What Do Mermaids Eat? (Diet & Nutrition)

Mermaids are fantastical creatures that are a part women and part fish. Even though mermaids have survived in folklore throughout the entire world, there is very little about what mermaids eat.

Nevertheless, most enthusiasts speculate that based on the description and appearance of mermaids, they would eat a diet similar to a human, including fish, algae, and seaweed.

Of course, this is only a prediction, but it seems the most logical given the description and anatomy of most mermaids throughout folklore. To find out more about what mermaids eat, read on.

What Mermaids Eat & Their Diet

Because mermaids have the top half of a human, most enthusiasts assume that they are considered underwater mammals.

The most popular underwater mammal is the dolphin. As a result, the mermaid’s perspective diet is likely similar to the diet of humans and other underwater mammals.


Like dolphins and seals, enthusiasts believe that mermaids eat fish. Living in the ocean, fish is in abundance and it provides a lot of healthy fat.

In addition to fish, mermaids may also eat crustaceans and shrimp, both of which are in abundance in the shallower ocean floors where mermaids hang out.

Seaweed and Algae

Since mermaids are part human, they need more than just proteins to survive. They also need certain vegetables and minerals. In fact, most of their diet probably comes from sea vegetation, not fish.

Though you might not assume the ocean floor is packed full of these items, mermaids have a lot of healthy options to choose from in terms of vegetation.

Most importantly, mermaids likely eat a lot of seaweed. Although seaweed may not sound very appetizing to us, people around the globe eat it regularly. In Japan, for example, people eat seaweed all the time. It is packed full of healthy fats, such as Omega 3, minerals, protein, and vitamins.

Mermaids likely eat certain algae as well. Even though algae may seem unappetizing, it contains a lot of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Spirulina is a specific type of algae that is eaten by humans today.

About 60% of its weight is protein, and it contains many other vitamins and nutrients too. Mermaids likely eat spirulina and other algae types.

What Nutrients Do They Need?

Assuming that mermaids eat primarily seaweed and algae, along with some fish, there are a few nutrients that they probably need.

Most notably, they probably need minerals very similar to our diet. This includes trace minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, and chromium.

They also likely need different vitamins, such as vitamin A, C, and K. These vitamins specifically support eye health, skin health, and bone development.

Since mermaids can see underwater and have beautiful skin, they likely get boatloads of these vitamins.

Mermaids need protein too.

Seaweed, algae, and fish are all incredibly high in protein and low in calories. If mermaids do eat these three items for most of their nutrients, mermaids have likely developed a strong need for healthy protein.

The last nutrient that mermaids likely need is iodine. Iodine is vital for human health, but many foods do not come with this ingredient.

Seaweed, however, includes a lot of iodine. If mermaids eat seaweed as often as we speculate, they need a lot of iodine to survive.

How Do Mermaids Get Their Food?

The next question you might ask yourself is how mermaids get their food. This question is pretty easy to answer.

As for seaweed and algae, these two items are incredibly easy to pick yourself. Mermaids likely scour the ocean and gather seaweed and algae with their human hands.

To get fish, mermaids probably use nets and other tools to catch their fish. That’s because mermaids do not have mouths or teeth like other underwater mammals.

Instead, they have the mouth of a human, meaning that they cannot catch fish with their mouth. Instead, they likely would use their hands to craft tools for superior hunting techniques.

Origins and Earliest Known Accounts

With over 70% of the Earth is covered with water, people have spent centuries trying to discover every underwater live form that has ever existed – and they’re still coming up short!

With fish, mammals, and the likes, marine biologists have speculated over the existence of several deep-sea organisms—even mermaids. 

The merfolk are underwater, half-human, and half-fish mammalian life forms that dwell in the sea’s deepest parts.

For centuries, their existence has been speculated on mythologies, folklore, and some genuinely believed citings (including one by Christopher Columbus). 

Mermaids have generated particular interest due to stories that garner more and more interest. The first known legend of a life form resembling a mermaid dates back to 1000 B.C.

The latest include animated movies, series, and operas on mermaids. 

The word mermaid was translated to fish-woman in Old English and was initially written as merwif. In particular, Maid was a term used to describe a fair, young, and attractive woman.

The earliest known accounts of mermaids and merfolk come from the early 1000 B.C. with stories of Atargatis.  

Milesian philosopher, Anaximander, suggested around 546 B.C. that the earliest known life forms might have been descendants of aquatic species.

