Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week NEWTON Teachers Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Referencing NEWTON Frequently Asked Questions About Ask A Scientist About NEWTON Education At Argonne Fish Scale Function

Name: Roc
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: GA
Country: USA
Date: Winter 2012-2913

How do scales help fish survive?

Scales confer protection being hard, help in camoflauge from predators by matching with environmental background and make their body more streamlined to glide in water.


Hi Roc,

Thanks for the question. Scales do several things which help fish survive:

1.) They provide camouflage protection. 2.) They provide reflection which may be used as communication amongst fishes. 3.) They provide a hard surface which may prevent parasites from burrowing into the fish's flesh. 4.) They provide a surface which reduces drag and makes for more efficient swimming.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks Jeff


The primary purpose of fish scales is to give the fish external protection from cuts, scrapes and bites from other fish. The scales are hard, sturdy and slippery. Their shape and orientation on the fish’s body also makes it easier for the fish to swim through the water by reducing water drag. The scales also help propel the fish through the water as it wiggles back and forth. The scales also ooze a slime that makes it easier for the fish to swim through the water.

Here is a nice picture from:

Be sure to enter the whole URL in your browser address space, or go to and search for “Fish Scales.”

Michael Stewart

Click here to return to the Zoology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 223
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: November 2011
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory