Spanish Mackerel vs Cero Mackerel – What’s The Difference?


Spanish mackerel and cero mackerel are very similar. For this reason many people ask about their differences. Let’s answer, what’s the difference between a Spanish mackerel and a cero mackerel?

Spanish mackerel and cero mackerel are different species although from the same family and genus. Spanish mackerel is the S. maculatus species, cero mackerel is the S. regalis species. Cero mackerel have yellow spots and a yellow line running down their sides. Spanish mackerel doesn’t have the yellow line, just spots.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their habitats, appearance and compare their nutritional value.

Keto Bread Tip: Great News! Did you know, you don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza or sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto diet. Find out more in the KetoBreads website by clicking here, Keto Breads.

Disclaimer: The above link and others in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

When someone is shopping in the fish market for fillets, whole fish or catching a mackerel in the water, it may not be immediately obvious which kind of fish they’re looking at. For this reason, we want to find out a simple method for identifying which fish is which.

How can you tell a Spanish mackerel from a cero mackerel?

To tell the difference between a Spanish and cero mackerel check their side markings and pectoral fins. Cero mackerel have a yellow line and spots on their sides. Spanish mackerel only have yellow spots minus the line. Cero mackerel’s scales extend onto the pectoral fins. The Spanish mackerel pectoral fin doesn’t have scales.

Other ways to tell the difference between a Spanish mackerel and a cero mackerel are:

  • Spanish mackerel have a dark spot on the front dorsal fin. Cero Mackerel have a bluish-black spot on the front dorsal fin.

Cero Mackerel and Spanish Mackerel photo comparison

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Spanish mackerel are from:

  • Family: Scombridae
  • Genus: Scomberomorus
  • Species: S. maculatus
  • Common nicknames: Spotted mackerel, spotted cybium.

Cero mackerel are from:

  • Family: Scombridae
  • Genus: Scomberomorus
  • Species: S. regalis
  • Common nicknames: Cero, painted mackerel, pintado, kingfish.

Spanish and cero mackerel are from the same family and genus but are different species.

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Habitats

Spanish mackerel habitats

  • Spanish mackerel are found off the Atlantic Ocean coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are far north as Massachusetts and south down to Florida.
  • Spanish mackerel prefer shallow waters and sand bottoms in depths from 10 to 40 feet.

Cero mackerel habitats

  • Cero mackerel are found off the Atlantic Ocean coast of the United States, the Gulf of Mexico and South America. They are as far north as Massachusetts and south past Florida down to Brazil.
  • Cero mackerel prefer swimming in depths from 3 to 66 feet.

Spanish and cero mackerel are both found along the eastern coast of the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico and South America.

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel photo comparison
(top) Spanish Mackerel (bottom) Cero Mackerel

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Appearance

Spanish and Cero Mackerel Colors

  • Spanish mackerel have a greenish back, silver sides and belly. Spanish mackerel have yellow or olive green spots on their sides.
  • Cero mackerel have a greenish back, silver sides and belly. Cero mackerel have yellowish spots on their sides and a yellow, lateral, broken line running down the sides.

Spanish and cero mackerel have a silver belly. Spanish mackerel have yellow spots and no yellow line. Cero mackerel have yellow spots and a broken yellow line.

Dorsal Fins

  • Spanish mackerel has two dorsal fins. The front dorsal has about 15 spines and the front is taller than the rear. The second dorsal has about 15 soft rays.
  • Cero mackerel has two dorsal fins. The front dorsal has about 15 spines and the front is taller than the rear. The second dorsal has about 15 soft rays.

The front of the Spanish mackerel first dorsal fin is black. The front dorsal fin on the cero mackerel is bluish-black.

Anal Fins

  • The Spanish mackerel has one anal fin having soft rays with no spines.
  • The cero mackerel has one anal fin having soft rays with no spines.

Spanish and cero mackerel only have soft rays on their one anal fin.

Tail Fins

  • The Spanish mackerel tail fin is forked.
  • The cero mackerel tail fin is forked.

