessary details. 
  • Try to buy fish with its head attached to it. 

If possible buy Swai fish from a local market where you can see the fish whole. It not only gives you access to know the fish but also provides you access to fresh meat of fish. 

Cooking Condition

The farming condition in which the Swai fish has been grown is hard to know. Even though the labels may be good but there is a high chance that the fish was grown in a contaminated or polluted area. One can’t say for sure about the farming condition unless seen with their eyes. It is often not the case. 

So to avoid any chances of harm, you can take the following steps. These are extra precautions apart from the above-mentioned ways. 

  • Avoid eating raw Swai fish. It is highly risky as the contamination of fish can have a direct effect if consumed raw. 
  • Cook it all the way through. It means not consuming fish when half cooked. It might still have contamination that might cause harm. 

Substitute of Swai Fish

If you are not sure about the consumption of Swai fish, you may switch to some similar alternatives. These options are easily accessible and trustable as well. Some of the options alternatives are as mentioned below: 


The scientific name of tilapia fish is Oreochromis niloticus (Nile Tilapia). Characteristics of tilapia fish:

  • It is a freshwater fish. 
  • It is an omnivorous fish. 
  • They have a band of scales throughout their body. Some species have verticle scales, and some have random patterns of scales. 
  • They have distinct bands on the fins. It is one of the key features of the fish. 
  • It is a white meat fish when cooked. It has a flaky texture with mild flavors. It has a neutral smell. 
  • It is found to be a good source of protein with a low level of saturated fat and calories. They have a slightly high level of unsaturated fat. It makes it widely used for various reasons. 

They are not available to fish from the marine. They are grown in aquaculture and available for consumption at low prices. It is because some marine or wild tilapia are considered to be endangered species, some are even considered artificial fish. This statement is false as they are available in the rivers of the middle east and Africa, in a small amount. 

The white meat, flaky texture, and protein levels make it one of the most preferable alternatives to the Swai fish. These both are available at a cheaper price and thus makes them widely used by many peoples. The only difference is that tilapia fish can be grown in any place with proper aquaculture. Thus, it is available fresh in the market. While Swai fish is only available in frozen form in an area other than southeast Asia. 


Salmon is very similar to Swai fish in many aspects. They both have flaky textures, and sweet taste, and have mild or no smell. They also have similar nutrient contents such as a good amount of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. The scientific name of salmon is Salmonidae. It belongs to the Animalia kingdom. 

Characteristics of the salmon fish: 

  • Salmon fish have many species with slightly different characteristics. One of the major differences is the color of the skin. They can be found in Brown, Red, Blue, Green, Purple, and Silver. 
  • They sometimes drive upstream for reproduction. As they move upstream, their physical characteristics (color and body shape) change a little. 
  • They are usually saltwater fish. However, they come into fresh water to lay eggs and thus are born into fresh waters. 
  • They are carnivorous fishes. They consume small fishes, squids, and worms. 
  • They are found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean and also found in the Pacific ocean. 

They can be wild or farm-grown fishes. However, wild fishes are vulnerable due to being prey for other larger fishes, animals, birds, and humans. People prefer farm-grown salmon as they are high in nutrients compared to wild fish. The farm-grown fish mature rapidly compared to the wild fish. 


The cod has a similar taste to the Swai fish. It is also a white meat fish. However, the textures of these two are different, as the cod fish has a firm and chunky texture. 

It is also known as cod fish. Cod is a widely used fish that has many uses such as making food, cod liver oil, and many more. It belongs to the Godus genus of the Animalia kingdom. There are many pieces of the fish depending upon their location. Some of the most known species are the Atlantic cod and Pacific cod. As could be understood from the name, they are found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Characteristics of the fish:

  • It is Saltwater fish. 
  • They are green or grey-brown.
  • They have scaled skin.
  • They are found to have three dorsal fins and two anal fins. 
  • Their weight may vary from 15 - 96 kilograms. 
  • They are Carnicourous fish. They consume smaller fish, shellfish, and warms. 
  • They are found near the seafloor. They are found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. 
  • The Pacific cod are smaller compared to the Atlantic cod. 

Are Swai fish and Catfish the same?

Swai fish is often called Asian catfish. It is widely used as a cheaper alternative to catfish as they have a similar flavor. Swai fish also has a similar flaky texture to catfish. However, they are not very similar in many aspects. FDI also promotes not using catfish and Swai fish interchangeably. 

