Differences Between Bony Fish And Cartilaginous Fish

Last Updated on March 19, 2022 by QCity Editorial Stuff

The two major types of fish are bony fish and cartilaginous fish. Though they both live in the water, these two groups have some different characteristics that make them easily distinguishable from one another. The main differences between bony and cartilaginous fish include their skeletal structure, appearance, habitat preference, diet, and life span. 

The guide below will discuss some of the key characteristics that set these two groups apart from each other to help you recognize which type of fish is being studied or discussed in your class or at work.

The difference between bony fish and cartilaginous fish is that bony fish have an internal skeleton, while cartilaginous fish have a skeleton made of cartilage. Cartilage is the same substance that makes up our noses, ears, and joints. Cartilaginous fish are more closely related to sharks than they are to bony fishes. Both types of these sea creatures live in saltwater environments which allows them to survive with less freshwater due to their skin being able to retain more salt. This adaptation also helps them stay buoyant and swim faster as well as fight off infections by preventing any freshwater from entering through wounds or damaged tissues (Fish Base). 

Comparison Between Bony Fish And Cartilaginous Fish

 Parameters of Comparison  Bony FishCartilaginous Fish
Scale Have scale Do not have the scale 
Vulnerable More vulnerable Less vulnerable 
Breathe oxygen Bony fish can breathe oxygen from the airwhereas cartilaginous fish need to live in water with high levels of dissolved oxygen
Vertebrates bony fishes are invertebratesCartilaginous fishes are vertebrates
Sound Can produce sound Can not produce

What Is Bony Fish? 

What Is Bony Fish

Bony fish or ray-finned fishes are a class of bony fish. They constitute the largest group within the vertebrate class Pisces. There are 26,000 species in this class and they inhabit both fresh and saltwater environments from pole to pole. These creatures range in size from as small as 3 centimeters (1 inch) to as large as 10 meters (33 feet). Humans catch many types of bony fish for food such as Perch, Tuna, Halibut, Codfish, and Red Snapper. 

Bony fish is also used for fishing bait! Fish like minnows can be bought at your local store when you need live bait for catching bigger games like salmon or tuna! All around us we can see bony fish.

Bony fish are a type of vertebrate that lives in the water and have a skeleton made out of bone. They come in many sizes, shapes, colors, and lifestyles. Bony fish can be found everywhere from saltwater to freshwater lakes to ponds. There are around 20 000 different species of bony fish with over half living in saltwater environments. 

A lot of people don’t know what is a bony fish but they’re really common! It’s just an animal that lives in the water and has a skeleton made out of bone. There are all sorts- big ones, small ones, colorful ones, some with the light on them so you can see them at night or deep down where it’s dark. They live in ponds, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Bony fish can be found all over the world- from saltwater.

What Is Cartilaginous Fish?

What Is Cartilaginous Fish

Cartilaginous fish are a group of jawless marine fishes that include sharks, rays, and skates. They are called cartilaginous because they do not have true bone tissue but rather cartilage. Cartilage is made up of cells that can repair themselves, unlike bone that cannot heal itself to the same degree. These fish lacks swim bladders, instead of using their large livers to control buoyancy in water. 

The most well-known type of cartilaginous fish would be the shark which has been around for over 400 million years! Sharks have evolved so much so that there are now over 500 species living today! The other type of cartilaginous fish you might know is the stingray or skate which both use their venomous barbs for protection. The third type is the lesser-known elephant fish which lives in lakes and rivers throughout Africa.

Cartilaginous fish are a class of jawless fish that includes sharks, rays, and chimeras. These species have skeletons made from cartilage instead of bone. They lack swim bladders, which means they sink in water if not constantly moving forward or up to the surface for air. 

Sharks are one type of cartilaginous fish who have been around since before dinosaurs roamed the earth! Sharks are fierce predators with razor-sharp teeth. Other types of cartilaginous fish include stingrays and chimeras – both known for their long whip-like tails that can be used as weapons against other animals or humans.

10 Differences Between Bony Fish And Cartilaginous Fish

Scale: Bony fish have scales, cartilaginous fish do not.

Vulnerable: Cartilaginous fish are more vulnerable to water pressure because they don’t have a swimbladder.

Breathe oxygen: Bony fish can breathe oxygen from the air whereas cartilaginous fish need to live in water with high levels of dissolved oxygen.

Vertebrates: Cartilaginous fishes are vertebrates and bony fishes are invertebrates.

Sound: Some bony fishes can produce sound by moving their gas-filled swim bladders while some cartilaginous fishes cannot.

Respiration: Bony fishes use gills for respiration while cartilage use organs called spiracles that allow them to take up oxygen through their skin.

Scale: Bony fish have scales, while cartilaginous fish do not.

Swim Bladder: Cartilaginous fish lack a swim bladder and rely on their large livers to maintain buoyancy.

Cold Blooded: Bony fishes are cold-blooded, but cartilaginous fishes are warm-blooded.

Water: Cartilaginous fish typically live in saltwater, while bony fishes live in freshwater.

Interesting Statistics Or Facts Of Bony Fish 

1. Bony fish make up over 97% of all the known species of fish.

2. The body structure for bony fish is made up of a backbone and fins, unlike cartilaginous fishes like sharks which have skeletons made from cartilage.

3. Fish scales are not scaled – they’re just tiny bits of skin that overlap each other on the outside to protect the boney skeleton beneath. 

4. Most types of bony fish have a swim bladder, which helps them control their buoyancy in the water.

5. There’s a common misconception that goldfish grow as big as 20 inches long – but this is false because goldfish can’t live past 10 years old.

6. Some types of bony fishes have teeth on the roof or inside their mouth so they can eat animals with shells such as crabs and clams.

Interesting Statistics Or Facts Of Cartilaginous Fish

1. A cartilaginous fish is any member of the subclass Elasmobranchii (sharks, rays, skates, and chimeras).

2. The name comes from their endoskeleton consisting mainly of cartilage instead of bone.

3. Sharks are one type of cartilaginous fish – they live in all oceans and seas except for the Arctic Ocean.

4. There are about 400 species of sharks worldwide.

5. Sharkskin has a rough texture to help them move through the water easily.

6. Cartilaginous fishes have no stomachs but continue to eat throughout their lives because they produce urea like mammals do which helps with digestion.


The differences between bony fish and cartilaginous fish are not just physical. They also exist in the way their bodies function, how they reproduce, where they live in the ocean, etc. Cartilaginous fishes have more of an impact on humans because many species can be harmful to people while only a few bony fishes do this (in general). We hope that these distinctions help you better understand both types of marine life when reading about them or watching documentaries.

They also don’t have scales, but rather tough outer skin to protect them from predators. Finally, unlike bony fish who can survive in both salt and fresh water environments, cartilaginous fish only live in the ocean or other saltwater environments. In this blog post, we will explore these three key differences between bony and cartilaginous fishes as well as what makes each type so unique. 


Resource 01: https://seaworld.org/animals/all-about/bony-fish/classification/
Resource 02: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-cartilaginous-fish-2291875

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