European Sea Bass: Characteristics, habitat, reproduction and more.

You have surely enjoyed a succulent dish made of European Sea Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and you have loved the taste of its meat. However, you probably don’t know the main characteristics of this wonderful fish that feed more than half the world. Here we tell you all about it.


Philum: Chordata Class: Actinopterygii Order: Perciforms Family: Moronidae  Genus: Dicentrarchus Species: D. labrax

Common Names According to the Country

This delicious fish is known by other names in different countries……

    • Spain: Lubina
    • Italy: Spigola
    • England: European Sea Bass
    • Portugal: Robaliza
    • Germany: Seabarsh

The European Sea Bass’ Main Characteristics

European sea bass is a fighting fish which is very appreciated by fishermen for such a trait. They live in areas near the coast, including estuaries, lagoons and rivers, from West Africa and the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic.  This was one of the first fish species that were grown in Europe from France in the 1970s.

European sea bass: they look just stunning swimming in schoals

They are characterized by their long, rounded body, and a wide mouth with a quite protruded lower jaw. They also have teeth on the tongue.

Their two dorsal fins allow them to swim very agilely. In addition, their head is pointed and dark, this being one of their most distinctive traits.

Body Color

Their body is silver gray, shiny or greenish while their belly is white, the back gray and the sides in degrades of light nuances.  During their young hood, the European seabass shows black spots, which disappear in adulthood. We invite you to read our article the anatomy of fish to learn all about such a topic

Length and Weight:

Dicentrarchus labrax  can reach up to 90-100 cm, although its average size is around 40-80 cm.

Their weight is ranges from 300 grams up to a 1 ½ kilogram; although specimens of up to 7 kgs have been reported.

Let’s meet them

The European Sea Bass’ Common Behavior

They almost always swim in large shoals, made up of the youngest species, but upon reaching adulthood they begin to move in smaller groups, and even alone.

Males are able to mate at two years, phn while females achieve sexual maturity at three. They are fertilized by several males at the same time, having the capacity to lay more than 250 thousand eggs in around 3 days.


This behavior occurs when they rest near the bottom and then suddenly move forward, turn to the side and rub one side on the substrate. As a result of this action, a sort of sudden silver flash can be seen. There are two explanations for flashing: either it is intended to disturb small crustacean foods buried in a sandy bottom, or it is an attempt to get rid of ectoparasites.  To survive during their first years of life, the European sea bass develops several ways to feed on other living organisms that allow it to grow.


European sea bass is sometimes buried in a soft substrate. It is believed that this behavior is related to flashing. The movement begins with a couple of flashes, followed by a pronounced lateral excavation of the muzzle in the sediment. They stay partially buried sideways and remain in such a position for 30 to 60 seconds. It is believed that this behavior is the result of the perceived threat of predators and fishers.

Let’s watch them again

What Does European Sea Bass Feed On?

They are usually opportunistic predators, and there is a proportional relationship between their size, and the size of their prey. This means that as the European sea bass grow, they will also feed on larger prey.

This is a carnivorous species, whose diet is made-up by smaller fish, and crustaceans such as shrimps  and sometimes crabs . It has recently been discovered that European sea bass also occasionally participate in cannibal activities, although this behavior is very weird.

This usually happens during the winter months, when the adult and juvenile white salmons (as they are also known) are close to each other within their estuarine habitats. This form of cannibalism in which juvenile specimens feed adults is known as intercohortal cannibalism.

Adult European sea bass cannibalizes juvenile specimens because they are the largest prey available, and are much more nutritionally efficient. This happens more for survival than for anything else, because it is precisely when food stocks are scarce, and there are too many specimens sharing the same habitat.

Let’s watch


How does European Sea Brass Reproduce?

Adult seabass reproduce by external fertilization and thespawning occurs  from February to July. Temperature is a key factor for the beginning of spawning, since sea bass eggs are rarely found in waters colder than 8.5-9.0 ° C or in warmer waters than 15 ° C.

During the spawning season, each mature female can produce between a quarter and a half million eggs per kilogram of her own body weight.

European Seabass eggs hatch 4 to 9 days after fertilization, depending on sea temperature. During the next 2-3 months, the growing larvae move from the open sea towards the coast, and eventually to streams, backwaters and estuaries. These protected habitats are used by juvenile sea bass during  the next 4-5 years, before they mature and adopt the adult’s migratory movements.

Economic Importance for Humans

European sea bass is a famous sport fish, rated by British fishermen as their best fighting fish. It’s  an equally important species for sport fishermen and commercial fishermen. There is a strong international market for European sea bass and high prices are paid for them.

Breeding European Sea Bass

Intensive breeding of sea bass follows a complex process that was the subject of prolonged scientific research programs during the 1960s and 1970s.

Its improvement allowed the beginning of the sea bass’ aquaculture of sea bass (and also of  sea breams) in the Mediterranean in the ‘80. The hatchery has highly technical aspects and requires a staff with a high level of training, as it’s necessary to monitor that larvae grow in good conditions, guarantee the optimal functioning of the recirculation system, produce food, etc. All this led to the specialization of this first stage of the breeding process.

