4 Amazing Palla Fish (Ilish Fish) Facts You Didn’t Know

palla fish

Palla fish, also called ilish fish, Tenualosa ilisha, ilishi, hilsa, hilsa shad, or hilsa herring, are perhaps the most popular freshwater fish of Bangladesh and West Bengal. In fact, ilish recipes are among the most loved dishes in these regions of India.

For example, bhetki palla fish curry, shorshe ilish (mustard flavored palla fish), and palla chop (fried palla fish) make many Bengalis swoon over how absolutely delicious they are! However, did you know that there are actually many other facts about this beloved aquatic creature?

It’s called palla because the Bengali word palla literally means full. Palla fish is found in the fresh and brackish waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Its name comes from the Latin word pallium which means cloak and has many meanings including, protection, mantle, and blanket. There are numerous species of this fish throughout Southeast Asia but Ilish are mainly found in the rivers surrounding West Bengal and Bangladesh.

What is Palla Fish (Ilish Fish)?

palla fish

The palla fish, also known as ilish fish, is a type of freshwater fish that can be found in the northern parts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It’s known for its mild flavor and delicate texture when cooked. Palla fish have dark brown scales with light bellies and fins.

Palla fish can grow to around two feet (24 inches) long on average, but sometimes they grow up to three feet long and weigh up to 3 kg (6 pounds). They are commercially available all year round with peak season occurring from July to November.

Hilsa fish scientific name

Hilsa fish scientific name is ilisha melanopterus or ilisha ilisha

What is palla fish in English?

In English, Palla fish is called hilsa shad or hilsa herring.

Palla fish habitat

The palla fish inhabits the rivers and lakes of Bangladesh, where it has been a favorite food for generations. The fish spends most of its time in shallow water, close to the shore. Its habitat is limited by its preference for calmer waters and shallower depths.

Labidochromis caeruleus (Electric Yellow Cichlid)

It feeds on crustaceans, small shrimp, aquatic insects, and worms that are at the surface level or near it. It also consumes detritus from plants and animals on the river’s bottom.

Palla fish behavior?

Palla fish are generally shy and will hide in plants or cracks in the rocks to avoid being seen by other animals. They are territorial and will defend their territory against intruders. Pallas fish will also use their fins to beat their bodies against the water’s surface to make a sound that may serve as a warning signal to other palla fish.

It is believed they do this because they live on the bottom of streams and rivers where visibility is low. Their schooling behavior is more social than other types of fish but it varies depending on what time of day it is.

During the day, they like to stick together in groups while at night they prefer to spread out. The reasons for these changes are not fully understood but it is believed that there could be some correlation with feeding patterns or protection from predators.

Palla fish habitat

The palla fish is a freshwater fish that lives in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The ilish lives in rivers and streams. They can be found up to 600 meters deep. This type of fish is mainly found in the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna River systems. There are also some populations of this type of fish found in the Mekong River system.

Why they’re interesting

palla fish

Ilish fish have been farmed for centuries in South Asia. It has been said that this type of fish was first farmed by Alexander the Great during his conquest of the region around 325 BC. Nowadays, many people in rural areas depend on farming ilish as their main source of income or food because they don’t have access to other types of work.

Nimbochromis Livingstonii (Livingston's Cichlid)

For those who farm them, it’s important to know how to take care of the fish so that they grow big and healthy. One thing farmers do is use earthen tanks with water from mountain springs or wells.

Farmers make sure there’s plenty of water available so that there’s enough oxygen dissolved into it too. They also make sure there’s plenty of vegetation at the bottom so that ilish will graze and feed off it when necessary.

Another thing that helps keep these fish alive is the fact that farmers release fresh-water clams called adwari into the tank. These clams provide a natural form of treatment for any diseases ilish might get. What’s really cool about these clams is that they’ll help cleanse impurities in the water while releasing calcium carbonate which protects against any algae growth.

What do palla fish eat?

The pala fish feed on a variety of small animals from the water like insects or crustaceans, as well as small mollusks, and plants. They are also known to catch their prey by lunging at it with their mouth open.


The palla fish are preyed upon by multiple fishes including the yellowfin tuna, mackerel, salmon, and ika. The palla fish’s predators also include sea birds like the brown noddy and blue-footed booby as well as sharks like the Galapagos shark.

Breeding and reproduction

It is very easy to breed palla fish. Pallas can be crossed easily with each other when they reach maturity, and they usually spawn at night once they are mature. For breeding purposes, add 1 tablespoon of salt to each gallon of water, as fish require brackish water.

If given the opportunity, pallas will eat their own eggs after spawning. Take some of the eggs out of the spawning container and place them in another container. Adding air stones or bubblers to your tank will increase the likelihood of seeing them hatch. In most cases, eggs hatch within eight days.

Labeotropheus fuelleborni (Fuelleborni Cichlid)

It can sometimes help shake loose whatever is blocking hatching by gently pushing them with a turkey baster or small syringe if any of them don’t hatch.
It will take about 4 to 5 days for newly hatched palla fry to start taking adult food sources. Feed them crushed flake food once they hatch for about 4 to 5 days.

How long do palla fish live (lifespan)?

The palla fish lives for about 4 to 5 years, but can sometimes live up to 7 years.

4 Palla fish facts you should know

palla fish

  • Ilish fishes (called Jora Ilish in Bengali) are often purchased in Hindu Bengali families on special occasions like special prayer days or on holy days dedicated to goddesses. For example, Saraswati Puja, which takes place in spring, is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess of Music, Art, and Knowledge. The Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, Lakshmi, is worshipped in autumn during the Lakshmi Puja. Some people think that offering fish to Lakshmi will complete the puja if they choose to participate in it.
  • Bangladesh’s national fish is the ilish (Palla fish).
  • PULASA is the name given to this fish in the Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh State. The name Pulasa is given to the fish during the flooding (muddy water) of the Godavari River in July-Sept. As a result of the high demand for fish, the price per kilo has risen to over $100 in recent years.
  • Hilsha fish, otherwise known as the Pallo Machi fish, is a significant part of Sindhi cuisine, prepared with various cooking methods. Common styles of this dish involve deep frying it and adding a sauce made of the local herbs and spices, cooking it in a dish with vegetables and potatoes, or grilling it on the barbecue. There’s also usually fish roe, known as Aani in Sindhi. Enjoyed as a delicacy in Sindhi cuisine, the fish roe often accompanies fish fillets and is usually fried.
Yellow Tail Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus acei)