Fish leather

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Fish skin is a rare type of leather. The skin surfaces are often very small. In recent years, objects made from stingray leather have grown in popularity, thanks to the glass bead-like surface structure of the skin.

Also, the proliferation of fish farms, for various species, has increased the availability of fish leather, as the skins would otherwise be wasted.

Fish leather is stronger than other leather types, if the same thicknesses are compared. This is because the fibre structure of fish skin runs crosswise, rather than parallel as in, for example, cowhide. The tensile strength of fish leather reaches up to 90 Newtons (e.g. salmon or perch).

The manufacturing principle for fish leather production was developed by the Nanai people from Eastern Siberia, who traditionally make fish leather garments. The tanning process takes about a month.

The skins of the following are suitable for making fish leather: Shark, salmon, carp, stingray, cod, sea wolf and sturgeon. Fish leather usually has a scaly structure, is thinner than calfskin and is considered to be very elastic and tear-resistant.

Fish leather surfaces

While fish leathers generally exhibit the typical scale structure, there are many species of fish with other skin surfaces.

The different skin surfaces of fish

picture surface fish species
Barsch-09.jpg scale structure perch, dolfinfish, carp, cod, salmon, pacu, pirarucu (= arapaima or paiche), parrotfish, tilapia, plaice
Atlantikrochen-02.jpg relatively smooth surfaces some shark species, atlantic stingray, catfish
Aalleder-07.jpg central scar eel, salmon, pacu, plaice
Haileder-005.jpg scaly structure visible only under the microscope some shark species
Rochenleder-004.jpg hard pearl studs, which are also sanded flat for design reasons some stingray species, kitefin shark
Muraenenleder-001.jpg visible pores on the skin moray eel, sea wolf
Stoer-04-Donkan.jpg a driftwood-like surface sturgeon


The boxfish is a subspecies of the puffer fish. This one was dried to parchment in Brazil and should help to keep the "evil eye" away.


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Dried boxfish from Nilo Peçanha - Brazil.


Carp leather

Carp leather is soft and has a scaly structure.

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Carp leather is very scaly.


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Carp leather as gold leather.


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Carp leather handbag manufactured by



Carp leather made by Anatol Donkan.


The barbe is a European freshwater fish of the carp family. The skin of the barbe has a typical scale structure and is instantly recognisable as fish leather. Leather objects made from barbe skin are very rare.

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Barbe leather.


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The middle leather is of a barbe (made by Flat Iron Straps).


Catfish leather

The catfish is the largest freshwater fish in Europe. They prefer large lakes and rivers with muddy water and are commonly found in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The catfish has no scales. The leather is smooth with a distinctive grain and drawing.



The leather of a catfish does not have a scale structure.


Cod leather

Cod is one of the most important food fish from the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. Its skin is also used to make leather.




Cod Leather is a typical fish leather with a scaly skin. The skin is about 40 - 50 centimetres long and 10 to 15 centimetres wide (= approximately 0,5 square feet) and tapers from neck to tail. Cod leather is a thinner leather.


Cod leather, a complete skin of


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The fish and leather samples of


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The skin texture is very irregular.



Cod-parchment produced by bookbinding Zerbst.


Dolphinfish leather

Dolphinfish, also called "mahimahi", live in the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean. They are up to 1.80 meters long and can weigh up to nearly 40 kilos. The skin has small, round scales.



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You can see the small round scale chambers of the dolphinfish (available at


Eel leather

Eel leather is a rarity. The leather is a small strip due to the shape of the fish. It has a characteristic centre strip on the leather. Eels have no scales.


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Eel in the water. - Smoked eel.


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Eel leather. The characteristic central scar is clearly visible.


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Eel leather chair from Estonia.


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Eel leather boots from Chicago. Circa 2005 for 200 $ - Eel leather bespoke shoe produced by Jacob, F. Schuhe.


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Eel leather chair.



Little bag made of eel leather (



Bag made of eel leather.


Moray eel leather

The leather of the moray is solid and the hair pores give it a distinctive surface.


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Moray leather has a typical grain.



Moray leather handbag.


Pacu leather

Pacu from South America is closely related to the piranha but it’s a pure fruit and seed eater.

It has striking teeth, similar to those of humans. A new-born pacu has a red belly, whereas adults have grey or black bellies and weigh up to 30 kilos.

