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Is a Mahi Mahi a Dolphin

is mahi mahi a dolphin

Have you ever been out on the water and had someone completely confused when you said you wanted to catch a dolphin? Well, you’re not alone!

This conundrum has inspired me to write about the controversial subject: Is a Mahi Mahi a Dolphin?

The short answer is no, mahi mahi and dolphins are completely different animals. This article will clarify the confusion between the two and explain why mahi mahi are sometimes called “dolphinfish”.

Mahi Mahi vs Dolphins: Key Differences

Mahi MahiDolphins
FishMarine mammals
Coryphaenidae familyDelphinidae family
Colorful scales, blunt foreheadSmooth gray skin, beaked snout
Up to 6 ft, avg 3 ftOver 6 ft
Cold-blooded, gillsWarm-blooded, lungs
Lay eggsLive birth
Solitary, basic instinctsSocial groups, highly intelligent
Carnivorous fishVaries by species
Tropical/subtropical oceansAll oceans
  • Taxonomy: Mahi mahi are fish, while dolphins are marine mammals. Mahi mahi belong to the Coryphaenidae family, while dolphins belong to the Delphinidae family.
  • Appearance: Mahi mahi have colorful metallic blue, green and gold scales and a blunt forehead. Dolphins have smooth grey skin and a distinct beaked snout. Mahi mahi grow to around 3 feet, while dolphins grow to over 6 feet.
  • Biology: Mahi mahi are cold-blooded with gills, while dolphins are warm-blooded with lungs. Mahi mahi lay eggs, while dolphins give live birth.
  • Behavior: Mahi mahi are solitary fish with basic instincts. Dolphins live in sophisticated social groups and are highly intelligent.

So in every way, from genetics to anatomy to behavior, mahi mahi and dolphins are completely unrelated.

Keep the Momentum Going, Read On: Do Mahi Mahi Have Scales?

Why is Mahi Mahi Called Dolphinfish

Why is Mahi Mahi Called “Dolphinfish”?

The term “dolphin” was first used to refer to mahi mahi because of some shared traits:

  • Agile swimming style
  • Curved body shape
  • Ability to make high-pitched sounds

However, this name causes confusion today since we now know dolphins are an entirely different species. “Mahi mahi” comes from the Hawaiian words for “strong strong” and is now the preferred name.

Other common names for mahi mahi include dorado (Spanish for “golden”) and lampuga (Italian). But there are no mahi mahi species that are actually related to dolphins.


While sometimes confusingly called “dolphinfish”, mahi mahi are definitely not the same as dolphins. They are tasty sustainable fish with no relation to marine mammals.

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Steve Momot

Steve is an accomplished professional photographer and marketer who specializes in the Fishing, Yacht, and Boating industry. With a strong presence as an influencer and marketing expert in the Marine Industry, he has made a significant impact in the field. Additionally, Steve is the original creator and co-founder of Sportfishtrader. Prior to his career as a marine photographer, he gained extensive experience as a licensed boat and car dealer in South Florida.

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