His theory was founded on the belief that humans could not have survived prolonged infancy had they not been descendants of aquatic life forms. 

However, it is interesting to note that in the earliest depictions of any half-human and half-animal life forms, they were morphed with birds instead of fish.

Some historians speculate that the shift might’ve come during the Hellenistic period due to Christian influence. 

The Story of Atargatis

Historians have under-covered artwork from the Old Babylonian Period depicting mythical beings with an upper body (from the waist and up) of a human and a fish’s lower body.

However, these depictions were usually of mermen. 

They were depicted as being masculine, bearded, and generally strongly built men with fishtails. 

This description was maintained even in the depiction of King Triton in ‘The Little Mermaid.’ King Triton, the god of the sea and the king of Atlantis, is shown as a bearded man with a masculine physique – similar to depicting mermen in the artwork. 

The earliest known depiction of mermaids, on the other hand, comes from stories appearing in Assyria during 1000 B.C. The story is of the goddess Atargatis and how she threw herself into the ocean after having accidentally killed her lover.

Atargatis was the chief goddess of Northern Syria. She fell in love with a man and had a child. Due to a strange turn of events, she accidentally killed her lover and could not deal with the guilt.

What’s interesting is that Atargatis was presumably a goddess who had forbidden the consumption of fish during her reign. 

Unable to cope with the loss of her lover, Atargatis flung herself into the ocean to drown herself. However, she instead took on the form of a fish.

The water could not conceal Atargatis beauty, and she remained a human above the waist. In some depictions, she maintained her fully human form – with legs, but a fishtail as well. 

In Greek Mythology, Atargatis is referred to as Derketo.

Japanese Versions

In Japanese versions, the merfolk are referred to as ‘kappa.’ Kappa is thought to have lived in lakes, rivers, coasts, and even around springs. Compared to other depictions of mermaids, the Japanese assumed them to take on the form of children more so than adults. 

Therefore, instead of a fair maiden, the Japanese theorized that Kappa was a child-sized water spirit. Additionally, their fish form was less of a tail and more so of a tortoiseshell.

Accounts of human encounters with Kappa almost always end in a chase – the Kappa would challenge the humans to a game of skill and would eat them if they were to lose. 

Ningbo, on the other hand, is half-female and half-fish-like beings with the body of a fish and solely the head of a woman.

They are far from the beautiful maidens depicted in Ancient English and Greek versions. They have golden horns, red bellies, three eyes on each side of the torso, and a tail end.


In her book, ‘Seduction and the Secret Power of Women,’ Meri Lao mentions mermaids as being stunningly beautiful and equally deceptive. This assumption holds in several other accounts – most popularly in sworn testimonies by seamen who have claimed to have encountered mermaids. 

Accordingly, mermaids are fair and beautiful enough to lure the fishermen and pirates in their hybrid forms, and once the trance is complete, they deceive the men and engage in a cannibalistic ritual to devour them. 

This, obviously, holds significant dissimilarity from Hans Christian’s beloved story of Ariel, the mermaid princess in ‘The Little Mermaid.’ However, it is interesting to note that Ursula was, by all accounts, also a mermaid who did, in fact, deceive the prince.

In other descriptions of mermaids, they were invariably linked with misfortune or disaster.

Seamen would encounter them each time they were lost at sea, and mermaids would guide them under the pretense of them being lead ashore, when in fact, they were led to be eaten.

What Else Would Mermaids Eat?

If we were to put mermaids under a microscope and examine their anatomy to determine what sort of diet they would follow, which diet their dentition would allow, and what sort of hunting method would make sense for them – we couldn’t.

This is because no mermaid has ever been presented to a research facility for dissection. Our assumptions are based solely on depictions of them in literature and accounts from people. 

There are three broad types of hunters in water; filter feeders, silent predators, and aggressive predators.

A filter feeder might seem more probable with the modern assumption of a mermaid’s character.

In contrast, an aggressive feeder is more likely to have been associated with them based on previous depictions. 

  •  Filter Feeders – A filter feeder consumes a large portion of space, including fish and vegetation. They then filter out the fish and consume only the seaweed and algae. However, to do so, a mermaid would have to have a gigantic jaw with pharyngeal slits. 
  •  Aggressive Predators – This might seem probable given earlier accounts of mermaids were based on the assumption that they hunted for their prey. However, those depictions also showed them as being deceptive instead of aggressive. In any event, mermaids are less likely to be aggressive predators such as sharks because their morphology (based on accounts) is human like and therefore not the best to be hunting in the open. 
  •  Silent Predators – In all probability, mermaids are silent predators that wait for their prey and then attack. This holds accurate with earlier accounts of them. Plus, given the fact that a silent predator might also mesh well with the idea of them being beautiful and deceptive. 

