Do Fish Shed Their Scales? Beware!!!

When you take fish keeping as a hobby, you are careful about every simple detail related to the fish. From water parameters to the tank size, from the heater to filter, you take care of every necessity related to your aquarium fish. Beginner aquarists often stumble upon so many weird things related to fishkeeping and have so many questions. One of the common questions among them is: Do fish shed scales?

No, Fish do not shed their scales until and unless there is something wrong with the tank or tank conditions. Physical damage, diseases, infection, water quality, and rarely natural process is responsible for the fish shedding their scales out of the blue.

You have to be extra careful with the fish with beautiful scales yet sensitive bodies as they are more vulnerable to these things.

You might not understand what I am talking about in the above paragraph. Thus, I have written an entire article dedicated to this very topic.

Do Fish Shed Their Scales?

No, I don’t think I have come across any such case where people are complaining or telling stories about fish shedding their scales.

I know the imagination can run wild and we are bound to imagine every possibility. There is a misconception or shall I say imagination about associating and relating fish with the snakes.

Okay, my friend, first of all, you need to understand how different these two are and there is no connection between them regarding shedding or as such.

Neither will your aquarium fish shed their skin like snakes nor will they live behind old scales in the process of growing up.

The shedding of scales, in most cases, is due to the external factors that are deteriorating the natural condition of your fish.

Do not assume that your fish is shedding scales because they are growing bigger. I have heard a few stories about betta shedding their scales though.

However, let’s not apply the exception to judge the whole clan. Once in a while, there will be few rebels to make a difference.

Why Do Fish Shed/Lose Their Scales?

Your aquarium fish won’t start to lose their scales out of the blue without a culprit behind. You have to be careful enough to know what is the problem in the tank.

There will be subtle hints that will be making your fish lose one of the important parts of their body. Scales are basically their protective layer with so many purposes to serve.

You cannot let your fish die just because you were not attentive enough and have left behind too many things that can make your fish lose something important.

Natural Process

Some of the fish are made in a way that they will lose their scales during their growth phase. It is supposed to be the normal and natural thing to happen.

Hence, research about your fish beforehand, and don’t panic before you draw any conclusions. Also, another natural process might act as a factor for fish shedding scales.

While spawning or breeding, these fish often stumble each other and rub their bodies against each other and other things present in the tank.

This can make them lose some of the scales when things start to hype up and get intense. Don’t worry, this happens and is something natural that you have no control over.

All you can do is wait and have patience for the scales to go back and even the breeding process to end successfully.

Physical Damage

From aggressive tank mates to shard objects present in the tank, you will have to deal with so many things and think carefully about each while setting up the fish tank.

You cannot keep fish that might start an aquarium war with each other. The injuries, bruises, accidents, and incidents that take place in the tank can cause fish to lose their scales.

It is often seen that fish starts losing their scales after physical damage. While saving themselves from bullies or even swimming around normally in the tank, there is a chance that they will stumble upon something that can physically harm them.

That’s why it is suggested to keep subtle things that will not hurt the aquarium fish in the tank. Do not keep fish that can’t stand each other in the same tank.

Research well about the aquarium fish and find a compatible tank mate for them. Most of the time, these physical damages, injuries, bruises, and wounds can lead to death. So, be careful!

Water Quality

People underestimate the impact of poor water quality on fish health. I have seen people careless enough to avoid using filters while not even putting an effort to clean the tank themselves.

The consequences are way worse than your fish losing scales. The way your fish is shedding scales might be the first step towards the destruction of your aquarium.

Test the water every day and make sure the ammonia and other harmful chemicals level is zero along with the well-maintained aquarium water parameters.

Aquarium ammonia poisoning along with nitrite and nitrate intoxication can bring chaos in the fish health and the tank.

Scale Shedding Disease

You might have heard about infectious protrusion and Aeromonas punctata along with Pseudomonas fluorescens are the culprits that will cause this one in your fish.

When these two attack your fish, these fish will start to lose their scale, thus, the scale shedding disease.

This one, right here, can be fatal for your fish and they will most probably die if you don’t take action immediately.

Antibiotics in the proper dosage will do the job for you and your fish will be back to normal if you are careful enough.

Do Fish Scales Grow Back?

Yes, all the fish have the capability to grow back their scales. You need to be extra careful and don’t let anything make your fish lose their scales in the first place.

These fish will not shed scales while growing up but will shed only if there is something wrong in the tank.

Hence, losing scales is like having a wound in their body that needs time to recover. Think of it as you peeling off your skin due to some external injury.

Wounds are bound to recover and skin will regrow in the place of the wound. But this process takes a certain time.

Hence, the process is quite similar for the fish as well. They will lose their scales due to physical damage or some other factors.

But these scales will grow back one by one and will ask for quite a patience from the fish keeper. The regrowth might take time and toil for things to go back as nothing happened.

How Long Does The Fish Scales Take To Grow Back?

Well, it depends on the type of fish you have. Some fish take time while few others are quite faster in this case.

You may have to wait for weeks and sometimes months for the scales to grow back and fish to become normal again.

Actually, the decaying of the scales takes time and this slower process obstructs the growth of the new scale too.

