50 Spanish Fish Names: A Visual Dictionary of the Sea
No matter where you travel in the Spanish-speaking world, you’re guaranteed to come across fish in some way or another.
Even if you never spot a fish or body of water, you’re bound to eventually come across Spanish idioms, expressions, songs and stories that invoke the various names of common fish.
That’s why it behooves any learner to pick up the Spanish names for fish that have a presence in our lives, environments and cuisines!
Keep reading for 50 Spanish fish names, plus some key terms and phrases for talking about fish—whether you’re admiring them in the wild or on your plate.
- 1. La Anchoa
- 2. La Sardina
- 3. Atún
- 4. El Bacalao
- 5. La Trucha
- 6. El Salmón
- 7. El Pez Espada
- 8. La Tilapia
- 9. La Corvina
- 10. El/La Llampuga
- 11. El Lenguado
- 12. La Perca
- 13. El Pargo Rojo
- 14. La Serviola
- 15. La Carpa
- 16. La Cachama
- 17. El Bagre
- 18. El Piraña
- 19. La Barracuda
- 20. La Platija
- 21. La Merluza
- 22. El Mero
- 23. El Pez Betta
- 24. El Arenque
- 25. La Macarela
- 26. La Aguja Azul/Blanca or El Marlín Azul/Blanco
- 27. El Rape
- 28. El Pez Vela
- 29. El Tiburón
- 30. El Pez Ángel
- 31. La Lubina / El Róbalo
- 32. La Anguila
- 33. El Pez Globo
- 34. La Llampuga Voladora
- 35. La Raya
- 36. El Pez Sierra
- 37. La Chopa
- 38. El Pez Cardenal / El Tetra Cardenal
- 39. El Róbalo Blanco
- 40. El Rodaballo
- 41. La Salema / La Salpa
- 42. El Esturión
- 43. La Palometa
- 44. El Salmonete
- 45. El Cabracho
- 46. El Pez Trompeta
- 47. El Roncador
- 48. El Pez Loro
- 49. El Pez Verde
- 50. La Lamprea
- Other Fish Vocabulary in Spanish
- Why Should I Learn Spanish Fish Names?
1. La Anchoa
Boquerón (white anchovy) is a small, cured type of anchovy with a delicate, salty taste, often served as a tapa or used in salads.
2. La Sardina
Sardines are sold in cans in Spanish-speaking countries, just like in our home countries. So, you can talk about people being squished together, just as you would in English, with the metaphor estar como sardinas en lata (to be like sardines in a can).
In Spanish-speaking countries, tuna is every bit as popularly eaten and sold in cans ( atún enlatado — canned tuna) as it is elsewhere in the world. That means you can watch funny commercials or listen to catchy jingles to remember the word atún and other Spanish language words.
You may hear albacore tuna referred to as albacora in some areas, and skipjack tuna or striped tuna as bonito .
4. El Bacalao
This fish is so prevalent in cooking and culture, that it’s even a common last name! There’s also a cute Latin American saying that goes “¡Chao pescao, bacalao!” (Bye fish, bacalao!) which is the equivalent of our “See you later, alligator!”.
Dried, salted bacalao is found all over the Spanish-speaking world. One notable dish that uses it is the Ecuadorian fanesca , a stew featuring salty bacalao and 12 different types of grains and legumes, which is cooked for the Easter Holy Week.
Another fish in this family is the haddock or el eglefino , often used in the famed British fish and chips.
5. La Trucha
In Mexico and parts of Central America, you can say “ponte trucha” —it’s basically an even more colloquial version of “ponte pilas.” Both expressions mean “look alive,” “be aware” or “open your eyes.”
6. El Salmón
This Spanish fish name should be easy to remember—just don’t forget to pronounce the l, as it’s not silent like in English!
7. El Pez Espada
This recognizable fish also has the Spanish name of el espadarte . Now you can add espada (sword) to your vocabulary list, too!
8. La Tilapia
If you live in the United States, odds are that the tilapia you enjoy comes from a Spanish-speaking country. Honduras and Colombia are the top exporters of fresh tilapia to the U.S.