Although there are cases of vertical integration, European farms are generally independent and sell the fry to fattening farms. Breeding generally develops in three stages:

Larvae Cultivation

The larva loses its yolk sac six days after leaving the egg. At that time it receives a very specific diet, first based on algae and rotifers (a microscopic zooplankton) and then, when its size allows, based on brine shrimp

Broken up

After around 40 to 50 days, the larvae move to the broken-up unit, where they gradually become accustomed to a diet very rich in protein, especially based on oil and fishmeal. This food, which is administered in the form of tiny granules, is very similar to the one that will receive the sea bass during the rest of its breeding. It is this protein regime, as well as water quality, that maximize larval growth and survival during these crucial first months.

Breeding of fry:

Between 3 and 4 weeks later, fry move to the fry breeding unit where they are fed with granules until reaching, (about two months later), a weight of 2 to 5 g, which will allow them to go to the fattening phase.


The purchase of fry in the hatcheries represents one of the biggest investments of the farms. The fattening takes place in floating cages installed a short distance from the coast, at least in large part of European production (that is, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands).

There are also farms that raise the sea bass in tanks located on land, usually

Fed by a recirculation system, which allows controlling the water’s temperature and raising sea bass in more northern latitudes. The seabass are fed with granules composed mainly of fishmeal and fish oil, but also of vegetable extracts.


In freedom, the sea bass can reach a meter in length and 12 kg in weight, but the seabass of aquaculture is harvested and sacrificed generally when reaching between 300 and 500 g, for which they must pass from one year and a half to two years, in Water temperature function.

It should also be noted, , that there are still some semi-intensive breeding centers, derived from traditional extensive aquaculture, in which hatchery fry are introduced in coastal lagoons and lagoons and are fattened with an industrial food supplement.

Let’s watch how they breed them


Conservation Status

European sea bass is not an endangered species, but there is a threat of overexploitation of its population. This is due to the fact that it is a kind of very slow growth that can be overexploited with only a small fishing effort.

The Sea Bass Family

There are other members of this family that you should really know about

Temperate basses

This family is made-up by the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and white bass (M. chrysops), all of them belonging to the family Moronidae.

Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)

This species is found along the Atlantic coast of North America, inhabiting estuaries and marine coasts (spawning season). It was introduced on the Pacific coast, where it can currently be found from Mexico to British Columbia.


Its head is relatively large with an elongated body. Its eyes are quite small and its lateral line extends over the caudal fin. The second striped bass dorsal fin is much longer than the first. The anal fin has a first short spiny ray and a very thin second.

Black Basses

This family is made up by Choctaw bass (Micropterus haiaka), Guadalupe bass (M. treculii), largemouth bass (M. salmoides), smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu), and spotted bass (M. punctulatus) belong to the sunfish family Centrarchidae.

Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus)

The spotted bass has scales on the base the second dorsal fin. Their first and second dorsal fins are connected while its upper jaw bone doesn’t extend   beyond the rear edge of the eyes.

It’s often confused with a smallmouth bass, but it lacks the vertical bars that are present on the sides of the body of  the latter.  Micropterus punctulatushas has distinctive small black spots below the lateral line unlike either the large or smallmouth bass.

Juveniles often resemble the young smallmouth bass in having a broad orange band at the base of the tail, followed by a broad black band and a white edge. The spotted bass is known for hybridizing with the smallmouth, which sometimes makes identification difficult. Spotted bass can be found deeper than smallmouth bass at depths up to 100 ft.

Habitat and Distribution

Spotted bass are distributed throughout the Ohio river basin as well as the central and lower Mississippi river basin. The species may be found in Gulf Coast states from Texas east to Florida.

Let’s watch this really illustrative video

Asian Seabass:

The Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax japonicus) and Blackfin seabass (L. latus), can be mentionaed as the only species of this group, which belongs to the Lateolabracidae family.

 Japaneese Sea bass (Lateolabrax japonicus),

This species is native to the western Pacific Ocean, where it occurs from Japan to the South China Sea. They inhabit in brackish and marine waters of inshore rocky reefs and in estuaries at depths of at least 16 ft.

The Japanese sea bass is catadromous fish, since they migrate from rivers to the sea for spawning. Their tail is slightly forked and the mouth is large with the lower jaw projecting beyond the upper one.

During young hood, Lateolabrax japonicus shows small black spots on the back and dorsal fin which tend to disappear as they grow. . This species can reach a length of 102 cm (40 in), though most do not exceed 16.1 cm (6.3 in). The greatest weight recorded for this species is 8.7 kg (19 lb). In terms of body color the Japanese seabasses have shiny white flesh with an easily recognizable, broad-flaked structure and a mild flavor.

The European Sea Bass as Food

Sea bass meat is one of the most used in international cuisine, making it increasingly common to breed for the production of dishes. It is soft and easy to season, according to the experts. In many Mediterranean countries they are enabling sea bass breeding centers for culinary purposes, but also for their preservation.

