Farmed Fish vs Wild Fish? Is there really a difference?

The differences between farmed and wild fish have been a hot debate lately, especially amongst people who love fish and those who are concerned about their health. There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to picking which to feed yourself and your family. Some are worried about nutrition, while others are anxious about sustainability. Meanwhile, there are people who think about the cost and the contamination of the fish.

Why Fish?

Meat and poultry are good sources of protein, but fish and other seafood can give you the healthiest fatty acids because they are low in saturated fat, but high in omega-3s. However, many people and even experts believe there is a difference between wild and farmed fish, particularly in the nutrients they offer.


The truth is nutritional differences between farmed and wild fish are blown out of proportion. Let’s take rainbow trout as an example. Rainbow trout, farmed and wild-caught, are almost the same in their nutrient content, including protein and calories. But of course, there are a few differences:

  • Wild-caught have more iron and calcium.
  • Farm-raised have more selenium and vitamin A.

Another example is the Atlantic salmon. Both farm-raised and wild salmon have similar nutritional benefits, except for some differences. The most notable is that armed fish have more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.


It was back in 2004 when experts and consumers alike stood against farmed fish because of the potentially carcinogenic substance found in the fish. Later though, it was discovered that the levels of the carcinogenic chemical are the same as those in wild fish. Aside from this chemical, mercury is a common concern as well. The reality is wild fish are highest in mercury, including the following:

  • Shark
  • Tuna
  • King mackerel
  • Swordfish

Meanwhile, the most common farmed fish such as the following have low mercury levels:

  • Catfish
  • Salmon
  • Tilapia

There are also concerns about hormones and antibiotics in fish farming, but not all countries practice the addition of these chemicals.

Other Concerns

The difference is astounding: Wild Alaskan vs farmed salmon / PicHelp
The difference is astounding: Wild Alaskan vs farmed salmon / PicHelp

There are also talks that farm-raised fish are modified genetically. While there are some fish farmers that practice this, the appearance of some fish are different because of cross-breeding. In the US, there are no genetically modified fish sold to consumers as food. However, you can find these altered fish in pet stores. The impact on the environment is also a concern. Catching wild fish is said to do a lot of damage to the ecosystem.

Which one should you choose? Unfortunately, there is no straight answer to this one because there are a lot of factors involved, including nutrition, sustainability, and safety. In the end, both have benefits to your health, but it is important that you know where the fish came from before you buy it.