The major differences between Catfish and Swai fish are:

Biological Family

Swai fish belong to the Pangasiidae family. Catfish belong to the Ictaluridae family. These two are different and thus can’t be used as interchangeable terms. It is the difference based on which FDI banned the selling of Swai under the name of catfish. 


The most prominent difference between the fishes is their habitat. Swai grows mostly in Asia. While catfish, a freshwater fish can grow worldwide in favorable conditions. 

Catfish prefer slow or moderate speeds of water and are mostly found in similar water bodies. Swai fish prefers to stay in fast-paced water flow. It should be noted that Swai in their natural habitat is endangered and thus available only in controlled farmed conditions. 

Wild catfish can be used while it is not allowed to fish wild Swai fish. Swai fish is mostly found as farmed fish. 

Physical Appearance

The Swai fish grow much more than the catfish. It also leads to the weight difference between these two. Swai has distinctive shark-like glowing fins, while catfish have normal small fins. The Swai fish has a silver or dark gray upper body and a beige belly area. The catfish has the same color throughout the body which is olive or grey. 


Even though catfish and Swai have the same amount of protein the Omega-3 fat is very high in catfish. 


Swai fish is freshwater, white flesh fish. It is commonly found in the Mekong river. It makes it native to Vietnam. It is widely popular in western countries as it is a cheap alternative to the American catfish. They are bred in an artificial waterbody to be treated as livestock. 

They are characterized by their silver scale, beige skin, and shark-like shiny dorsal fins. Due to this reason, it is also known as an iridescent shark. They are sweet. They taste a little milder than the normal catfish. 

The livestock farming condition makes its consumption debatable in many countries. The farmers focusing on the quantity often use harsh chemicals and antibiotics. These are often not cleaned properly and thus can cause harm to the human body. They often grow in muddy water. It can lead to chemicals and bacterial contamination of the fish. Though to deal with this FDA has taken necessary control of proper labeling of the fish. It helps to identify and choose the right kind of fish for you. 

Many unfair trade practices come under the umbrella term seafood fraud. Here the fish are substituted with cheaper similar fish without mentioning the switch. Some mislabel the original weight or use more ice to increase the weight. Some evade the taxes and tariffs in various ways affecting the fish quality. All of this affects the quality of the dish, and the health of the person consuming it, and also affects the image of the restaurant or chef. 

One can take some safety measures while buying and using the fish to avoid any complications or harm. You Should check the labels properly, and buy from authentic buyers only. One should buy fish with its head to make sure that it's the same fish they want to buy. Try to buy fresh fish from the local market. Always cook the fish all the way and avoid eating it raw or half-cooked.  

It can be used as an alternative to catfish due to its similar texture and flavor. It should be kept in mind that catfish and Swai fish are not the same fish. They differ in many aspects such as the family of the Animalia kingdom they belong to, habitat, and physical appearance.

If you are still unsure about the consumption of Swai fish, you can opt for the safer option of fish. This safer option is similar alternatives of Swai fish in nutrients and taste. This alternative includes many fishes but the top three options are salmon, tilapia, and cod. 

Swai fish, if grown on a proper farm, is readily edible. But one should always check the labels of fish and buy high-quality fish only. 


  • “Swai fish” by a-z animals
  • “Is Swai Fish Healthy? Here’s What You Need To Know” by style craze
  • “What Is Swai Fish? All You Need To Know Before Eating It” by
  • “Is it safe to eat Swai fish?” by
  • “What is Seafood fraud?” by Oceana
  • “What is Swai fish?” by
  • “What is Swai fish” by the spruce eats
  • “How to select quality Swai fish (striped pangansius)” by Chef’s Resources
  • “Tilapia: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, Recipes, and More” by Everyday Health
  • “Swai Fish vs Tilapia Fish” by A – Z animals
  • “Cod fish” by A - Z animals
  • “Salmon” by A - Z animals
  • “Swai fish VS Catfish? Here are 5 healthy facts every savvy eater must know” by Kabaia foods
  • “Swai vs Catfish:What are the differences?” by A – Z animals



Written by
Resurchify is an information portal for the people pursuing research. We bring to you a varied list of research gatherings like conferences, journals, meetings, symposiums, etc across multiple areas. Along with that, we also share a huge chunk of details of these events.

Check out other articles written by Resurchify . Protection Status