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Fish vs. Tadpole — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on November 6, 2023
Fish are fully developed, aquatic vertebrates with gills and fins. Tadpoles are the larval stage of amphibians, typically lacking true legs and gills.
Fish vs. Tadpole — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Fish and Tadpole

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Key Differences

Fish are aquatic creatures with a backbone, gills for breathing underwater, and fins for swimming. Tadpoles, however, are the larval form of amphibians, not fully developed, and initially lack limbs. While fish spend their entire lifecycle in the water, tadpoles eventually metamorphose into amphibians, often living both in water and on land.
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Nov 06, 2023
Most fish are oviparous, laying eggs that hatch into miniature versions of the adult form, although some give live birth. Tadpoles hatch from eggs laid in water and go through a significant metamorphosis, growing legs and losing their tails as they transition into adulthood. Both are integral parts of aquatic ecosystems, but at different stages of their respective life cycles.
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Nov 06, 2023
Fish species are diverse, ranging from tiny guppies to massive sharks, adapted to various aquatic environments. Tadpoles are not a species but a developmental stage that all frogs and toads pass through, after which they become terrestrial or semi-aquatic adults. Both fish and tadpoles can serve as important food sources for other animals.
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Nov 06, 2023
In terms of respiration, most fish have gills throughout their lives, allowing them to extract oxygen from water. Tadpoles may breathe through gills initially, but they develop lungs as they grow, preparing for an amphibious adult life. Fish are a diverse group, while tadpoles represent a transient phase of a specific class of animals.
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Nov 06, 2023
Fish are covered in scales that protect their bodies and are cold-blooded, relying on environmental temperatures to regulate their body heat. Tadpoles have smooth skin that will eventually develop into the permeable skin of amphibians, which can absorb water and oxygen. Both fish and tadpoles have evolved to thrive in their watery habitats, but with different end goals - one to continue living in the water, and the other to eventually leave it.
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Nov 06, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Classification

Aquatic vertebrates.
Larval amphibians.
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Respiration

Gills throughout life.
Initially gills, then lungs.
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Limbs

Fins.
Grow limbs during development.
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Lifecycle

Remain in aquatic form.
Undergo metamorphosis to adult form.
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Skin

Scales.
Smooth skin, later permeable as amphibians.
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Nov 06, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Fish

Fish are aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish as well as various extinct related groups.
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Dec 29, 2019

Tadpole

"Tadpole" can denote something or someone in an immature or undeveloped state.
He was just a tadpole when his family moved to the city.
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Nov 06, 2023

Fish

A person who is strange in a specified way
He is generally thought to be a bit of a cold fish
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Dec 29, 2019

Tadpole

A young amphibian, typically an aquatic larva with a tail and gills.
The pond was teeming with tadpoles in the spring.
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Nov 06, 2023

Fish

"Fish" can refer to the act of catching fish for sport or livelihood.
They went to the lake to fish for trout.
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Nov 06, 2023

Tadpole

Tadpoles represent the early, usually aquatic, stage of frogs or toads.
Tadpoles transformed into frogs over the summer.
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Nov 06, 2023

Fish

In a metaphorical sense, "fish" is someone who is out of their normal or comfortable environment.
He felt like a fish out of water at the new job.
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Nov 06, 2023

Tadpole

Tadpoles are characterized by their later development of legs and lungs as they grow.
The children watched in fascination as the tadpoles began to grow legs.
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Nov 06, 2023

Fish

A limbless cold-blooded vertebrate animal with gills and fins living wholly in water
The huge lakes are now devoid of fish
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Dec 29, 2019

Tadpole

In a broad sense, a tadpole is the first stage in the life cycle of an amphibian.
The biology class studied the life cycle of the frog, starting with the tadpole.
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Nov 06, 2023

Fish

A flat plate that is fixed on a beam or across a joint in order to give additional strength.
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Dec 29, 2019

Tadpole

A tadpole is the larval stage in the life cycle of an amphibian. Most tadpoles are fully aquatic, though some species of amphibians have tadpoles that are terrestrial.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