The pacu is a popular food fish and lives in rivers and lakes, but it is also bred in ponds. Like its dangerous cousin, the piranha, the pacu is also covered with many very small scales.

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There are different types of pacu. - Leather watch strap of pacu Leather (made by Flat Iron Straps).



Pacu fish dish in the Pantanal in Brazil.




Pacu leather has small scales (


Parrotfish leather

The leather from the tropical parrot fish is a typical scaly fish leather.

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Parrot fish and parrot fish dish.


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Leather of parrot fish.


Perch leather

Perch leather or sea bass is a soft, flaky fish leather. The fish are native to Africa (Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda). A skin is on average 1.0 square foot (50 - 60 centimetres wide and about 14 - 20 centimetres wide).


Perch leather, complete skin from


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The fish and leather pattern of


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The skin structure is reminiscent of rumen leather.



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Sea bass leather in bright colour of


Pirarucu leather

Pirarucu (also called arapaima or paiche), is a freshwater fish that is located in the Amazon area. Pirarucu is very large and can be over 2 meters long and weigh over 100 kilos and has very large scales. Its unexpected softness and flexibility makes it a distinctive leather.

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Pirarucu is a large fish with correspondingly large skin.



The paiche is a tasty fish in Bolivia.


The leather is very soft, has large scales and a multi-layered structure. There is no comparable leather with this look and feel.


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The leather of the pirarucu has a striking scale structure. Left - natural scales, right - edges of the scales are cut.


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The leather of the pirarucu has a multi-layered scale structure.




Pirarucu leather from



Pirarucu-leather handbag.


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Pirarucu-leather handbag from and


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Art of pirarucu leather. - Leather boots. - Pirarucu leather wedding dress.


Plaice leather

The plaice or gold butt is a flatfish. It is found on almost all European coasts and is a significant food fish. Its skin has small scales and a clearly recognisable middle scar.

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The plaice is a flatfish, which is suitable as food fish.



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The skin of the plaice has small scales and a clearly recognisable middle scar (


Puffer fish - Ball fish

The skin of ball fish is sometimes dried and sold as a lamp or accessories.


Ball fish parchment as lamp.


Salmon leather

The skin of salmon is tanned. The typical appearance of the fish scales remains the same. Salmon leather is thin and light and is about 60 - 65 centimetres long and 10 - 14 centimetres wide (= approx. 0.8 square feet).

According to a supplier of salmon leather, the leather of salmon has a higher strength than sheep or pig leather.

The main use for this type of leather is for the accessories market. Salmon leather is fashionable for bags, clothing or shoes.

Nowadays the skins come from salmon breeding farms. Therefore, sufficient skins are available for further processing to salmon leather. However, salmon leather is not widely used. It is a niche product in the leather market.

Salmon leather is often vegetable tanned or FOC (chrome-free) tanned.

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Salmon skin ("Nanaileder").


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Salmon leather crust. - Salmon leather ironed and coloured.



Salmon leather is available in many colourful colours from the company "Nanaileder".


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Salmon leather in the furniture area. But a rarity.


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Leather watch strap made of salmon leather (Flat Iron Straps). - Leather shoes with combination of salmon leather and calfskin (Ledermanufaktur Posenanski).


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Salmon leather not ironed. - Salmon leather ironed. - Bespoke shoes (Jacob, F. Schuhe).


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Leather handbags. - Leather handbags made of metallic leather. - Braided leather strips of the company "Nanaileder".




Salmon leather art of Anatol Donkan.



Salmon leather skin of


Sea wolf leather

The leather of a sea wolf is a rarity and mostly comes from the seas around Iceland. The skin of sea wolf has no scales and is therefore smooth. A skin is about 60 - 70 centimetres long and 14 - 20 centimetres wide (= approx. 1.1 square feet). Characteristically it has dark spots on the skin.

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Sea wolf leather.


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The fish and leather patterns of


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Sea wolf leather has no scales unlike moray eel leather or shark leather (


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Leather watch strap made of sea wolf leather (Flat Iron Straps).


Shark leather

Shark leather is covered with a microscopically small scale structure. It is used for shoes and belts and other leather accessories.


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Shark and shark dish.





Characteristic of most species of shark: Scaly structure is clearly recognisable under the microscope.


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Wallet made of shark leather ( - Exceptional: shark leather on a bicycle saddle.


