Fish, a diverse group of aquatic creatures, exhibit a range of fascinating characteristics. Among the most universal and intriguing of these attributes is the slimy mucus coating their skin. While those who have handled fish are acutely aware of this slippery substance, the scientific rationale behind its presence may not be as widely understood.
We have always heard that gills, fins, and scales are what define a fish and are common in all fish but that is not true. Not all fish have gills and scales but what every fish has is slime. So, it’s slime that is common in all fish. It appears to be of real importance, so let us dig into the reason why fish are slimy.
Slime or fish slime is a mucus secretion or coating on the skin of fish produced from glands. The epithelial cells of the fish skin produce glycoproteins that combine with water to form a gel.
Why are fish slimy?
Fish are slimy because of the mucus its body produces. The glycoproteins produced by the epithelial glands of fish that convert to gel slime when they are exposed to water make the fish slimy. It is a natural phenomenon for fish to produce slime and offers multiple benefits to fish to survive in their surroundings.
Function of Slime
Slime is important for the regulation of various body functions such as:
1: External Protection
It protects the fish from the ectoparasites sticking to its body because the surface is so smooth that parasites can not set themselves on the fish scales and get sloughed off. Some parasites can not survive the slime and get choked in it. Slime also suffocates the pathogens trying to attach to fish providing external protection to the fish.
Slime maintains the ionic balance in the fish and helps in dermal respiration (breathing through the skin). We know fish breathe through their gills but the slime present on the skin also helps them breathe bypassing the chemical molecules from the inside to the outside of the body of the fish
3: Reduces Resistance
The slime of the fish helps them in locomotion by reducing the water resistance they face while swimming in the water. In this way, with the help of slime, the fish can easily move their bodies in water and slip smoothly.
The slime is also used by the fish as a source of food to feed their offspring as it is highly proteinaceous. It is an important food for baby fish in the 1st week of their life cycle.
5: Produce Toxins
Some of the fish species like Hagfish also produce toxins in their slime. When any sea creatures or predator bites them, they will get the toxin from their slime and get immobilized.
6: Cocoon Formation
Some fish species also form a cocoon-like tent from their slime that acts like an envelope and offers protection to the fish.
Which Fish Are Slimy?
Almost every fish is slimy, but there are many freshwater and saltwater fish that are common and produce slime. These common fish species are:
- Common bream
- Tetra fish
- Sole fish
- Rainbow trout
- Parrot fish
- Asian catfish
- Betta fish
Fish are slimy because of the mucus membrane. The epithelial cells of fish produce glycoproteins that are converted to gel slime when they are exposed to water which makes the fish slimy. Slime protects the fish from parasites, helps them in locomotion, maintains osmoregulation, reduces water resistance, produces a toxin, and forms a cocoon. It also works as a food source for fish babies.