9. La Corvina
This fish has tender white meat which makes it a primo selection for ceviche and any kind of soup or stew. It’s similar to the sea bass, and the names are sometimes used interchangeably.
10. El/La Llampuga
Llampuga is a colloquial name for this fish in parts of Latin America where it’s more commonly fished (Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Central America) and even amongst Spanish-speaking Floridians. The particle seems to flexibly change between el and la in speaking and writing. El dorado is another option.
11. El Lenguado
Lenguado de arena (sand sole) is a type of sole fish found in sandy coastal areas.
12. La Perca
Due to its colonizing nature and threat to native species, this fish is in el Catálogo Español de Especies Exóticas Invasoras (the Spanish Catalog of Invasive Alien Species). Because of the restrictions on catching, transporting and selling it, most of the perch you’ll find on menus in Spain actually comes from Africa.
13. El Pargo Rojo
English: Red snapper
14. La Serviola
There’s some confusion with this fish as several species of amberjack fish used in sushi (including the Japanese amberjack, greater amberjack and yellowtail amberjack) are referred to as “yellowtail.”
Amberjack fish are called serviolas in Spanish but you may find a variety of different names used for the species found in your sushi rolls including el pez Hamachi , pez de cola amarilla , pez limón , el jurel de Castilla , dorado chileno and palometa chilena .
15. La Carpa
This well-known fish has been introduced to every continent except Antarctica and has been listed as one of the 100 most harmful invasive alien species in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
16. La Cachama
This type of fish is native to Amazonian rivers, so there’s no equivalent name in English. We commonly refer to it as cachama, pacu or tambaqui , all of which have origins in Spanish and regional indigenous languages of the Amazon.
If you’re heading on an Amazonian adventure, chances are you’ll feast on one of these big fish, fried with a side of yuca hervida (boiled yucca/cassava root).
17. El Bagre
This is another fish you’ll find on the menu more often in Amazonian regions, and most often served in a simple caldo de bagre (catfish soup/broth).
18. El Piraña
This is a great word for describing anything tiny that bites or nibbles, like a teething infant or poorly-behaved chihuahua.
19. La Barracuda
These large, ferocious fish are found in tropical and subtropical waters all over the world. If you do some sport fishing in a Spanish-speaking country, you may come across them and will easily be able to identify them.
20. La Platija
This fish has an interesting appearance with a flat body and both eyes on one side of its head. It’s commonly used in fish fillets or as a stuffing in seafood dishes. Ironically, Ariel’s best friend Flounder in “The Little Mermaid” is not actually a flounder fish.
21. La Merluza
While this is a popular Latin American choice as well, merluza is a go-to fish for restaurant dishes and home-cooked recipes in Spain.
22. El Mero
Also called cherna , this fish is in the same family as the sea bass. Fun fact: many grouper can change their sex from female to male.
23. El Pez Betta
24. El Arenque
This is a small, oily fish found in both saltwater and freshwater habitats. It’s known for its distinctive flavor, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and is often pickled, smoked, or used in various traditional dishes.
25. La Macarela
Other common, colloquial words for this fish include la caballa (Latin America) and el verdel (Spain).
Carite is the specific mackerel variety known as “king mackerel,” and it’s a common word to spot on menus in Latin America.
26. La Aguja Azul/Blanca or El Marlín Azul/Blanco
English: Blue/White marlin
Both of these species of billfish are targeted in sport fishing. Blue marlin is a highly prized fish found in tropical and subtropical waters. It’s characterized by its vibrant blue color, long bill and remarkable size. White marlin is a smaller, agile and acrobatic fish, sought after by anglers for its challenging fight.
27. El Rape
This fish is also called Pez sapo or Pejesapo due to its appearance (sapo means “toad.”)
28. El Pez Vela
This is an iconic fish with a distinctive sail-like dorsal fin, which can be raised or lowered. Known for their incredible speed and acrobatic displays, they’re a popular target for sport fishing enthusiasts.
29. El Tiburón
Here are some different kinds of sharks you might spot while traveling:
tiburón tigre (tiger shark)
tiburón ballena (whale shark)
tiburón galapagueño (Galápagos shark)
pintarroja (small-spotted catshark)
30. El Pez Ángel
This fish is also sometimes called el escalar . You’ve probably seen them gracefully swimming around a few aquariums.
