Friday, May 27, 2011

Philippine Fish Species - List of Common Fish in the Philippines

Names of Philippine fish in English and Filipino (Tagalog), with some scientific names and fish pictures to help identify particular Filipino fish species found in local fish markets:

Other Fish:
  • Ataba - archerfish 
  • Balo - needlefish
  • Bolador - flying fish (e.g. Cypselurus opisthopus)  
  • Kansusuit - garfish  
  • Maming - wrasse
  • Paru-parong dagat - butterflyfish

Mollusks, Crustaceans, and other Shellfish:
  • Alimasag - crab Portunidae spp. (e.g. blue swimmer crab, Portunus pelagicus), coral crab (Charybdis feriatus)
  • Alimango - mud crab
    • Putian / bulik - Indo-Pacific swamp crab / mangrove king crab (Scylla serrata)
    • Pulahan - orange mud crab (Scylla olivacea)
  • Alupihang-dagat - mantis shrimp  
  • Banagan - spiny lobster (e.g. Panulirus ornatus)
  • Canoos / hibya - cuttlefish
  • Curacha - spanner crab / red frog crab (Ranina ranina)
  • Diwal - Pacific angelwing clam (Pholas orientalis)
  • Halaan - clam (e.g. Manila clam / Japanese carpet shell, Ruditapes philippinarum)
    • Tulya - Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea previously also known as Corbicula manilensis)
  • Hipon - shrimp (e.g. whiteleg shrimp, Penaeus vannamei)
    • Swahe / suahe - endeavor prawn (e.g. red endeavor prawn / greasy back shrimp, Metapenaeus ensis)
  • Kuhol - snail (Pila luzonica)
  • Pitik-pitik - slipper lobster (e.g. Thenus orientalis)
  • Pugita - octopus
  • Pusit - squid
    lumot squid in a round plastic container
    Pusit lumot
    • Pusit Bisaya - smaller pink-speckled squid (Indian squid - Loligo duvauceli [?])
    • Pusit lumot - larger dark-speckled squid (bigfin reef squid - Sepioteuthis lessoniana [?])
  • Sugpo - prawn (e.g. Penaeus monodon)
  • Susô - snail
  • Tahong - mussel (e.g. Perna viridis)
  • Talaba - oyster (e.g. Crassostrea iredalei)
  • Talangka - shore crab (Varuna litterata)
  • Tuyom - sea urchin
  • Ulang - giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), crayfish, lobster

Other Sea Creatures and Aquatic Species:
  • Arosep / lato - sea grape seaweed (Caulerpa lentillifera, Caulerpa racemosa
  • Balatan - sea cucumber
  • Balyena - whale
  • Bulate - sea worm
  • Butanding - whale shark (Rhincodon typus)
  • Dikya - jellyfish 
  • Guso - seaweed (e.g. Eucheuma spp.)
  • Pagi - ray
  • Pating - shark

In Filipino fish are called isda.  There are many varieties and kinds of fish.  The country's tropical climate and coral reefs make its waters located near the center of the Coral Triangle among the richest in marine life anywhere providing a bounty of fresh Philippine seafood and an assortment of tropical fish.  According to some estimates 5% of the world's reef area is in Philippine waters and the marine fish in the area represent 20% of the total marine fish in the world.

Fishing is an important source of livelihood for many Filipinos. In 1998 around 3% of the country's labor force was involved in the Philippine fishing industry which contributed to about 3.6% of the GDP composition.  Commercial fishing operations produce most of the catch but a growing percentage comes from aquaculture / mariculture.  An ordinary Filipino consumes around 98.6 grams of fish or fish products a day making it the primary source of protein in the Filipino diet. The Philippines being a predominantly Christian nation, fish are especially popular during Lent.

The best time to buy fish is early in the morning.  Philippine fishing boats bring their catch to places like the Navotas Fish Port Complex (the largest in the country) while it is still dark.  From there fish are distributed to local markets.
Maya-maya, samaral, and pampano - Philippine fish
Maya-maya, Samaral, and Pampano

Naming of Philippine Fish

Filipino fish names can get confusing very quickly.  Different names can be given to the same fish and a name can be applied to multiple fish—and that's just in the same dialect and region.  Given the various Philippine languages and the disparate islands comprising the archipelago, custom and usage varies and contradictions frequently crop up.  In Metro Manila, Tagalog is the dominant language but because of the influx of people from the provinces, local names and regional names from other parts of the country like the Visayas or Ilocos or even other Tagalog provinces with their own name variants are sometimes used in Manila wet markets.

