Is Barramundi Saltwater or Freshwater Fish? (Facts)

Hey there, fish lover! So you’re wondering if barramundi is a saltwater or freshwater fish? Let me tell you; it’s not as simple as you think! The fish can be found in saltwater and freshwater habitats, so it’s like the chameleon of the fish world.

But don’t worry; a few key factors can help you determine whether your beloved fish is a saltwater swashbuckler or a freshwater frolicker.

Is barramundi saltwater or freshwater fish? Barramundi fish lives in both waters but not simultaneously. It is a Catadromous fish that spends most of its adult life in freshwater but must return to the sea to spawn. Why and how can that be?

is barramundi saltwater or freshwater fish
Adult Barramundi. Credit: canva

Is Barramundi a Saltwater or Freshwater Fish?

It starts living only in the ocean as a male adult but then moves into rivers to spawn when they become a female adult.

The Australian saltwater Barramundi, for example, can swim in lakes or other bodies of fresh water when they’re juvenile fish. At the same time, some types are only found near the ocean and live their entire life cycle there.

A Saltwater Fish

When it’s young and juvenile, the fish develops a gland that regulates its salt levels so it can survive in both types of water and different habitats over time.

A Freshwater Fish

The freshwater barramundi can live solely in freshwater, depending on where it is during its life cycle. As they age and become full-grown fish, they will only live in saltwater because that’s where they’ll be most successful.

A Catadromus Fish

Barramundi is a remarkable fish species, as they follow an uncommon reverse life cycle. This means that, unlike salmon, these catadromous creatures are born in saltwater yet live primarily in freshwater habitats.

What’s more extraordinary? They can also survive exclusively in seawater environments!

Full-grown Barramundi in the Sea. Credit: canva

What is Barramundi Fish?

Here are several facts:

  • It is originally from Australia but can now be found in the Americas. It’s most commonly found in Africa and Asia.
  • It lives in freshwater, saltwater, and estuaries (where fresh and saltwater meet).
  • Virtually all are born male, but they change into female adults around three to four years of age.
  • A large female can produce up to 32 million eggs in a season.
  • It has been recorded as weighing over 90 lbs and measuring over 4 feet.
  • It can travel vast distances in its lifetime, sometimes up to 400 miles.

But is it saltwater or freshwater fish? Let’s discuss that.

Juvenile Barramundi in Freshwater. Credit: canva

What is a Saltwater Fish?

Saltwater fish are located in the ocean. They thrive in salty water ranging from 30 to 40 parts per thousand and cannot survive anywhere else.


Essential fish habitat includes coral reefs, kelp forests, bays, wetlands, rivers, and even areas of the deep ocean that are necessary for fish reproduction, growth, feeding, and shelter. Marine fish could not survive without these vital, healthy habitats.

Physiology characteristics

Physiological characteristics of saltwater fish include scales, fins, and a streamlined body that helps make the fish faster in water.

They have salt glands to excrete excess salts out of their bodies. This enables them to live in salty waters with high concentrations of sodium chloride (NaCl).

Their blood is usually slightly more acidic than freshwater fish. Saltwater fish also don’t have a swim bladder and use water pressure for buoyancy.

What is a Freshwater Fish?

Freshwater fish live in various bodies of freshwater, such as lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams.


Freshwater fishes spend some or all of their lives in freshwater, such as lakes and rivers. These environments differ from marine conditions in many ways, the most obvious being different salinity levels.


Freshwater fishes differ from saltwater fish in that they must be able to diffuse dissolved oxygen while keeping their salts on the inside.

They have scales that reduce water diffusion through their skin, and their kidneys are well-developed to reclaim as many salts from bodily fluids as possible before excretion.

Some popular types of freshwater fish are trout, salmon, carp, catfish, and many more.

What is Fish Migration?

Many types of fish migrate regularly. On-time scales ranging from daily to annually or longer and over distances ranging from a few meters to thousands of kilometers, the fish typically migrates to feed or reproduce.

There are several types of fish migration:


Anadromous fishes spend most of their adult lives at sea but return to freshwater to spawn. Some freshwater fish species, such as trout and salmon, are called anadromous.


Some species of catadromous fish are freshwater eels. These animals hatch at sea, spend most of their lives in freshwater, then return to the ocean to reproduce.


These represent both anadromous and catadromous fish.


Can you eat freshwater barramundi?

It’s not recommended because it does not taste delicious. Farmed ones are almost always freshwater and lack the table quality of their wild saline brothers and sisters.

What is the size?

The average length of this fish spans from 16 to 30 cm (12 in), and its weight can grow up to 20 pounds. The typical color is dark blue-colored, but some may be lighter or darker than that.

What is the lifespan?

Their life spans from 6-10 years, and they can live up to 20-30 years in captivity. They are semi-bony fishes with scales that don’t overlap one another, which makes them very vulnerable when removed from the water.

What is the average weight?

The average weight ranges from one to five kilograms but can be as large as 20 kilograms.

Where do barramundi live?

Native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific, it offers a desirable taste and culinary properties; it’s packed with heart-healthy omega-3s and is a hardy species that lends itself to farming due to its resilience in extreme climates.

Is Barramundi High in Mercury?

Fish are high in protein, low in saturated fat, and contain essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids. Fish with a higher mercury content than others include shark (flake), ray, swordfish, barramundi mercuri, gemfish, orange roughy, ling, and southern bluefin tuna.

What’s the most giant saltwater barramundi ever caught?

Denis Harrold, a fisherman from Queensland, caught what may be the giant ever. The 44.6kg (102 lbs) fish broke the old world record for a weight of 37.85 kg (83 lbs).

See also: Barramundi vs Sea Bass: Differences in Health Benefits, Taste and Cost

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