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Biker wallet made of shark leather ( and shark leather watch strap (Flat Iron Straps).



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With some shark leathers, the surface is smooth (Flat Iron Straps).


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Drum with cover of shark leather from the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia, South Seas).


Kitefin shark

Boroso is a name for shark leather, which is from the kitefin shark. This leather has been used for the handles of swords, sabres and other weapons. It is reminiscent of the structure of stingray leather. The structure is somewhat finer.


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Kitefin shark parchment.


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Kitefin shark polished.


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Kitefin shark coloured.



Kitefin shark leather watch strap (Flat Iron Straps).


Coral shark

About 100 years ago, there was a style of handbag made with a conspicuous wave pattern. From unconfirmed sources this is leather from the coral shark. It is also unknown among leather experts, which shark species it is or whether it was a special deformation technique. The surface does not have the characteristic shark leather structure.

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Very old leather handbag. The grain structure is exceptional (from the collection of Ms. Ursula Kayser from Göttingen - Germany).


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Made of leather of old leather handbags (Flat Iron Straps).


Stingray leather

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Complete stingray skin (foto of stingray leather manufacturing company Pierre Guijarro, 78500 Sartrouville, France,


Stingray leather is a rare leather and occasionally appears on accessories such as wallets, leather bags and knife sheathes. It can be dyed in different colours. Usually there is a bright geometric shape on the leather, which results from grinding the peaks of the pearls. The surface of stingray leather is similar to the hardness of glass beads and is difficult to cut.

The broad hides of the pearl-streaks and the long and narrow hides of the spine-bones are different.

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Stingray leather in different colours completely ground.



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The bright, diamond-shaped spot is created by grinding away the peaks of the pearl structure. The diamond shape in an established recognition mark.




The brightening in the middle is also created by grinding the peaks.


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The unpolished tops. Each pearl skin has several large pearls in the middle area. The diamond is then ground there.


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Across the whole surface polished stingray leather.



Very exotic: Stingray leather on a bicycle saddle.


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Stingray leather watch strap (Flat Iron Straps). - Stingray leather as key case.


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Jewellery box of the company Löffelsend covered with ray leather and partially offset with wood and bone.


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Stingray leather used for a mobile phone case ( or as Biker wallet (


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Stingray leather was already used in the 18th century (Box from England 1809, © German Leather Museum, C. Perl-Appl).


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Stingray leather was also used in the beginning of the 19th century for high-quality furniture.




Ancient, traditional sword handle from Japan.


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Stingray leather helmet ( - Stingray leather boots (


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Bespoke shoes from Himer Maßschuhe.


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Stingray leather production. - Dried stingray leather.


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Imitation leather: The imitation of stingray leather is hardly distinguishable by eye alone.


Atlantic stingray

The skin of the Atlantic stingray has a completely different surface compared to the normal stingray leather. The skin does not have a pearl structure. Leather objects from Atlantic stingray leather are very rare.

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Atlantic stingray leather.



The brown surface is Atlantic stingray leather


Sturgeon leather

Sturgeon leather has an unusual surface. It looks like wood or cork and is very solid.



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Sturgeon leather from Anatol Donkan.



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Sturgeon leather from Anatol Donkan.


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Leather wallets made from sturgeon leather (


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Leather watch strap made of sturgeon leather (Flat Iron Straps).


As with stingray leather, the bone-like excesses can be sanded in order to create extraordinary design effects.


Sanded sturgeon leather has an unusual look.


Tilapia leather

Tilapia leather is relatively large and it has bigger scales.

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Tilapia and tilapia dish.


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Tilapia leather.


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Leather wallets made of tilapia leather (


Video about leather of different animal species

Leather of different animal species - Exotic leather

Other exotic leather

The cleaning and care of fish leather

Fish leather is usually processed for special objects which are treated with care. A careful treatment is the best for the longevity of exotic leather. The cleaning and care of fish leather not only depends on the type of animal, but in particular on the finish by the tanner. The tanner can make a variety of different types of leather from one species. From porous aniline leather to gold leather. Therefore, the correct procedure for cleaning and care can only be determined on an individual basis.

COLOURLOCK is specialized in all matters relating to leather and helps with all questions about the correct cleaning and care of leather. In case of doubt send complete and detailed photos of your leather object to We will have a look at the objects and give you free advice.

Exotic leather often requires special solutions for leather cleaning and leather care.