Once the old damaged scales are done decaying, the new scales will start to grow and cover the bare part of the fish body.

Replacement of each damaged scale takes place one by one. Hence, you can imagine the time it can take for the scales to grow back one by one on the fish body.

You have to be extra careful if you want to see your fish with all the scales in their body. From maintain the water quality to giving them a nutritious diet, it will ask for effort and attention.

Hence, prepare yourself to maintain the tank environment optimum all the time. Also, have a little patience stored in the back pocket too as you will need too much of it.

Can Fish Live Without Scales?

Scales are quite an important part of the fish body. It is like the outer protective layer that helps them in various ways.

Honestly, I cannot imagine a fish that is supposed to be covered with scales without scales. Each part of the body has its own role to perform and its absence makes chaos within the body systems.

You might not know this but the scales present in the fish are what protects and prevents the fish to be dehydrated.

This might sound absurd and fish are always underwater. But the maintenance of the balance of water inside the body is something that happens due to the help of scales.

Despite all this, there is a thin possibility for the fish to live without their scales. If you are careful enough and maintain the tank parameters optimum, then there is a technical loophole that suggests fish can live without scales.

But personally, I don’t think that is possible and I hope you don’t experiment with this. Rather than making your fish with scale, scaleless, why not try keeping the scaleless fish in the first place?

There are options you can choose from and trust me you will be surprised to see those beautiful fish too.

Hence, try to avoid making your fish shed scales just for the sake of the experiment. You might kill them.

What Would Happen If Fish Do Not Have Scales?

As I have mentioned earlier, scales present in the fish are responsible for keeping these fish hydrated. You might not feel like aquatic beings are able to be dehydrated when all they do is stay in the water.

But each body part has a purpose. Hence, scales serve the purpose of keeping the balance of water internally in the fish body.

You might be killing your fish by removing their scales. There are fish that are already born without scales.

Try raising them. And you might think if these fish don’t have the scales, how are they surviving? Their body will probably be covered with injuries and wounds.

But that’s not the case. You might be surprised by what mother nature is capable of. She might take away one thing from the living being.

But she blesses them with something even better to cope up with the situation and adjust accordingly. Fish like catfish, sharks, etc. don’t have scales and they do just fine in the water.

Thanks to the bony plates they have instead of scales. Even another layer of protrusions that seem like small teeth covers the bony plates, hence further protection.

They will be well-balanced and okay in the tank or in their respective habitat. But fish with scales will have a hard time when you make them lose all their scales.

They might develop various diseases, dehydrate, and even die after a while or instantly. Thus, I hope you don’t go doing stupid things just out of curiosity.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have compiled some of the most asked questions similar to this topic from the people also ask section. This might help you with some of your queries as well.

Do Fish Shed Their Slime Coats?

The slime coat is the outer layer of the fish and it is quite common for them to leave it behind. But the amount is way little for you to see.

Hence, this might be a problem if you are seeing slime in the tank. Your fish might have been struggling for a while to shed that much slime coat.

They do change their slime coat during their growth and aging. But shedding too much slime coat might be their reaction to the poor water quality.

Sometimes, aquarium salt can also make them shed the slime coat along with the wrong pH. Slime coat enhancers are the main culprit for your fish shedding too much slime coat.

This might be one of the side effects along with the benefits of aquarium salt in the case of scale less fish. This doesn’t happen in the case of the fish with scales.

What Is The White Fuzzy Stuff On My Fish?

You might be dealing with a fungal infection in fish or it might be a parasitic attack due to the change in the water quality of the tank.

I have been through quite a few instances where there was growth on the fish as well white stuff growing in the tank decorations.

But let’s talk about the white fuzzy stuff growing on the body of your fish. But first, make sure what does the growth looks like?

Ich is also another reason for the white spot all over the body of your aquarium fish. A parasite attacks the aquarium fish when the things and parameters start to degrade in the tank.

And if the spots are not there but rather there is a mere presence of cottony white stuff, you might be dealing with something.

While the white algae are the culprit in the case of the growth in tank decorations, the fungal infection might be the reason behind the growth in the fish.

You have to consult your vet immediately and seek help. This white fuzzy stuff can get fatal for your aquarium fish pretty soon.

So, it is necessary to take precautions as well as seek anti-fungal treatment to avoid the negative health effects.

Don’t worry, they will get back to normal quite faster. You just have to have patience and give a little extra care for a few days.


In conclusion, you have to be careful when you see your fish shedding scales as it is not normal. From physical damage to bullying tank mates, many factors will make your fish lose scales. You have to take action almost immediately after you see your fish losing their beautiful scales. There are few scale less fish as well as some fish that lose scales as the natural process. Do not let things harm your fish in the aquarium. Simple yet common aquarium beginner’s mistakes are the reason behind the health of fish going south.

Stay alert and careful while raising aquarium fish as that is not their natural habitat and will have adjusting. Make sure you mimic their natural habitat prior to taking care of them inside the aquarium.

If you still have queries about this, drop them in the comment section below. I will moderate the comments and get back to you as soon as possible.

Good Luck!!!

Happy Fishkeeping!!!