What Is the Difference Between Catfish and Sea Bass?

Catfish and sea bass look completely different, mainly because they are from families with several fish species within their names. Not to mention, these fish taste different and have different nutrients within them. Catfish and sea bass are very different fish in regard to everything. Catfish is a popular fish, but sea bass is a well-known name around the globe.

Plate of raw catfish
Plate of raw catfish

What Are the Differences Between Catfish and Sea Bass?

To start, catfish are a very distinct family of fish. When someone mentions catfish, you know exactly what type of fish the person is talking about. However, the term is very loosely used regarding sea bass. Many fishes are considered to be from the bass family if they have some features. Bass is a broad term for fish that might not be grouped into a family. Sea bass and grouper belong to the same family, Serranidae, which means these two fish overlap. Sea bass narrows the term to some similar fishes, but it is still vast. When someone mentions sea bass, they mean the European bass, but it could also mean black sea bass, barred sand bass, dusky grouper, and much more. Let’s move on to the more noticeable differences between these two stunning fishes.

The Appearance

The appearance of catfish is very distinct, whereas sea bass is more of a broad term. However, there are still ways to identify whether the fish is sea bass.

The catfish has a flattened and broad body with a large mouth. This mouth is surrounded by whiskers known as barbels that help the fish sense its surroundings. The most significant difference between the catfish and the sea bass is that the catfish has no scales. Catfish is the only fish that does not have scales, although it does have fins to protect itself with. When it comes to color, the top of the catfish is darker in color, like dull grey, to reddish or brownish. The lower part of the catfish is much lighter in color, almost white. This is to hide from the predators from the top and from the bottom as well.

Sea bass is a fully scaled fish with more minor scales and is also a very rounded fish. The fish has a large mouth but is still smaller than catfish. The tail of the sea bass is either straight-edged or rounded. The appearance of sea bass varies a lot depending on the species. Some species have black or plainly colored bodies, while other sea basses are very colorful with unique patterns all over their bodies. The deeper the fish lives, the redder it gets in color, and it has colorful designs to hide from predators.

The Size

The size of some catfish and sea bass might overlap, but they still differ. Catfish have the most varied size among the bony fishes, but you can expect their size to be around 4.7 inches for most catfish. The smallest catfish species are called the Asian stone catfish, which only gets about 1.3 inches and is a popular fish to keep in aquariums. On the other hand, Wels catfish and Mekong giant catfish are significant. The largest Mekong giant catfish was caught in 2005. It was 9.8 feet in size and weighed 646 lbs. It also got the world record for the largest freshwater fish to be ever caught. Some catfish get this big because they have a very long lifespan; for example, the Mekong giant catfish has a lifespan of 60 years or more.

Sea bass is also diverse when it comes to size. Some sea basses can be around a few centimeters, and some can be as large as 6 feet. In the sea basses, the goliath grouper is also included, and it is a giant fish that keeps growing because it can live for hundreds of years. The goliath grouper can get as large as 9 feet and weigh 900 pounds because of its rounded body. The most well-known sea bass is the European bass, which can get as large as 3 feet, but it’s more common to see a one-foot-long European size. This sea bass can weigh up to 12 lbs.


European seabass
European seabass

The Habitat

It isn’t easy to narrow down the habitat of catfish and sea bass because they are found worldwide. Catfish are found worldwide except in Antarctica because the temperature is too cold. The catfish can be found in salt water, fresh water, and brackish water at any depth. The catfish usually occupies the bottom of the water, where it hides from predators in the muddy substrate and navigates the area using its barbels and sharp eyes. Catfish are found most abundantly in South America, Asia, and Africa, where it is a prevalent fish. They are also found in decent amounts in North America and Europe. Most catfish prefer shallow yet running water for their habitat. They have varied habitats; some live in caves, underground, and salt water.

Sea bass is also found in many places, and as its name suggests, it is found in many oceans and seawater. Mostly the fish is found in oceans that have a tropical temperature range. This includes the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast, the Mediterranean Sea, and even the Black Sea. Sometimes, some sea basses can also survive in freshwater. When it comes to where in the ocean they live, it depends on the species, but mostly they live deeper in the water near rocky zones, coral reefs, and shelves where they blend with the environment. You can even find the fish at depths 656 feet below the surface.