Spanish and cero mackerel have a deeply forked tail fin resembling a boomerang.

Mouth

  • The Spanish mackerel mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line. Spanish mackerel have a single row of cutting edged teeth on both jaws.
  • The cero mackerel mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line. Cero mackerel have a single row of cutting edged teeth on both jaws.

Spanish and cero mackerel have sharp teeth inside their mouth on the lower and upper jaws.

Body Shape

  • The Spanish mackerel body is long, slender and tapers narrower towards the tail fin.
  • The cero mackerel body is long, slender and tapers narrower towards the tail fin.

Spanish and cero mackerel have a long, narrow body which tapers towards the tail.

Distinguishing Marks

Spanish Mackerel

  • Spanish mackerel have a lateral line on the sides from the rear of the gill cover to rear. The lateral line begins higher and gradually slops down towards the middle of the body towards the tail.
  • Spanish mackerel have a dark spot at the front of the first dorsal fin.
  • Spanish mackerel have yellow spots on their sides.

Cero Mackerel

  • Cero mackerel have a lateral line on the sides from the rear of the gill cover to rear. The lateral line begins higher and gradually slops down towards the middle of the body towards the tail.
  • Cero mackerel have a bluish-black spot at the front of the first dorsal fin.
  • Cero mackerel have yellow spots on their sides.
  • Cero mackerel have a yellow lateral, broken line running down their sides.
  • The cero mackerel small scales extend out onto the pectoral fins.
Cero Mackerel scales

 

Scales

  • The scales on the Spanish mackerel are tiny.
  • The scales on the cero mackerel are tiny.

The scales on the Spanish and cero mackerel are small. The Cero mackerel scales extend onto the pectoral fin.

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Size and Weight

  • Spanish mackerel averages 19-33 inches long and up to 10 pounds. The females grow longer and weigh more than the males.
  • Cero mackerel can grow to 12-15 inches long and average 8 pounds or more.

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Lifespan

  • Spanish mackerel lives up to 12 years.
  • Cero mackerel lives up to 12 years.

Diet

Spanish mackerel consumes the following:

  • Small fish
  • Anchovies
  • Shrimp
  • Squid
  • Herring
  • Menhaden
  • Alewives

Cero mackerel consume the following:

  • Squid
  • Shrimp
  • Herring
  • Clupeidea
  • Striped anchovies
  • Minnows
  • Blue runners

Mackerel and other fish are known for being a part of many diets like keto or heart healthy.

If you’re eating low-carb or want to give keto a try, many of my clients have followed this 28-Day Keto Challenge with great success. Visit their website and check it out.

Species Resources 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Many people like to know how Spanish and King mackerel compare to each other. I wrote an article on them which you can check out, Spanish Mackerel vs King Mackerel – What’s The Difference?

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel: Tastes and Textures

One of the main reasons people chooses a particular fish to eat is its taste and texture. When comparing the two fish, does Spanish mackerel taste like cero mackerel?

Spanish mackerel and cero mackerel have a similar medium flavor taste. Their flavor is not considered mild or sweet. Spanish mackerel and cero mackerel have an oily flesh but Spanish mackerel is a little more oilier. Both mackerel have a similar firm texture which breaks apart into small flakes. 

What does Spanish mackerel taste like? Spanish mackerel have a medium taste. The fish is slightly oily due to its high fat content. The texture is firm and breaks apart into small flakes.

What does cero mackerel taste like? Cero mackerel have a medium taste. The flesh is slightly oily but not as much as Spanish or king mackerels. The texture is firm and flaky. 

I polled readers and members of food groups I belong to. The following are the results of my poll which consisted of 53 people. I asked which fish tasted better, cero mackerel or Spanish mackerel?

  • 63% preferred the taste of cero mackerel.
  • 29% preferred the taste of Spanish mackerel.
  • 8% said they had no preference between the two.

If you’re interested in the differences between a king mackerel and an Atlantic mackerel, check out my article, King Mackerel vs Mackerel: What’s The Difference? We Compare.