Alumahan - Philippine fish

Hasa-hasa also called kabayas - Philippine fish
Alumahan and Hasa-hasa

Alumahan can apparently be used in some places to refer to Rastrelliger brachysoma as well as Rastrelliger kanagurta but my local fishmonger will say that is simply wrong and that the two are distinctOn the other hand he will accept that different Philippine fish species can each be called salay-salay.  Kalapato is an alternative name not only for certain salay-salay but also talakitok.


Some sources seem to indicate that talakitok and maliputo largely refer to the same species, but others make a distinction. According to one explanation, talakitok grows in seawater while maliputo grows in freshwater. Maliputo seems to have a reputation for being a good food fish comparable to that of the maya-maya that talakitok does not.

Maliputo and Maya-maya

Lapad translates as wide in Filipino and is often used to describe and differentiate Caesio cuning from Pterocaesio digrammadalagang bukid (lapad) and dalagang bukid (bilog) respectively.  But lapad is also used as a common name for various short flat and wide sardinellas like Sardinella albella, Sardinella brachysoma, and Sardinella fimbriata; although in those cases it may also be used to differentiate them from tamban, narrower and rounder sardines.  Even though a source I'm looking at says lawlaw and silinyasi refer to different sardinella, I wouldn't be surprised if in practice the terms along with lapad and tunsoy are actually being used interchangeably for the similar looking fish species.  Tawilis is also used for these sardinella but it is a name probably most properly reserved for the Philippine freshwater fish specie endemic to Lake Taal.  Sardines are popular fish for canning, smoking and drying.  Tinapa is the Filipino term for smoked fish while tuyo is the Filipino word for dry and is also used for dried fish. The town of Rosario, Cavite previously called Salinas (derived from sal Spanish for salt) is known for its tinapa and tuyo, so smoked or dried fish are sometimes referred to as salinas.

Danggit - Philippine fish

According to sources danggit refer to rabbitfish, spinefoots, and members of the family Siganidae in general and can thus be applied to samaral.  But in my local wet market at least danggit refers to what looks like mottled spinefoot (Siganus fuscescens) and samaral refers pretty specifically to orange-spotted spinefoot (Siganus guttatus).  [Which may also be goldlined spinefoot (Siganus lineatus).  The two species seem to interbreed and may be one and the same.]   Then again some consider the samaral a malaga while others seem to consider them distinctly different fish.  Elsewhere in the Philippines, members of the Siganidae family can also be called kitang; while in my area kitang is the name for scats which are in the family Scatophagidae.

Kitang and Tulingan - Philippine fish
Kitang and Tulingan

The names tulingan and tambakol, both often referring to bluish-tinged tuna, are sometimes interchanged with one another or used to refer to tuna in general.  But tulingan usually refers to smaller tuna while tambakol gets applied to larger ones. Bariles is another common fish name, taken from the Spanish word for barrel, that is used for large tuna. Tatampal is one name used for flounder but has also been seen to refer to mantis shrimp.

Restaurants and Dishes

In paluto restaurants with fresh or live fish to select from, maya-maya and lapu-lapu are popular premium fish choices.  A Philippine fish recipe that would work well with these fish is to cook them escabeche.  Red tilapia, sometimes presented as "kingfish", has also been observed in some fish and seafood restaurants.  It's a possibly misleading fish since its red pigmentation may lead those unfamiliar with it to mistake it for maya-maya, and "kingfish" is a designation that has been used for tanigue, but red tilapia is not as highly valued as either of those fish.  Red tilapia is a hybrid fish created by fish farmers.  Tilapia is an introduced species in the country grown in fish cages and fish ponds largely used in aquaculture because of its fast reproduction leading it to be called "chicken of the sea".  

Red tilapia

At restaurants where fresh or live fish are not available, the usual unspecified nameless white fish in fillet form that has apparently become the default is the so-called "cream dory" also called "river cobbler".  This is actually a fish from the family Pangasius, imported and usually described elsewhere as Vietnamese catfish with the names swai, basa, or tra referring to different species.  At Filipino restaurants bangus is usually available somewhere in the menu.  Blue marlin also pops up with some frequency as does gindara.  Bacalao is a term taken from Spanish that is used for cod.  Salmon although imported and more expensive has also become popular.  


