Do Catfish Have Scales? Here are the Facts!

Do Catfish Have Scales

Catfish are one of the most popular fish species caught by anglers.

Although they are so famous, people don’t know a lot about them ...

Some will ask you do catfish have teeth, how long can they live out of water, are they bottom feeders and even ...

Do catfish have scales?

NO, catfish do not have scales. Some catfish species have scutes, but scutes are not the same thing as scales. Catfish skin is naked and exposed, at least in the majority of catfish species.

Keep on reading couse I am going to explain more about it, and tell you some basic information about fish scales, in the following chapters ...



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Do Catfish Have Scales? Or Just Leathery Skin?

The thing is, there are so many species of catfish around the world that even the most experienced angler can’t know them all.

And the reason behind this is that only a few species are targeted by anglers and have that distinctive catfish look, as most of you imagine catfish.

Well known types of catfish are:

  • channel catfish
  • flathead catfish
  • giant catfish
  • bullhead catfish
  • striped eel catfish

Do Catfish Have Scales - Species

Some catfish species have mucus-covered skin which is also a breathing organ (fish breathes through its skin). This mucus means slippery skin, and more sensitive one.

Other catfish species have leathery skin, or are covered with bony plates called scutes ...

Scutes are very small bony plates. Exist in various shapes and sizes, similar to scales, and they are present in many species, even land animals.

Scutes and scales have the same purpose, however there is a biological difference. Scutes are formed in the lower layer of the skin.

The example of catfish with scutes is Callichthyidae, also known as armored catfish. As an angler, you probably won’t encounter these.

And if you are wondering why catfish don’t have scales, the answer has a complicate background, but I’ll try to explain it in a simple and comprehensive way.

Every living creature evolved in a way to have certain body characteristics which enable the creature to live, eat, breed and survive as a species. Some developed scales to do that, while others had no need to do so, because their body without scales was suitable to live, eat and breed in certain conditions they live in.

Generally, catfish just had no need to “develop” scales.

Do Catfish Have Scales - Scaleless Skin

Why do Some Fish Species Have Scales? [Facts]

First of all, I have to define what fish scale is.

It is a small, hard, plate which grows from the fish skin, and covers it.

Most types of fish are covered with scales.

Scales have certain benefits for the fish, and those are:

  • CAMOUFLAGE – scales can have different color patterns and a shiny reflection, which enables the fish to hide from hungry predators, or to move closer to its prey undetected. As many catfish live in murky waters, camouflage is not their priority.

  • PARASITE PROTECTION – same as almost all other living beings, fish can become infected with external parasites. Scales protect their skin and keep them safe from some parasites.

  • HYDRODINAMIC ADVANTAGE – this benefit was not yet fully researched, and scientists argue about it, but skin covered with scales reduces friction between the fish and water and enables easier swimming.

  • DEFENSE MECHANISM – certain species have scales that are hard to penetrate and serve as protection from predators. It can be said that those scales are a form of body armor.

Scales vary in their size, shape and structure a lot. Fish can have entire body covered with multiple overlapping scales, or have just a little bit.

Big and strong scales, almost looking as an armor, are present in species such as boxfishes, while species like eels can have tiny, almost invisible ones.

There are different types of scales, and they can be cycloid (carp), ctenoid (perch), or plactoid (sharks and rays) ... 

Bony types of fish are mostly covered with larger scales while cartilaginous are covered with plactoid ones. Plactoid scales are tiny, sometimes even microscopic size.

Do Catfish Have Scales - Yes or NO


As an angler, you should know some basic information about fish species you are catching.

And it is good to know why some fish species are different than others.

Now you got the answer to do fish have scales question. Scales are there to protect the fish and to enable camouflage.

Those which don’t have it, adapted in some other way.

And one more thing in the end, if you practice catch and release of catfish, keep in mind that they will not sting or seriously bite you due to their lack of regular teeth, so be as gentle and respectful as you can.

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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