Is Barramundi Saltwater or Freshwater Fish?

If you’re wondering whether barramundi is saltwater or freshwater fish, this article will clear up any confusion. The barramundi can be found in waters near the equator and is classified as a saltwater fish by most standards. However, some people believe that it’s actually a freshwater fish because of its ability to survive in both types of water.

Is barramundi saltwater or freshwater fish? Barramundi is a type of fish that lives in both water, but not at the same time. It is a Catadromous fish who spend most of their adult lives 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

This article will discuss the differences between saltwater and freshwater fish. We’ll also explore what these two types of water have to offer, and how they affect the barramundi’s life cycle.

What is Barramundi?

Barramundi is a type of fish that lives in both saltwater and freshwater. It can live in pastureland, lakes, or even oceans at any time during its life cycle.

Here are several facts about barramundi:

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

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

What is a Saltwater Fish?


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

Saltwater fish can swim and live alone or in a large group called a school.


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

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

They have salt glands so they can 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 instead use the pressure of water for buoyancy.

Saltwater fish are found in the ocean and include tuna, snapper, salmon, lobster, and many others.

Some types of fish that can live in saltwater but not freshwater are swordfish, cod, flounder, and many more.

What is a Freshwater Fish?

Is Barramundi Saltwater or Freshwater Fish?
Juvenile Barramundi in Freshwater. Credit: canva


Freshwater fish live in various bodies of freshwater such as lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams. Unlike saltwater fish who can only survive in saltwater, freshwater fish can live in both fresh and saltwater.

41.24% of all known species of fish are found in freshwater. 


Freshwater fishes are those that 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 levels of salinity.


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 in order 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.

Some types of fish that can live in freshwater but not saltwater are tilapia, trout, and many more.

What is Fish Migration?

Fish Migration is the act of moving from one body of water to another.

Many types of fish migrate on a regular basis. 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 in order 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.

True anadromous fish migrate from the ocean to spawn in freshwater rivers or sometimes in the brackish upper reaches of the estuary.

Some freshwater fish species, such as trout and salmon, are called anadromous. They hatch in freshwater, go to the sea for a few years before returning to spawn.


Catadromous is a term used for a special category of marine fishes who spend most of their adult lives in freshwater, but must return to the sea to spawn.

Catadromous fishes, on the other hand, spawn in the marine environment and move to the riverine environment to mature over a several-year period.

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.


Diadromous is a general category describing fish that spend portions of their life cycles partially in fresh water and partially in saltwater. These represent both anadromous and catadromous fish.

Is Barramundi a Saltwater or Freshwater Fish?

Is Barramundi Saltwater or Freshwater Fish?
Full-grown Barramundi in the Sea. Credit: canva

The barramundi is a type of fish that lives in both types of waters during its life cycle. It starts out living only in the ocean as male adults but then moves into rivers to spawn when they become female adults years.

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

A Saltwater Fish

The barramundi can live in saltwater, but only for part of its life cycle. When it’s young and juvenile, the fish develops a gland that regulates their salt levels so they can survive in both types of water as well as different habitats over time. This is because juveniles are more likely to be in freshwater lakes than the ocean.

A Freshwater Fish

The barramundi can live solely in freshwater as well, depending on where it is during its life cycle. When they’re juveniles and young fish, the barramundi with a gland that regulates their salt levels which allows them to survive in both types of water as well as different habitats.

As they get older and become full-grown fish, the barramundi will only live in saltwater because that’s where it’ll be at its most successful.

A Catadromus Fish

Barramundi is catadromous fish, meaning that they are originally saltwater fish. They are born in the ocean and live in freshwater — basically the opposite lifestyle of the salmon. However, they also are able to live purely in saltwater.


Can you eat freshwater barramundi?

It’s not recommended because it does not taste very good.

Farmed barramundi is almost always freshwater, and lacks the table quality of its wild saline brothers and sisters

What is the size of a barramundi?

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 of a barramundi?

Barramundi is a saltwater or freshwater fish? Barramundi’s 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 barramundi weight?

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

Is barramundi a good fish to eat?

Native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific, barramundi 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 fish high in mercury?

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

What’s the biggest barramundi ever caught?

Denis Harrold, a fisherman from Queensland, caught what may be the largest barramundi 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