What is Swai Fish and Why Should You Avoid It?

Updated on January 17th, 2020
Swai Fish

One of the most popular freshwater fish today is Swai Fish. It goes by various names such as Panganius fish, Panga, Basa Fish, Vietnamese Cat Fish, etc. In spite of this being a delicious fish, it’s a most avoided fish as it is contaminated with toxins. It is flaky, has low-fat content, and is affordable. Swai is a widespread food in the United States as it comes for half the price and is used in sandwiches or tacos.

A study stated that 67% of unidentified fish in many recipes are swai fish.

Nutritional Benefits

113 gms of uncooked fish Swai fish serves

Calories 70
Protein 15 gms
Fat 1.5 gms
Omega-3 fat 11mg
Cholesterol 45 gms
Carbs 0 gms
Sodium 350 mg
Niacin 14 % of the Reference Daily Intake
Vitamin B 12 19 % of the RDI
Selenium 26 % of the RDI

Why Should You Avoid this Fish

1. Loaded with Toxins

The Swai Fish are harvested in large fish farms in basins of Southeast Asia in the Mekong river. These cultivation sites are usually dirty and overcrowded and are the reason why pathogens spread quickly. Algaecides and disinfectants are used in the breeding process, which is harmful toxins.

Citric acid and phosphates(1) are used during the processing of the fish fillets, which allows more water absorption while freezing. Phosphates are necessary for healthy nutrition, but an excess of it can lead to cardiac diseases and kidney diseases.

2. There Are Healthier Fish Options Available

Fish Benefits

Swai fish, unlike other varieties of fish, do not contain basic nutrition like protein, iodine, and omega -3 fatty acids. One hundred grams of this fish has a nutritive value of 78 gms. The more nutritious fish options would be salmon and mackerel that are better sources of omega-3(2).

[ Read: Benefits of Swordfish ]

3. Damages the Ecosystem

A program called Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch has stressed on avoiding the swai. These fish generate waste products that get dumped in the river and cause water pollution. It is a matter of concern as there are traces of disinfectants, antibiotics, parasitic drugs, and chemical agents found in the wastewater. Studies show that Swai has mercury present in it.

4. The Fish is Unhygienically Processed

Swai Fish is usually found in Mekong delta, and they aren’t established hygienically. They have often caused health issues. There is a lack of regulation in this fishing industry. The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is made up of untreated water.

The pollutants from the frequent flood have also contaminated the river. French-based retailers like Carrefour have discontinued Swai Fish as the attempts made to establish a certified and controlled swai supply has failed.

5. The Fishing Process is Cruel

Fishing Process

These fish suffer a cruel death, and it is precisely one of the reasons to abstain from fishing them. They are harvested twice as much compared to others because of the usage of antibiotics. They are killed as cheaply as available as they operate on low margins in the fish market. There are instances when the fish are carried alive in baskets for selling purposes.

[ Read: Benefits of Tuna Fish ]

Concerns About Swai Fish Farming

  • The usage of antibiotics for fishing purposes have raised the alarm in the fishing industry. These fishes are grown in extremely crowded fish farms that put you at risk of infectious diseases. As they are grown in polluted areas, a lot of disinfectants and pharmaceuticals are used to reduce the risk associated with this fish farming. They are also injected with increased doses of dewormers, antibiotics, and other drugs. Although this helps to lower the bacterial count in fish, it puts consumers at high risk.
  • The nutrition facts of this fish is also another reason why it is not so popular. There are healthier alternatives available in the market.
  • The increased dosage of antibiotics also harms the immunity as several bacteria grow immune to them. The more frequently they are used, the more resistant are the pathogens. Although this is a popular fish in many countries, especially the united states, the unethical practices of fishing in Vietnam are questionable.


  • This fish is an alternative used in many restaurants as this is a cheaper option, so you are required to enquire as they are often substituted for a better and healthier fish.
  • In case you want to buy swai, buy from a group that has eco-certification. They usually come with a logo on their package.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked swai. They must be cooked at a temperature of 145 degrees F that helps kill harmful bacteria like Vibrio.

The Bottom Line

If you want to add fish to your diet, you shouldn’t choose this fish. Other varieties offer better benefits and are priced reasonably as well. On instances where you want to eat swai, opt for ones with certifications like ASC Farmed Pangasius, BAP Certified. Else, this fish is best avoided. Healthier fish options would be salmon, Sardines, Atlantic Mackerel, etc.

[ Read: Butterfish Benefits ]


1. Is Swai fish and Cat Fish the same?

No, they are not! However, it is often confused for catfish in the United States as its scientific name is ‘Sutchi Catfish”.

2. How does Swai fish taste?

It is a white flesh fish and has a very mild taste. It is often marinated with spices and herbs to enhance its flavor as it doesn’t have much of a flavor of its own.

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