Although the Philippine fish identified on the main list are believed to be sold in markets one needs to take care with unfamiliar fish.  One species may be safe while another in the same family may not be.  Even among those fish that are widely eaten some need to be prepared or handled a certain way prior to cooking and eating for them to be safe.  Scombroid fish poisoning with symptoms similar to an allergic reaction is associated with tunas, mackerels, mahi-mahi, and marlin that have spoiled resulting in the release of histamines which are unaffected by cooking.  There are also reports of ciguatera poisoning with some species.  Red tide toxins are a danger related to harmful algal blooms.  The Philippine government issues red tide alerts from time to time to warn about the harvesting, buying, selling and eating of seafood from certain areas.

For more information please feel free to check some of the references consulted in the creation of this article.


  1. Nice nakuha-kurin ang hinahanap ko,....

  2. very comprehensive. Thank you for compiling these.

  3. thanks for this list. btw a clarification - Talakitok and Maliputo are indeed the same species (trevally) but Maliputo refers specifically to a trevally from Taal Lake and Pansipit River. they were trapped there by an eruption of Taal Volcano and somehow adapted to living in fresh water, and they taste better than the marine trevally. :-)

  4. Excellent blog! Thank you very much for sharing on this wonderful information with us.

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  5. This is great! Very comprehensive. Will share in my foodie page Thanks!

  6. try nyu po ung handling practices ng sea products sa pjilippines...

  7. Thanks for this blog. More power to you. Two thumbs up :D

  8. Awesome list! Can you help me identify this fish?

    1. Unfortunately I'm not skilled enough to identify it especially given the lack of color in the picture. Some fish can be trickier to identify because they change pigmentation during different times in their life cycle. For example some species of snapper have very pronounced stripes when young but lose them almost completely and turn red when older. Also please note that most of the fish listed, although not all, are those commonly seen in wet markets. There may be many ornamental fish that are not covered by this list. Anyway good luck identifying the fish!

  9. thank you for the learning! please publish more informative snippets about Philippine.

  10. Replies
    1. According to FishBase yes coral trout appears to be a common name in Malaysia to refer to grouper.

  11. hello im an american that will moving to your country soon i love fishing salt water and your list of fish was very helpful look forward again to fish again over there

  12. would very much appreciate if you could identify the fish that were sold at wet market. they called it salmon, but i really doubt it's a salmon. thanks

  13. Great information! Thanks for sharing this.

  14. Nice Info, Keep Publishing, Astig ;)

  15. Thanks for this list and your excellent scholarship, this has been very helpful.

  16. Check out also the new AANI Weekend Market in Arca South, Caliraya Drive Taguig City, Metro Manila.

  17. Am looking for pictures nd names of local fish high in purine ..can u give me info about it

  18. Nice article! It advocates the essence of local markets in the Philippines. By recognizing the local markets, many Filipino locals can benefit. Actually there is a new Weekend market Manila where you can buy affordable and fresh goods.

  19. isdang ''BASASONG''anung klase un?

    1. ...Tandaan mo kaibigan...lahat ng isda ay basa...pwera lang

  20. what kind of fish is used for reservation?

  21. Ung katabi ng tulingan hindi po un flounder..iyon ang isda na pumapasok na palaisdaan at gusto nila sa mga maputik o sa bukana ng river.. masakit un makatinik

  22. Nice, very informative and thanks for doing this.

  23. Very informartive. Thank you writer!

  24. Thank you for the awesome blog post! This information is so valuable to us right now!
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  25. Thanks for your post. By any chance, do you have a list which are saltwater and which are freshwater? Asking because I'm looking for a list of freshwater fish for my little one, who needs to avoid eating saltwater fish because of her allergy. Thank you.

  26. In Bulacan there is a fish called bangayngay. These are smaller than maned goby. What is the english name?

  27. Its amazing to have found this blog, I am fond of our fauna and flora...

  28. Tagalog for bigeye cigar fish

  29. Tagalog for bigeye cigarfish CUBICEPS PAUCIRADIATUS