Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish)

Coryphaena hippurus

Last updated: October 25, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Matt9122/Shutterstock.com

It's called the rabbit of the ocean because it multiplies so quickly.


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Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish) Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Carangiformes
Family
Coyphaenidae
Genus
Coryphaena
Scientific Name
Coryphaena hippurus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish) Conservation Status

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish) Locations

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish) Locations

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish) Facts

Prey
Crustacean, squid, fish
Group Behavior
  • School
Fun Fact
It's called the rabbit of the ocean because it multiplies so quickly.
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
None
Most Distinctive Feature
Its vivid colors
Distinctive Feature
Blunt face
Other Name(s)
Dorado, llampuga (Spanish), lampuka (Malta), lampuga or capone (Sicily), Coryphene (French), Goldmakrel (German), Shiira (Japanese)
Gestation Period
41 - 45 hours
Habitat
Temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters
Diet
Omnivore
Type
Fish

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish) Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Blue
  • Gold
  • Green
  • Beige
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
4 - 5 years
Weight
15 - 29 pounds
Length
39.3 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
3 - 5 months
Age of Weaning
Unknown

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Mahi-mahi, also called common dolphinfish, is a surface-dwelling ray-finned fish species that lives in temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters around the world.

The dolphinfish is also often called mahi-mahi and is not related to the marine mammal dolphin. Mahi-mahi is considered one of the most beautiful ocean fish because of its shimmery, vivid colors. The fish is very popular for sport and commercial fishing and has white meat with a firm, moist texture, a sweet, mild flavor, a variety of recipes, and several health benefits. Its name is sometimes confused with Ahi, the Hawaiian word for yellowfin tuna.

5 Mahi-mahi Facts

  1. The name mahi-mahi is preferred over dolphinfish so as to not confuse it with the marine mammal. Mahi-mahi is not a dolphin!
  2. It was called dolphinfish because of its tendency to swim ahead of sailing ships, as dolphins do.
  3. The fish was first a bycatch of tuna and swordfish, but now has a longline fishery just for its species.
  4. The term “clipper” means the highest-quality Mahi-mahi, which is frozen at sea for freshness.
  5. Mahi-mahi can swim up to 60mph.

Classification and Scientific Name

The name mahi-mahi is a Hawaiian word meaning “very strong,” but it’s also called mahi-mahi lapa, mahi-mahi oma, and mahihi. In Spanish, it is called dorado, referring to its muted golden color upon coming out of the water. Its scientific name is Coryphaena hippurus. The genus Coryphaena refers to dolphinfish and is the only genus of the family Coryphaenidae.

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Carl Linnaeus named the genus after the Greek word koryphe, which means top or apex in 1758. Synonymous scientific names for the species are Coryphaena argyrurus, Coryphaena chrysurus, and Coryphaena dolfyn. Its closest relatives are the remora, jack, and cobia.

Species

Although there is only one mahi-mahi, it is divided into the Atlantic and Pacific. There is one other species in the genus Coryphaena, the pompano dolphinfish (Coryphaena equiselis). Like its close relative, it is a surface-dwelling fish and is often a substitute for swordfish. It overlaps with it in its habitat of tropical and subtropical waters around the world. Sometimes, it’s mistaken for juvenile mahi-mahi, and it is smaller than adult mahi-mahi.

Appearance

Mahi-mahi has flattened bodies with a long-based dorsal fin that extends nearly all the way from the head to the tail. Males have large, protruding foreheads, while females have rounded heads. Both their caudal and anal fins are very concave. However, what strikes people the most is their beautiful colors of shimmery golden sides, blue and green sides and back, and a golden flank with shimmery blue pectoral fins.



Mahi-mahi has features that help them to avoid predators. For one thing, their coloring is believed to help them camouflage themselves by changing the way light reflects off their skin while they roam the open ocean at surface levels. Also, their body shape and their long-based dorsal fin help them swim up to 60mph.

On average, these fish measure 39.3in long and weigh 15-29lbs, but rarely exceed 33lbs. Females are smaller than males.

Distribution, Population, and Habitat

This fish species lives in saltwater and makes its habitat in temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters of the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. It is most common around Hawaii, the Gulf of Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Indian Ocean. As a surface-dwelling fish, it can be found at depth levels of 5-10m on the open sea but also near the coast.