31. La Lubina / El Róbalo
English: Sea bass
This prized fish can be found in various regions around the world, including parts of South America. What we call Chilean sea bass in English is actually the Patagonian Toothfish, referred to in Spanish as la austromerluza , bacalao austral or bacalao de profundidad .
32. La Anguila
Here are a few different kinds of eels:
congrio (conger eel)
morena (moray eel)
33. El Pez Globo
Also known in English as blowfish, they’re characterized by their ability to inflate their bodies into a ball-like shape when threatened. They also possess a toxin called tetrodotoxin, which makes them highly poisonous. These fish are considered a delicacy in Japan and must be carefully prepared by skilled chefs to be consumed safely.
34. La Llampuga Voladora
English: Flying fish
This fish, known for its ability to glide above the water’s surface, is often used in Caribbean and Latin American cuisines.
35. La Raya
English: Ray, skate
Rays and skates are both dorsoventrally flat-bodied fish that are closely related to sharks. Here are some names of different types of rays:
raya mariposa (butterfly ray)
raya guitarra (guitarfish/shovelnose ray)
raya águila (eagle ray)
torpedo (electric ray)
36. El Pez Sierra
These large, unique fish are part of the same order as rays and skates and are also closely related to sharks. They inhabit tropical seas and estuaries and have a threatened conservation status.
37. La Chopa
English: Sea bream
These fish inhabit coastal areas and are often used in Mediterranean cuisine. Here are a few other types of bream fish:
besugo (blackspot seabream)
breca (red bream)
dorada (gilt-head bream)
38. El Pez Cardenal / El Tetra Cardenal
English: Cardinal tetra
You’ve likely seen these bright, peaceful fish in aquariums.
39. El Róbalo Blanco
English: Sea robin
This fish inhabits sandy or muddy bottoms and has the ability to “walk” along the seafloor using its fins.
40. El Rodaballo
This fish is known for its ability to blend with its surroundings. It’s prized for its delicate flavor and is often prepared grilled or roasted.
41. La Salema / La Salpa
English: Sarpa salpa
Also known as dreamfish, this is a colorful, medium-sized fish found in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s recognized for its vibrant appearance and occasional hallucinogenic properties when consumed.
42. El Esturión
These fish are prized for their caviar but are facing conservation concerns, so maybe skip them on the menu.
43. La Palometa
Palometa ahumada (smoked pomfret) is gaining popularity on the market.
44. El Salmonete
English: Red mullet
A salmonete de roca is a rock mullet while a salmonete de fango lives in muddy areas.
45. El Cabracho
Here are the names of a few different kinds of scorpionfish:
pez brujo (Pacific spotted scorpionfish)
pez león (lionfish)
46. El Pez Trompeta
These fish have a distinct trumpet-like snout and a body that mimics the appearance of floating seaweed or coral branches. They use their stealthy camouflage to blend into their surroundings while hunting for small prey.
47. El Roncador
This medium-sized fish makes a distinct grunting sound by grinding its teeth. They’re often found in schools near reefs and sandy bottoms.
48. El Pez Loro
Loro means “parrot,” so now you’ve learned two Spanish animal names in one! These fish play a crucial role in coral reef ecosystems by feeding on algae and dead coral and excreting fine sand, contributing to the process of reef formation.
49. El Pez Verde
English: Ornate wrasse
This is a small and beautifully adorned reef fish you might spot while diving or snorkeling in the Indo-Pacific region.
50. La Lamprea
These are ancient, jawless fish with slim, eel-like bodies and circular mouths lined with sharp teeth. They’re known for their parasitic feeding habits. Cute, right?
Other Fish Vocabulary in Spanish
We’ll cover the three main ways you’ll talk about fish: (1) when observing them in their habitats, (2) when fishing and (3) when eating them.
Vocabulary for Observing Fish
Let’s say you’re ready to dive into the deep blue sea and observe fish in action, in their natural hábitats (habitats). You’ll need to know vocabulary for ecosistemas (ecosystems) where las especies (the species) of los peces (fish) dwell.