Mermaids and other underwater dwellers have plenty of options when it comes to dinner in the great sea. However, the question is whether their digestive system works similarly to a human, a fish, or both. 

If we were to assume that mermaids are more human-like than they are fish-like, it would be a safe bet to say that their digestive system and nutritional balance are similar to what an average, land-dwelling human would eat.

The following could be possible options for mermaids if they eat a human-like diet:

  • Seaweed and Algae – The first thing that comes to mind would be a plant-based diet to maintain harmony and co-exist with their other fish-forms. Seaweeds and algae are laden with healthy fats and nutrients—also essential fats such as Omega-3. 
  •  Crustaceans – On the other hand, they might enjoy a hearty crab meal once in a while to get the right amount of protein in their diet. 
  •  Spirulina – An ancient and still beloved food source is spirulina that the Spanish had in earlier times. 

It also relies on mythology and depictions of mermaids in literature: 

  •  A few stories have them as man-eaters. Here and there, even soul-eaters. In others, they either don’t have to eat, or it essentially isn’t referenced. In individual accounts where they are living ashore among people, they do as the Romans do – in other words, they eat what the people give. 
  •  If we somehow managed to envision them as practically equivalent to people in the sea, they probably would have advanced with an omnivorous eating routine, regardless of whether through chasing, cultivating, rummaging, or any mix thereof. In any case, what’s accessible to some random gathering in their individual climate would have a significant effect. Having arrived at a specific point in awareness and civilization, people could then beginning picking their own eating regimens. 
  •  In the event that we envision them as one of the other fish or marine vertebrates, it could go in any case. There are carnivores and herbivores among both. They could be flesh eaters or channel feeders like scavengers and bivalves. 
  •  In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, King Triton alludes to people as savages, immediately followed by ‘fish-eaters’ in a deprecatory way, proposing that they are likely in his specific universe herbivorous. Considering they can converse with creatures and treat probably some of them as companions, this bodes well. 

What Would Ariel Eat?

Hans Christian composed a story of a young, beautiful, and naive mermaid princess named Ariel. He composed his story in the late 18th century, and since then, numerous adaptations of the story have come forward. 

Most notably, Disney bought the rights to the story and adapted it into an animated movie, ‘The Little Mermaid.’ Since then, Ariel has been the name synonymous with mermaids and merfolk in general.

This is why a discussion on what mermaids eat is incomplete without taking into account the princess of Atlantis’ diet as well. 

It might seem improbable and impossible that Ariel other merfolk living in the ocean would eat their little companions. There are quite a few examples in the film where eating fish is unmistakably disliked by King Triton plus Sebastian. 

It appears to be that ocean animal utilization is viewed as an awful movement as the film’s huge, purple lowlife, Ursula, is one in particular who eats other fishes (prawns, instead).

Hence, it appears to be the remainder of the ocean characters are supported on an entirely vegan sea-going eating routine.

Around the time and century 100-200 AD, Lucian of Samosata wrote about his instance and experience regarding mermaids.

He claimed that the mermaids that he experienced accepted fish as holy and wouldn’t think about eating them, yet they ate a few underwater dwellers anyway.

It appears to be that those mermaids are marginally more daring than the music-adoring Disney characters yet fish are still off of the menu.


Even though folklore describes mermaids as being very different from us, their diet isn’t all that different. They most likely would eat seaweed, algae, and fish.

All three of these items are packed full of protein, minerals, and vitamins, allowing mermaids to stay healthy and fit underwater.

Besides the natural curiosity surrounding their existence, another intriguing question would be about a mermaid’s diet. After all, do they prefer human diets or fish diets? 

Mermaid dietary patterns could give us a lead on where to discover mermaids. If they eat a ton of kelp and green growth, we realize that they will visit zones that have bunches of these plants. 

You can limit the pursuit with detailed sightings and afterward center around the spots close to those sightings where mermaid food exists in abundance. Aside from this favorable strategic position, this is the sort of inquiry that makes cryptozoology a particularly fascinating field. 

When we hypothesize on the highlights of proposed animals, we become familiar with a ton about science en route. Then, we acquire an appreciation for how all life functions, including our own.

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