In natural environments, sea bass swim in pairs, something that attracts a lot of attention. When one of the members is caught, the other will spend several days searching for his companion.

There are data that only in Europe there is an annual production of European sea bass of 100 thousand tonnes. However, there are statutes regulating controlled fishing for this and other species. Specimens less than 36 centimeters in length cannot be captured. In general, individuals of 40 to 80 cm are caught, although they are also obtained from 1 meter

Where is the European Sea Bass fished?

If you want to fish these awesome creatures you must always look for them on the surface, at very shallow depth and with good movement of waves, foam and swirls. Spring and autumn are their best season, although it is in winter when it is easy to fish white salmons in warmer areas. Young sea bass moves in shoals while adults swim alone.

The best season of catching sea bass is the cold months. Given the infrequent use of wild sea bass, its price is very high, especially at Christmas, which is when it increases its consumption. Today, most of the sea bass that reach fishmongers comes from fish farms and are bred in many Mediterranean countries, including Morocco.European Sea Bass: Fishing Industry in Morroco

In this way you can have this fish all year round at an affordable price. This type of fish arrives very fresh at the destination, without having suffered the exhaustion as a result of fishing. However, there is a notable culinary difference between aquaculture sea bass and wild sea bass, being the latter tastier and with the firmer meat.

Benefits and Contraindications of Consuming European Sea Bass

European sea bass is a lean fish,very suitable for those who follow a low calorie diet. In addition to being easily digestible, it is rich in protein and folic acid, so it’ also recommended to consume it during pregnancy. Folic acid can, in fact, reduce the risk by up to 70% of the developments of birth defects during childhood. Sea bass contains omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s quite useful for controlling triglycerides and blood pressure.

In addition, thanks to its high content of potassium, it helps to counteract hypertension. The European sea bass is also rich in phosphorus, which promotes memory and proper development of bones and teeth. Finally, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the regular intake of this food can reduce cancer mortality by up to 64% and prostate cancer by up to 50%.

Nutritional properties of European Sea bass

100 g of European sea bass provide 82 calories broken down as follows:

    • 81% protein
    • 17% fat
    • 2% carbohydrates

In particular, 100 grams of European sea bass provide:

    • 79g of water
    • 16.5 g protein
    • 1.5 g of lipids
    • 0.6 g of soluble sugars

Among the vitamins and minerals, 100 g of European sea bass provides:

    • 0.11 mg thiamine
    • 0.16 mg riboflavin
    • 15 micrograms of vitamin A (retinol equivalent)
    • trace of vitamin C
    • 307g of potassium
    • 20 mg calcium
    • 202 mg phosphorus
    • 4.1 mg of iron
    • 29 mg of magnesium
    • 2.1 mg zinc
    • 0.7 mg copper
    • 9 micrograms folic acid

European Sea Bass Recipes

Let’s learn some wonderdul recipes of this just delicious fish

Pan Fried Sea Bass


    • 4 servings (serving size: 1 fillet and 1 lemon wedge)


    • 1 tablespoon multipurpose flour
    •  1/4 teaspoon salt
    •  1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1 white egg
    • 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
    • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
    • 4 (6 ounces), bass fillets,skinned
    • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon butter
    • 4 lemon wedges

How to Cook it

Step 1

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a large zippered plastic bag. Mix the water and egg white in a shallow dish, stirring with a whisk. Combine the breadcrumbs and cornmeal into another shallow dish, stirring with a whisk.

Step 2

Working with 1 steak at a time, place the fish in the bag; seal and shake to cover. Dip in egg white mixture and dredge the breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with the remaining fillets, flour mixture, egg white mixture and breadcrumb mixture.

Step 3

Add vegetable oil and butter to the pan; cook until the butter melts. Add steaks to pan and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until fish is easily scaled when tested with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

Baked Sea Bass


    • 1 sea bass of about 800 – 1000 g
    • 1 medium zucchini
    • 1 large onion or 2 small ones
    • 2 medium potatoes
    • 1/2 lemon
    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
    • Salt and pepper to taste


    • Preheat oven to 180 ° C.
    • Cut the zucchini into slices, on a baking dish and lightly salt them.
    • Peel and cut the onion into thin slices then place them on the zucchini and add salt to taste.
    • With the potatoes we have two options; we can put them raw or lightly brown in the 3 tablespoons of oil.
    •  Once the potato slices are browned, place them on the bed of onion and put a tad of salt.
    • We add salt and pepper, we give some cuts in the spine and put in them half a slice of lime. We place it on the bed of potatoes, onion and zucchini, water with the oil (if we brown the potatoes, we will use that oil) and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
    • We cook in the oven at 180ºC for 20-25 minutes. The time will depend on the size and type of fish, so when it takes about 20 minutes look how it is, if you see that it is raw, you give it 5 more minutes and you check again, so until it is ready.

Let’s learn another recipe


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