can you eat fish with scales

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “can you eat fish with scales?” We will also talk about the substantial nutrients present on fish scales and the different types of scales there are.

Can you eat fish with scales?

Yes, you can consume fish with scales, but it may not be the best idea, as a wrongly executed ingestion might end with throat or mouth injuries. Safe consumption of scales should include their appropriate cooking before being eaten.

Can scales be beneficial for your health? 

Not strictly, even though they are provided with minerals and healthy fats, eating scales can be more dangerous if it is not well executed. 

We will then discuss queries related to the subject at hand to give you a wider panorama of fish scales consumption.

 Do all fishes have scales and what is their main function?

Surprisingly, not all fishes have scales on their body, for example, the sunfish and the siluroidei (catfish) are provided with zero scales. Sometimes it may look like there are no scales in some species, but they can be only microscopically seen.  

The main reason why fish tend to have scales is for external protection purposes. As larger scales provide bigger protection, they can also limit fish movement. Contrary to smaller scales, they allow a wider range of freedom but may result in less protection.

What types of scales are there?

Scales can be classified in for main types:

  • Placoid
  • Ctenoid
  • Ganoid
  • Cycloid
  • Cosmoid

Each kind of scale has its very own properties and it is only present in certain species. For instance, these four main kinds of scales can also be arranged as primitive or advanced scales, this will be further explained.

What are primitive and advanced scales?

The terms primitive or advanced are only used to refer to the time frame of their evolution, it is not to indicate a hierarchy. 

As their name suggests, primitive scales have been present in ancient organisms, some of them have become extinct but some species still have this kind of scales.

Primitive scales include placoid and ganoid scales, and advanced scales incorporate cycloid and ctenoid scales.

Where can placoid and ganoid scales be found?

Placoid scales are the most ancient kind of scales and can be found in sharks. Even when the fish become bigger, the scales will not grow in size but more can be added. Placoid scales are formed by 3 different layers that bring the most protection.

On the other hand, ganoid scales have a diamond shape and are hard and sturdy. They can be found in gar, and will increase their size as the fish does! 

Where to find cycloid and ctenoid scales?

These two types of scales belong to the advanced ones. Cycloid scales are the less advanced of this classification and can be found in minnows. Just as ganoid scales, cycloid scales will grow as the fish ages. These scales are thin and covered by epidermis and mucus, which provokes a slimy feel.

Ctenoid scales are the most modern out of them all! They share some properties with the cycloid ones, such as their growing size as the fish ages and ring formations. As they are the most advanced, their structure allows fish a faster swim. Sunfish have these scales.  

Do fish scales have nutritional properties?

As crazy as it sounds, fish scales can provide you, with a small amount, of the following nutrients:

  • Collagen – helps to improve ligaments, joints, and bones. But keep in mind, fish scales have such a small amount that you would have to eat A LOT of them. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – fish scales are loaded with omega-3 and several more fatty acids, which prevent a stroke from happening.

Is it advisable to consume fish scales?

Despite their nutrients, eating fish scales can be annoying. Let us imagine the feeling of eating the outer shell of sunflower seeds? Not appetizing at all! And if we add the chance of getting a mouth or throat injury, eating scales can sound outrageous. 

Now, if you are determined to eat, or at least give a try, fish scales, then look for recipes where fish scales are included, which lowers their stiffness and therefore the chance of getting hurt while consuming fish with scales.

I would recommend looking for a different source of the nutrients fish scales provide, or at least, learn how to properly eat them without getting hurt in the way, and remember: the shorter the intake, the better for your health.


In this brief guide, we have addressed the query, “can you eat fish with scales?” We have also discussed other queries related to the subject at hand.    

Hope you found this blog useful. If you have any questions, please let us know.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.