Swai fish vs. catfish
Swai fish and catfish are not the same. Catfish and swai share many similarities, but there are also several differences between them, such as their appearances, making them different from each other. Understanding facts about both the fish can help you decide which one to eat. Both catfish and swai are affordable, good sources of nutrition, and recommended as part of a healthy diet.
What is catfish?
Catfish are a diverse group of dark grey colored, ray-finned fish. The fin act as a defense mechanism (unlike other fish that usually have scales to defend themselves). Catfish can live in several conditions with other species in freshwater and brackish water. Some may be found in stagnant water like ponds or fast-moving water like streams. Two species of catfish are found in the United States (regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration); they are North American freshwater blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). Fish farms producing catfish in the United States are highly regulated to ensure that they are not contaminated with harmful microorganisms, heavy metals, and other toxins.
Due to catfish’s flaky texture, it can be baked, roasted, boiled, steamed, or fried, making it a versatile ingredient. Catfish is a moderately fatty fish and a good source of high-quality protein, but they contain lesser amounts of omega-3 fatty acids compared to some other types of fish. Catfish are omnivorous, they eat aquatic plants, smaller fishes, and worms. Catfish can withstand environmental changes and survive in murky water with low levels of oxygen as well.
What is swai fish?
Swai fish is a type of south Asian catfish commonly found in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. It is in high demand in Asia and many parts of the world. It is also called Vietnamese catfish (though swai is actually not a catfish), iridescent shark (though it’s not the shark), and basa (which is deceptive, because basa is a different species). It is also marketed as tra, sutchi catfish, basa, ‘imported catfish,’ or Pangasianodon hypophthalmus. Swai fish is also marketed as catfish in many states. Importers of swai can get fined by the United States Food and Drug Administration if they sell the swai fish like catfish. Swai fish are often raised in cages in rivers without proper regulations in south-east Asia, hence there is a risk of contamination with diseases and heavy metals, like mercury. This has led to some controversies associated with swai fish; however, this is not the case with all fish farmers. Hence, it is advised to buy the fish from reputed sources.
Swai also has a flaky texture and mildly sweet flavor similar to catfish. It can be baked, boiled, steamed, or fried. Swai fish are also omnivores like catfish. They are cheaper than catfish. Swai fish is the most affordable fish in the market, making them very popular.
They are also low in calories but have a lesser percentage of other nutrients like protein, compared to many other types of fish. Swai fish is an endangered species and have become rare catches. They have been introduced into the local water bodies to increase their population, but swai fish are difficult to be raised away from their natural Asian habitat because they are sensitive to mild environmental changes, pollution, and may not survive. However, like catfish, they can also live in murky water with low oxygen levels.
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ScienceDirect. Catfish. 2009. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/catfish
Earth.com. What Is a Swai Fish? https://www.earth.com/earthpedia-articles/swai-fish/
Garone S. Swai Fish Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. https://www.verywellfit.com/swai-fish-nutrition-facts-4589020
Seafood Health Facts. Catfish. https://www.seafoodhealthfacts.org/seafood-choices/description-top-commercial-seafood-items/catfish