The Diet

The diet of the fish depends on its habitat and the availability of resources. Their diets overlap but still differ in how they eat the food.

Catfish are mainly known as opportunistic feeders that are primarily omnivorous. This means that the fish feeds on small fishes, crustaceans, and sea plants like algae to sustain itself. The catfish could be a better hunter and looks for leftover food from other large fishes at the bottom of the water and eats it. Also, the fish usually does this at night when it is well hidden and will not experience other predators. The diet of catfish mainly includes aquatic plants and seeds, insects and their larvae, small crustaceans, small fishes, and mollusks. The catfish usually hide and swallow their prey which is very small and will not be able to put up a fight. The fish can also slide into small crevices due to its slippery body to look for tiny organisms and plants. The catfish could be a better hunter and rely on its senses to find easy prey and escape hiding.

The Sea bass includes many different fishes, but most of the sea basses are carnivorous. Looking at their stomach contents reveals that the fish mainly eats other fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and plankton. The larger sea basses depend on fishes, worms, mollusks, and crustaceans, while the smaller sea bass eats plankton. Sometimes, the larger fish is known for eating, the younger one just because they can; cannibalism is quite common. The sea bass is known to be an ambush predator as it hides using its diverse patterns and attacks the prey only when it comes close to the place of hiding. This fish also has days of fasting where it does not eat anything for a few weeks, and no one really knows why.

The Reproduction Method

The reproduction method for catfish and sea bass is quite different. Both fish have evolved for thousands of years to adapt to the best way to produce fry and keep on living.

The catfish population is abundant all over the world. This is because their reproduction method is quite simple. The male fish courts the female fish and follows it around. After that, the female catfish releases eggs, and the male catfish releases sperm. The sperms and eggs fuse outside their bodies and turn into eggs. These eggs are usually protected by the male catfish that chases the female away. The eggs are protected in a nest built by one of the parents in a safe place hidden and away from predators. There are some catfishes that reproduce differently.

Since sea bass also includes grouper, their reproduction method is unique. The fish is either protogynous hermaphrodites or synchronous hermaphrodites. Synchronous hermaphrodites mean that the sea bass can fertilize its eggs because it has both female and male reproductive organs. This dramatically helps the fish as the whole courting and mating process is eliminated. Protogynous hermaphrodites mean that the fish is always born a female, but if it gets to a specific size, the sex of the fish can change into a male, and it then leads to a harem of female fish. Each sea bass female lays thousands of eggs which are then allowed to float into the ocean.

The Nutritional Composition

Both catfish and sea bass are edible and have nutrients, like most fish. Catfish is a very low-calorie fish with 105 calories and only 2.9 grams of fat for 100 fish fillets. The fish also has 18 grams of protein and various vitamins and minerals. The fish is exceptionally high in vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium, phosphorus, and thiamin. This is a very healthy fish. Although, the skin of the catfish is completely inedible because it is very tough and rubbery, so it cannot be softened.

Among sea basses, there are some of them which are edible such as the black sea bass. The calories for this sea bass are only around 97 for a 100-gram fillet, so it is even lower than catfish. The sea bass also has the same protein as catfish and 18 grams of protein. The black sea bass has a lot of vitamins and minerals too.

The Taste

Catfish and sea bass, particularly the black sea bass, are very sought-after fish because of their taste.

 Catfish is a delicacy in many countries, especially in places where it is abundant, like South America, Africa, and Asia. The taste of the fish is very mild and slightly sweet. It is perfect for absorbing the flavor of many marinades. Some people find it a little tasteless, but it is essential to cook the fish properly. It also has large flakes, so easy to grill. The wild-caught fish often tastes muddy and a little dirty because it lives in the mud and eats whatever it can find.

The taste of black sea bass is often the best among sea fishes. It has white flesh and is very sweet in taste. Much sweeter compared to catfish. The fish also has an edible skin, unlike catfish. Most other sea basses are not edible because of the high concentration of mercury in the fish.


Both catfish and sea bass are great fishes with unique features and differences. They are two distinct types of fish with various appearances, habitats, tastes, and texture differences.

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