This species is highly migratory and travels in schools. Spawning on the open sea, it moves closer to the coast when the temperature rises.

Wild-caught mahi-mahi is sustainably managed and its numbers are considered to be stable for both Alantic and Pacific populations, although population numbers are not known. The IUCN Red List lists the common dolphinfish as Least Concern.

Where to Find mahi-mahi and How to Catch Them

You can find these fish in waters with a temperature of 83 degrees F, and more of them during spring and fall. Fishermen in French Polynesia use harpoons to catch them, but because the fish are also attracted to floating objects, you can easily catch them by throwing bait out next to floating seaweed.

Predators and Prey

These fish are really omnivorous, although their diet is mainly carnivorous. Its speed allows it to quickly catch its prey. To minimize detection by predators, its coloring serves as camouflage on the open ocean, while its body shape allows it to swim quickly. Because it grows so fast, it can quickly replenish its numbers.

What do mahi-mahi eat?

Mahi-mahi eats flying fish, mackerel, and other forage like crabs, and squid. It also eats zooplankton and sargassum weed.

What eats Mahi-mahi?

Sharks, billfishes, large tuna, marlin, sailfish, swordfish, and marine mammals eat mahi-mahi. Humans also eat mahi-mahi.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Both males and females become sexually mature in 3-5 months and for this reason, are known as the rabbits of the ocean. They spawn when they reach 7.9-22in. Females spawn up to 2-3 times a year and can release anywhere between 80,000 and 1,000,000 eggs each time. The mahi-mahi lifespan can be up to 5 years, although it usually doesn’t live longer than 4.

Mahi-Mahi in Fishing and Cooking

These fish are caught in both recreational and commercial fishing. Locations that are its largest consumers are Hawaii, the United States, the Caribbean, Australia, and Japan, although it is becoming more commonly eaten in European countries. Global supply locations for the fish are Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, and United States.

Mahi-mahi fish has meat that turns white when cooked. It has a firm, moist texture, and a sweet, mild flavor. Out of four levels of mercury, it is a moderate-mercury fish. The benefits of the mahi-mahi are lean protein, iron, selenium, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B.

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Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish) FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is mahi-mahi the same as dolphin fish?

Yes, dolphin fish is its other name.

Is mahi-mahi part dolphin?

No. It was named dolphin fish because of its tendency to swim ahead of ships, like dolphins do.

Humans, larger fish, marine mammals

No. It tastes most similar to swordfish.

How big is mahi mahi?

It can reach a size of 13-29 pounds and 39 inches.

Can you eat mahi mahi?

Yes. It is wild-caught, which is the best-tasting kind of fish, and has many nutritional benefits that make it one of the healthiest fish you can eat.

Is mahi mahi a kind of tuna?

No. Both fish are members of the class Actinopterygii, but that’s where their similarities end. Their size and locations are different, as is their meat and taste.

What are the key differences between a mahi and an ahi?

The key differences between a mahi and an ahi are origin of name, appearance, distribution, and culinary uses.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Seafood Source, Available here: https://www.seafoodsource.com/seafood-handbook/finfish/mahimahi
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompano_dolphinfish
  3. Seafood Source, Available here: https://www.seafoodsource.com/seafood-handbook/finfish/mahimahi
  4. The University of Texas at Austin College of Natural Sciences, Available here: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/fish-camouflage
  5. FishBase, Available here: https://www.fishbase.de/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=6&AT=dolphinfish
  6. NOAA Fisheries, Available here: ttps://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/atlantic-mahi-mahi
  7. NOAA Fisheries, Available here: ttps://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/pacific-mahimahi
  8. Fishtalk Magazine, Available here: ps://fishtalkmag.com/blog/how-fish-mahi-mahi-fishing-beginners
  9. Lahaina News, Available here: https://www.lahainanews.com/sports/local-sports/2012/07/26/mahi-mahi-the-rabbits-of-the-ocean/
  10. Tim Otis, Available here: http://www.timotis.com/news-1/mahi-mahi
  11. American Association for Anatomy, Available here: https://anatomypubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dvdy.27

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