Catch or try to catch fish, typically by using a net or hook and line
He was fishing for pike
I've told the girls we've gone fishing
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Dec 29, 2019

Tadpole

The aquatic larva of a frog or toad, having gills, a long, laterally compressed tail, and in early stages, no limbs. During metamorphosis of a tadpole into an adult, legs and lungs develop, and the tail gradually disappears. Also called polliwog.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

Search by groping or feeling for something concealed
He fished for his registration certificate and held it up to the policeman's torch
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Dec 29, 2019

Tadpole

A young toad or frog in its larval stage of development that lives in water, has a tail and no legs, and, like a fish, breathes through gills.
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Fish

Mend or strengthen with a fish.
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Tadpole

(by extension) The aquatic larva of any amphibian.
Salamander tadpole
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Fish

Join (rails in a railway track) with a fishplate.
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Tadpole

A type of cargo bike that has two wheels in front and one in back.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

Any of numerous cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates characteristically having fins, gills, and a streamlined body and including the bony fishes, such as catfishes and tunas, and the cartilaginous fishes, such as sharks and rays.
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Dec 29, 2019

Tadpole

The young aquatic larva of any amphibian. In this stage it breathes by means of external or internal gills, is at first destitute of legs, and has a finlike tail. Called also polliwig, polliwog, porwiggle, or purwiggy.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

Any of various jawless aquatic craniates, including the lampreys and hagfishes.
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Tadpole

The hooded merganser.
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Fish

The flesh of such animals used as food.
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Tadpole

A larval frog or toad
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Fish

(Informal) A person, especially one considered deficient in something
A poor fish.
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Tadpole

(psychology) A child's basic drawing of a human being, having a detailed head but only sticks for the body and limbs.
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Fish

To catch or try to catch fish.
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Tadpole

(informal) A small child.
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Fish

To look for something by feeling one's way; grope
Fished in both pockets for a coin.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

To seek something in a sly or indirect way
Fish for compliments.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

To catch or try to catch (fish).
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

To catch or try to catch fish in
Fish mountain streams.
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Fish

To catch or pull as if fishing
Deftly fished the corn out of the boiling water.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

(countable) A cold-blooded vertebrate animal that lives in water, moving with the help of fins and breathing with gills.
Salmon is a fish.
The fishmonger sells fishes from all over the world.
Ichthyologists study the fish of the world.
We have many fish in our aquarium.
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Fish

Any animal (or any vertebrate) that lives exclusively in water.
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Fish

(Newfoundland) Cod; codfish.
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Fish

(uncountable) The flesh of the fish used as food.
The seafood pasta had lots of fish but not enough pasta.
Though Lena is a vegetarian, she doesn't have any problem with eating fish.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

(uncountable) A card game in which the object is to obtain cards in pairs or sets of four (depending on the variation), by asking the other players for cards of a particular rank.
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Fish

A woman.
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Fish

An easy victim for swindling.
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Fish

A bad poker player. Compare shark (a good poker player).
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Fish

A makeshift overlapping longitudinal brace, originally shaped roughly like a fish, used to temporarily repair or extend a spar or mast of a ship.
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Fish

(nautical) A purchase used to fish the anchor.
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Fish

A torpedo self-propelled explosive device.
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Fish

(zoology) A paraphyletic grouping of the following extant taxonomic groups:
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Fish

Class Myxini, the hagfish (no vertebrae)
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Fish

Class Petromyzontida, the lampreys (no jaw)
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Fish

Within infraphylum Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates (also including Tetrapoda))
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Fish

(cartomancy) The thirty-fourth Lenormand card.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

(prison slang) A new (usually vulnerable) prisoner.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

A male homosexual; a gay man.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

A period of time spent fishing.
The fish at the lake didn't prove successful.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

An instance of seeking something.
Merely two fishes for information told the whole story.
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Fish

(obsolete) A counter, used in various games.
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Fish

(intransitive) To hunt fish or other aquatic animals in a body of water.
We went fishing for crabs by the pier.
She went to the river to fish for trout.
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Fish

(transitive) To search (a body of water) for something other than fish.
They fished the surrounding lakes for the dead body.
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Fish

To use as bait when fishing.
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Fish

