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Last update: November 14, 2022

11 Popular Fish That Look Like Salmon

If you are a fish enthusiast, you may be well acquainted with salmon. In fact, you may find it interesting to simply research the most popular fish that look like salmon!

However, this can be a little tricky thanks to the salmon species’ unique transformations in color as they grow. Salmon come in many different species and subspecies, both in the oceans of the world and their rivers!

Some characteristics of salmon are hooked, beak-like mouths and vibrant coloration. On the other hand, at the beginning of their life cycles, most salmon, known as parr, look entirely different. 

The sockeye salmon, as one example, can go from looking like a nondescript silver fish with a linear shape and pale gray coloration to a bright red fish with a green, warped head.

With such a change making a salmon unrecognizable from one phase of life to the next, you may find it difficult to figure out which other fish species look like salmon.

Luckily, we are here to help! After researching extensively, we have created an article that will not only give you a list of 11 popular fish that look like salmon, but will give you a few distinct traits to remember them by!

Fish That Look Like Salmon

Finding fish that resemble the distinct salmon might be a bit of a hassle. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the top most popular fish who share a lot of similarities with salmon! Let’s take a look at this list below:

  1. Steelhead Trout
  2. Red-Bellied Piranhas
  3. Dolly Varden Trout
  4. Grayling
  5. Yellowtail
  6. Chilean Sea Bass
  7. Redbelly Tilapia
  8. Sea Run Brown Trout
  9. Bluefish
  10. Tilefish
  11. Mackerel

Let’s look even more closely at each fish popular enough to paddle its way onto this list, filling you in on their salmon-like traits, scientific names, and diet!

Also read other similae posts:

1. Red-Bellied Piranhas

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  • Scientific Name: Pygocentrus Nattereri
  • Diet: Omnivorous

One of the salmon’s most distinctive traits are their reddish-pink bellies. Coming in at second place on our list because of this shared trait is the red-bellied piranha! Their green-to-silver upper bodies also resemble a salmon, although many of the similarities stop there.

Piranhas are known for their rounded cheeks and wild, aggressive manner of eating prey with their relentless biting and razor sharp teeth. Like salmon, they are found in rivers, but typically those rivers are in the Amazon.

Piranhas will eat living and dead prey as well as some types of plants. They are, interestingly, kept in the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, where they eat everything from shrimp, smelt, greens, earthworms, herring, and a gelatin of protein and micronutrients!

2. Mackerel

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  • Scientific Name: Scomber Scombrus
  • Diet: Carnivorous

A mackerel actually looks like two different types of salmon. It has stripes, which are very similar to the chum salmon, but it is mostly silver rather than the Chum Salmon’s green to purple coloration.

This makes it look more like the Atlantic salmon, which is not only silver, but also features smaller fins like the mackerel!

A mackerel will typically eat smaller creatures such as ascidians, which are invertebrate filter feeders, squid, and smaller fish in addition to krill, copepods, and shrimp. They are popular enough among humans as a source of food to be stocked in many fisheries.

This is probably because mackerel is a great source of omega-3 oils, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and even reduce the risk of getting cancer! Interestingly, the United Kingdom folklore thought of mackerel fish as “unclean,” so they did not begin eating mackerel at large until after the 1970s.

3. Dolly Varden Trout

  • Scientific Name: Salvelinus Malma
  • Diet: Carnivorous

The Dolly Varden Trout is another fish on our list that looks a lot like a salmon in color, bearing a pink to silver coloration along its long body. However, it is not just their coloring that makes them comparable to salmon. These trout also have similar speckles and sizing to salmon.

These salmon-type fish may look like their close relatives, and they may also have a habit of eating other fish eggs. However, they are not as resourceful as salmon in that they do not typically dig up eggs that have been buried.

Dolly Varden Trout can be found in some areas of the North Pacific and is more closely related to the bull trout and arctic char than it is to the salmon.

4. Grayling

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  • Scientific Name: Thymallus Arcticus
  • Diet: Carnivorous

The grayling, or Arctic Grayling, not only looks a bit like salmon, but they are also a part of the salmon family! One distinctive trait that sets this fish apart from its similar brethren is the long, out of proportion dorsal fin that is almost as tall as the rest of the fish body.

Graylings don’t get quite as large as traditional salmon, but they do inhabit some of the same habitat, enjoying the cooler waters of pools and streams. You will also know an Arctic Grayling by not only their sailboat fins, but by a silver color that turns out to look purple under close examination. 

5. Yellowtail

  • Scientific Name: Seriola Lalandi
  • Diet: Omnivorous

Yellowtail are most similar in appearance to the coastal cutthroat trout, who is a member of the salmon family, too. It does not, however, have the same long head or curved jaws of the commonly-thought of salmon!

Instead, the most distinct thing about the yellowtail is, no surprise, its yellow tail and matching fins!

Another name for the Yellowtail is the yellowtail amberjack, and another subspecies is known as the kingfish. It is usually found migrating throughout all of the world’s oceans, making it a popular fish for sporting and recreational fishing.

These fish are something of a mystery to marine biologists when it comes to its growth period: scientists are not sure where the Yellowtail spawn or live when they are juveniles, and they are not even sure of yellowtail migration patterns!

What is known is that the Yellowtail like to hang out around rocky outcrops, reefs, and drop-offs along the coasts of most continents.

6. Chilean Sea Bass

  • Scientific Name: Dissostichus eleginoides
  • Diet: Carnivorous

The Chilean sea bass most closely looks like a Chinook salmon or Chum salmon, especially with its darker coloration and long jaws. However, once this menacing-looking fish is caught and examined, it is too dark brown to be seen as anything other than itself!

The Chilean Sea Bass is found in sub-antarctic waters in the southern ocean. It has a long life span and takes a while to grow to a near six-foot length! 

The Chilean Sea Bass mostly eats small creatures like plankton and squid, but it is, itself, a favorite food for both seals and whales, as well as human beings. 

7. Steelhead Trout

  • Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus Mykiss
  • Diet: Carnivorous

The steelhead trout is mistaken, even by some experienced fishermen, as a salmon, and its popularity both as a sporting and recreational fish to catch landed it the top spot on this list! Steelhead trout are sometimes called Rainbow Trout, but actually, they are a slight variation on the species. 

They are a little more slender than Rainbow Trout and are sometimes more spotted, especially if they have lived for multiple years in the ocean.

Fishermen love to try and capture these trout because they are fairly aggressive when caught and put up a spirited fight that makes fishing for them very enjoyable! 

One other interesting fact about the steelhead trout is that it can handle a wide range of water temperatures from hot to cold. They tend to feed on smaller fish, mollusks, crustaceans, the eggs of other fish, and any types of insects that either live in or fall into the water!

8. Redbelly Tilapia

  • Scientific Name: Tilapia Zillii
  • Diet: Omnivorous

The redbelly tilapia is, like the Redbelly Piranha, on this list for its salmon-like red stomach! The coho and Chinook salmon are famous for this same trait.

Other than this, the tilapia is not quite long enough and features too decadent of a dorsal fin to be mistaken for a salmon once it is examined closely. 

It can swim in a mixture of salt and freshwater and is found in the tropical or subtropical waters off the coast of Africa.

Unlike most of the fish on this list, the Redbelly Tilapia makes most of its meals out of plants that grow in the water and plants that drift into the water, including algae.

Still, this does not mean that the redbelly tilapia won’t take advantage of any invertebrates or unguarded fish eggs it can swallow, too.

9. Sea Run Brown Trout

  • Scientific Name: Salmo Trutta
  • Diet: Omnivorous

The Sea Run Brown Trout looks a lot like the Pink Salmon when glanced at! Though it has a smoother head-to-body connection, it is still brown, silver, and a pinkish white in color.

The Sea Run Brown Trout even features a range of dark speckles, similar to the Pink Salmon! Their curved jaws, though not as long as a salmons, are still pretty similar in shape.

Fishermen describe the Sea Run Brown Trout as “opportunistic” when it feeds, meaning that although it prefers to scavenge on insects, smaller fish, and debris, it isn’t above also feeding on algae.

One interesting fact about the Sea Run Brown Trout is that it can weigh more than 20 pounds and reach alarming sizes when fully grown! They tend to migrate, too, just like the Atlantic breeds of salmon.

10. Bluefish

  • Scientific Name: Pomatomus saltatrix
  • Diet: Carnivorous

In terms of which salmon type the Bluefish most closely resembles, it would have to be the Silver Salmon, otherwise known as the Coho Salmon! As its name suggests, the Bluefish is a silvery blue color, which is very close to the Coho type of Salmon, visually.

The bluefish eats smaller fish and eggs, and chows down on silverfish as a favorite. They can even be found eating squid, too! They can reach around 42 inches in length in the most extreme cases. Sometimes bluefish are also called snapper elves or tailor elves thanks to their sharp teeth!

They feed on plankton until they get old enough to hunt, which is when they will go to the surface and display their fierce predatory skills!

One interesting fact about the bluefish is that it can lay up to 2 million eggs, which are buoyant and float along on the surface of the water until they hatch after two days.

11. Tilefish

  • Scientific Name: Malacathidae
  • Diet: Carnivorous

The next member of our list is the blunt faced Tilefish! A tilefish most closely resembles the Pink Salmon simply for its white stomach, gray back, and prominent forehead.

Tilefish tend to feed on the seafloor, and unlike some of the fish on this list, they are not nocturnal but prefer to hunt in the light of day. A tilefish is not a picky eater, eating crabs, shrimp, snails, clams, worms, sea cucumbers, and even anemones!

The golden tilefish is usually found around Nova Scotia in Canada, but some fisheries also stock them in North America for their popularity as game fish.

They can become quite colorful and are nicknamed “the clown of the sea.” One of the most interesting things to note about the tilefish is that they can live for up to 46 years if they are female, and 39 years if they are male.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the salmon is a species of fish with a diverse array of visual characteristics. When they are young, their less colorful scales and plain shapes may cause people to mistake them for silverfish like the Bluefin or Yellowtail. However, as they mature, salmon can still bear a few similarities to other fish types.

For example, as stated above, the Tilefish may not have the bright red coloring of the Pink Salmon, but it certainly bears a distinct head shape!

Whether you are looking for common colors or common body shapes, when it comes to creatures that look like salmon, there are plenty of fish in the sea—and the rivers!

Ian Sterling

I've been keeping fish for over 30 years and currently have 4 different aquariums – it's an addiction. I'm here to teach you everything there is to know about fishkeeping.

I also use this site as an excuse to spend lots of money on testing and reviewing different aquarium products! You can find my reviews here.

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