First, you’ll want to indicate where you’ve been observing those fish:
el riachuelo (the creek)
el río (the river)
el lago (the lake)
la laguna (the lagoon)
el estuario (the estuary)
la caleta (the cove)
la bahía (the bay)
el mar (the sea)
el océano (the ocean)
agua dulce (freshwater)
agua salada (saltwater)
un arrecife de coral / un arrecife coralino (coral reef)
Next, you’ll want to describe what those fish were up to, for example, if they were swimming around in un cardumen (a shoal, a group of various fish species) or un banco de peces (a school of fish, a group made up of one single species).
To identify which species you’ve found while out and about, you’ll need to look at certain physical features. For example:
los radios de las aletas (fin rays)
las escamas (scales)
las manchas (spots)
las rayas (stripes)
Vocabulary for Fishing
La pesca comercial (commercial fishing) is a huge market. There’s pesca artesenal (artisanal fishing) and pesca industrial (industrial fishing).
You’ll find the gains of these fishing endeavors in supermarkets and in las pescaderías (fish markets). While you’re out shopping at the market, you’ll find tons of pescado del dia (fish of the day / fresh fish).
Separate from all this, you might engage in a different kind of fishing while on vacation— la pesca deportiva (sport fishing). Be sure to grab a caña de pescar (fishing rod/pole) and some convincing anzuelos / señuelos (lures).
To learn more about fishing vocabulary, and fish vocabulary in general, check out the Panorama de Pesca, a popular Argentinian fishing magazine.
Vocabulary for Cooking and Eating Fish
Order yourself a delicious filete (filet) of something, but always watch out for las espinas (the bones)! Often, filets and whole fish are served up on a plate, with some little, skinny, nearly-invisible fish bones intact.
Here are some ways you might want to order fish off a menu—pescado…
al horno (baked)
a la parilla / a la plancha (grilled)
a la sal (salted)
al vapor (steamed)
al ajillo (in garlic sauce)
al escabeche (marinated, pickled)
rebozado (battered, similar to tempura)
Then, of course, you’ve got your liquid-based fish foods:
sopa de pescado
caldo de pescado (fish soup/broth)
caldereta de pescado (fish stew)
sancocho de pescado (fish soup/stew, traditionally cooked in Latin America)
ceviche de pescado (a traditional coastal dish in parts of Mexico, Central America, and western South America, where fish is cured with citrus juices—not cooked!—and served with other fresh, natural ingredients)
And for anything with the word marinero (sailor) or mixto at the end, just go for it. Ceviche mixto (mixed ceviche) has a mix of fish and seafood. Likewise, arroz marinero (sailor’s rice) is a fried rice dish loaded with various types of fish and seafood.
Why Should I Learn Spanish Fish Names?
- Get to know countries through nature. In case you haven’t heard, the biodiversity in Spain and Latin America is off the chain. There are numerous “hotspots” of biodiversity here, with high numbers of endemic species (native to only these regions).
- Meet the fish! Tons of great activities you’ll want to take part in while traveling will put you face-to-fin with local fish. Snorkeling, scuba diving, boat tours, fishing excursions and other water-related activities will all let you peer into another world underwater. If you know fish names, you’ll be better equipped to understand the tour guide’s fun facts and regale your friends with tales of your adventures later. Talk about immersion!
- Eat delicious foods in Spanish-speaking countries. Coastal food everywhere is the bomb, but that’s not the beginning and end of fish dishes. Just imagine: fresh salmon, melt-in-your-mouth swordfish filet, deep red tuna, stews, soups, broths and paellas—it can all be yours, if you know the proper terminology for ordering the fish you most want to eat.
- Know the importance of fish and fishing in cultures, lifestyles and livelihoods. Learn these words to relate to local people in many places around the world. Many communities have evolved around seafaring lifestyles, or have a long history of local fishing. You can better understand any fishing community and the people who live within it by knowing how to understand and talk about species of fish.
Well, there you have ’em!
Your catch of the day Spanish vocabulary, fresh out of the water.
Enjoy these fishy words while traveling, exploring and eating.
¡Chao pescao, bacalao!