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How to tell if fish is bad

It is important to know how to tell if fish has gone bad before you cook it. Fish is one of the leading causes of food poisoning.

One of the most obvious signs of bad fish is the smell. You can also tell by its appearance and the way that it feels.

I am going to go over a step-by-step guide to help you know how to tell if fish has spoiled before you cook it.

3 fresh fish filets on a round cutting board with raw red onion rings and lemon wedges.

How to tell if fish is bad can be quite easy. The easiest way to tell if your fish has gone bad is by the way it smells.

If you get a fishy smell when you open the package or sniff it then it has spoiled. Other indicators of bad fish are if it looks grey, translucent, or is slimy.

Best ways to tell if fish has gone bad

Typically when you buy fish you want to cook it the same day you buy it or within 24 hours. Make sure to look it over when you buy it and before you cook it.

You really don’t want to mess with bad fish so it is important to be confident that it is fresh before you start to prepare it. Knowing how to tell if fish is fresh is really simple.

Using your sense of smell, touch and sight will help you to know if it has spoiled. Let’s get into the easy ways to tell if fish is bad or not.

1. Fishy smell

You would think that fish should smell fishy because, well, it is fish right? That is not actually the case. If fish smells fishy then it has usually gone bad.

The smell of ammonia is another sign of bad fish. It shouldn’t have much of a smell at all if any.

2. Grey or translucent

Fish that looks grayish, dull in color, or translucent are indicators that the fish have spoiled.

Fish, however, comes in different colors as salmon that should be reddish pink, cod which you want to be white, or tuna that should be a dark red or pinkish color. When buying a filet it should look wet and glisten.

If you are unsure by looking at it, give it the sniff test and feel it to be sure that it is fresh.

3. Slimy

Slimy feeling fish is a sign of it being spoiled. You may also notice a milky-like flesh on it if it has gone bad also. Fish will feel wet when you buy it and that is normal. But you never want it to feel sticky or slimy.


It is really important when you are buying your fish that you look it over well before it gets packaged. Don’t be afraid to ask them at the counter to smell it.

Fresh fish won’t have much of a smell at all, will look wet and glisten and bright in color. You do not want to risk eating bad fish as you will be at risk of food poisoning and it will not be pleasant.

Be sure to cook it up within 24 hours of buying it so reduce the risk of it spoiling before you get a chance to cook it up and enjoy it.

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