(intransitive) To (attempt to) find or get hold of an object by searching among other objects.
Why are you fishing through my things?
He was fishing for the keys in his pocket.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

To talk to people in an attempt to get them to say something, or seek to obtain something by artifice.
The detective visited the local pubs fishing around for more information.
The actors loitered at the door, fishing for compliments.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

Of a batsman, to attempt to hit a ball outside off stump and miss it.
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Fish

To repair (a spar or mast) by fastening a beam or other long object (often called a fish) over the damaged part (see Noun above).
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Fish

To hoist the flukes of.
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Fish

A counter, used in various games.
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Fish

A name loosely applied in popular usage to many animals of diverse characteristics, living in the water.
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Fish

An oviparous, vertebrate animal usually having fins and a covering scales or plates. It breathes by means of gills, and lives almost entirely in the water. See Pisces.
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Fish

The twelfth sign of the zodiac; Pisces.
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Fish

The flesh of fish, used as food.
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Fish

A purchase used to fish the anchor.
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Fish

To attempt to catch fish; to be employed in taking fish, by any means, as by angling or drawing a net.
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Fish

To seek to obtain by artifice, or indirectly to seek to draw forth; as, to fish for compliments.
Any other fishing question.
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Fish

To catch; to draw out or up; as, to fish up an anchor.
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Fish

To search by raking or sweeping.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

To try with a fishing rod; to catch fish in; as, to fish a stream.
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

Any of various mostly cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates usually having scales and breathing through gills;
The shark is a large fish
In the livingroom there was a tank of colorful fish
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

The flesh of fish used as food;
In Japan most fish is eaten raw
After the scare about foot-and-mouth disease a lot of people started eating fish instead of meat
They have a chef who specializes in fish
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

(astrology) a person who is born while the sun is in Pisces
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Fish

The twelfth sign of the zodiac; the sun is in this sign from about February 19 to March 20
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Fish

Seek indirectly;
Fish for compliments
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Fish

Catch or try to catch fish or shellfish;
I like to go fishing on weekends
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Dec 29, 2019

Fish

A cold-blooded vertebrate animal living in water, with gills and fins.
The fish swam swiftly to escape the predator.
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Nov 06, 2023

Fish

"Fish" is used colloquially to refer to someone new or inexperienced in a particular area.
The poker table was full of fish ready to lose their money.
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Fish

In culinary terms, "fish" refers to the flesh of fish used as food.
She ordered the grilled fish for dinner.
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Nov 06, 2023

Common Curiosities

Can fish live in both fresh and saltwater?

Some fish species can live in both, but most are either freshwater or saltwater species.
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Are all fish cold-blooded?

Yes, all fish are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature is regulated by the surrounding water.
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How long do tadpoles take to become frogs or toads?

The time varies by species but can range from a few weeks to several months.
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Do all fish have scales?

Most fish have scales, but some, like catfish, do not.
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Do tadpoles eat the same food as adult amphibians?

No, tadpoles often eat algae and plants, while adults have a more varied diet including insects.
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Why do tadpoles have tails?

Tadpoles have tails for propulsion in water, which they lose during metamorphosis.
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Can fish breathe air?

Some fish can breathe air using specialized organs, but most cannot.
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Nov 06, 2023

Do tadpoles have predators?

Yes, they are preyed upon by many animals, including fish, birds, and insects.
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Nov 06, 2023

Are tadpoles considered fish?

No, they are amphibians in their larval stage, not fish.
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Nov 06, 2023

What happens to the tail of a tadpole during metamorphosis?

It gets reabsorbed into the body as the tadpole develops into an adult.
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Is a shark a type of fish?

Yes, sharks are a group of fish known for their cartilaginous skeletons.
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Can tadpoles survive out of water?

Tadpoles cannot survive out of water as they need it for oxygen and food.
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What kind of habitats do fish need?

Fish need aquatic habitats, which can include oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams.
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Do fish sleep?

Fish enter a resting state that could be considered similar to sleep.
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Nov 06, 2023

Can all fish swim backwards?

No, most fish cannot swim backwards effectively.
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Nov 06, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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