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Substitutions

When preparing recipes for dinner you may have one fish already in the refrigerator ready to be used. In addition, it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for in the recipe. If you have some Spanish mackerel, you may ask, can I substitute Spanish mackerel for cero mackerel?

Spanish mackerel and cero mackerel can substitute for each other due to their similar medium flavors. Their similar firm textures allow both fish to be cooked using the same cooking methods. Spanish mackerel and cero mackerel can be cooked by grilling, searing, frying, baking or broiling. 

Spanish mackerel substitutes include the following:

  • Tuna
  • Catfish
  • Bass
  • Northern pike
  • Salmon
  • Bullhead

Cero mackerel substitutes include the following:

  • Tuna
  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Northern pike
  • Bullhead
  • Salmon

When substituting cero or Spanish mackerel always stick to the following:

    • Stick with similar cut fillets.
    • Same size and weight.
    • Stick with skinless or skin when the recipe calls for one.
    • Texture is more important for certain cooking methods. Like using a firmer texture when grilling 10.

How To Cook Spanish Mackerel

Popular ways to cook Spanish mackerel include:

      • Baking
      • Broiling
      • Grilling
      • Frying
      • Searing

Spanish mackerel flavor pairings:

      • Cajun
      • Paprika
      • Olive oil
      • Lemon
      • White wine

Find out what mackerel taste people preferred, Atlantic or Spanish, in my article, Atlantic Mackerel vs Spanish Mackerel – Are They The Same?

How To Cook Cero Mackerel

Popular ways to cook cero mackerel include:

      • Baking
      • Broiling
      • Grilling
      • Frying
      • Searing
      • Sushi

Cero mackerel flavor pairings:

      • Mustard sauce
      • Chili
      • Olive oil
      • White wine
      • Lime
      • Cajun
      • Smoked paprika

How Much Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Cost

The prices for fish will vary depending on how the fish are caught and where they’re sold. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label to see if it’s wild caught or farm-raised. Therefore, which fish costs more, cero mackerel or Spanish mackerel?

Spanish mackerel and cero mackerel fillets and whole fish have a similar price per pound. Whole cero mackerel fish costs $13.95 per pound. Whole Spanish mackerel fish costs $13.95 per pound.

I conducted a search online for the most popular websites selling fish online. Some have stores locally. I was unable to locate any cero fillets, only whole fish. The following are the stores I checked and the prices for each mackerel.

I checked the Fulton fish market online for prices:

      • Wild Spanish mackerel fillet
        • $22.40 per pound
      • Wild whole Spanish mackerel
        • $15.59 per pound

I checked Eaton Street Seafood Market online:

      • Whole Cero Mackerel fish
        • $13.95 per pound
      • Whole Spanish Mackerel fish
        • $13.95 per pound

I also checked Citarella online for prices:

      • Whole Spanish mackerel fish
        • $13.19 per pound
      • Spanish Mackerel fillet
        • $20.56 per pound

I checked Fresh Direct online and found the following prices:

      • Wild Spanish fillet
        • $16.99 per pound

To save some money on fresh seafood, would you believe some can be purchased on Amazon? They even have some mackerel. Check out their current prices and selection, Fresh Seafood.

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Mercury Levels

The EPA and The Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 11. This is especially important for the following:

      • Pregnant women
      • Developing children
      • Young infants

They established a list of the following:

      • Best fish
      • Good choices
      • Fish to avoid

Therefore, does Spanish mackerel or cero mackerel have more mercury?

Spanish mackerel and cero mackerel have similar levels of mercury. Cero and Spanish mackerel are listed on the FDA’s good choices of fish regarding mercury levels. 

If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

Mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations 12.

I also compared Atlantic Mackerel and Pacific Chub Mackerel in a recent article. Find out which mackerel tasted better in my reader poll, Atlantic Mackerel vs Pacific Chub Mackerel: The Differences.

Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel Nutrients

Spanish and cero mackerels contain a wide variety of nutrients beneficial for your health. Most notable are the healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals. The following nutrients can be found in both mackerel:

      • High protein source
      • Omega-3 fatty acids
      • B Vitamins
        • Niacin
        • Riboflavin
        • Thiamin
        • Folate
        • B5
        • B6
        • B12
      • Iron
      • Calcium
      • Potassium
      • Magnesium
      • Selenium
      • Zinc

Below is a list of nutrients provided by Spanish mackerel per four ounces:

Nutrient Spanish mackerel, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 158
Fat 7.1 g
Saturated Fat 2.1 g
Cholesterol 86 mg
Protein 22 g
Omega-3 1.64 g
B-6 0.4 mg
B-12 2.7 mcg
Thiamin 0.14 mg
Riboflavin 0.19 mg
B5 0.8 mg
Iron 0.5 mg
Niacin 2.6 mg
Folate 1.1 mcg
Potassium 505 mg
Magnesium 37 mg
Phosphorus 232 mg
Calcium 12.4 mg
Zinc 0.5 mg
Selenium 41.3 mcg

Nutrient Resources 13 14

The nutrients listed above provide many health benefits, especially for the heart and blood vessels. Keep reading the next section explaining how each nutrient, especially omega-3s, benefit the body and cardiovascular system.

The Health Benefits of Spanish Mackerel and Cero Mackerel

Editor’s Note: The information on Foods For Anti Aging is meant to be informative in nature and not meant to be taken as medical advice. The articles and opinions on this website are not intended to be used as as a treatment, prevention or diagnosis of health problems. Before modifying or starting any new nutritional, food, fitness, exercise or/and supplement routine, always check with your doctor first.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Mackerel provides one of the highest percentages of omega-3 fatty acids in the seafood world. Spanish mackerel provides 1.64 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per four ounces.

The fatty acids provided help keep arteries healthy and are considered heart healthy.

The omega-3s may help with the following:

      • Help regulate heart rhythms.
      • Reduce inflammation.
      • Lowering triglycerides.
      • Reduce plaque buildup.
      • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
      • Keeping good cholesterol high.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 15.

Studies suggest omega-3s boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, they’ve been shown to help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Potassium

Spanish mackerel provides 505 mg per four ounces. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. The result keeps systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 16.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 17.

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 18.

Calcium

Calcium which cero and Spanish mackerel provide is important for blood pressure and the heart.

Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 19.

Calcium also helps the following:

      • Helps muscles function properly.
      • Build and maintain strong bones.
      • Improve nerve function.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided by cero and Spanish mackerel include the following:

      1. B1 (thiamin)
      2. B2 (riboflavin)
      3. B3 (niacin)
      4. B5
      5. B6
      6. B9 (folate)
      7. B12

B vitamins help support the following:

      • Brain function.
      • Nerve function.
      • Energy levels.
      • Digestion.
      • Red blood cells.
      • Cardiovascular disease.

Magnesium

Spanish mackerel provides 37 mg of magnesium per four ounces. Magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 20. It’s able to accomplish this because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 21.

Magnesium helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.

In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Selenium

Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much press. I’m unsure why many people don’t write about it more. Many studies 22 show selenium may help to protect the following:

      • Cognitive issues
      • Heart disease
      • Thyroid
      • The immune system

Another Mackerel vs Mackerel article I recently published, Chub Mackerel vs Jack Mackerel: What’s The Difference?

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

Walleye vs Cod – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare Them

Bass vs Catfish – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Rock Bass vs Bluegill – What’s The Difference? We Compare

Cod vs Salmon: Is One Better?

White Bass vs Striped Bass: The Key Differences

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Wikipedia: Spanish mackerel[]
  2. NOAA Fisheries: Spanish Mackerel[]
  3. Delaware.gov: Spanish Mackerel[]
  4. Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Spanish Mackerel[]
  5. North Carolina Environmental Quality: State urges fishermen to learn the difference between king mackerel and Spanish mackerel[]
  6. Wikipedia: Cero (fish) []
  7. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Cero Mackerel[]
  8. Delaware.gov: Cero Mackerel[]
  9. Florida Museum: Cero Mackerel[]
  10. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions[]
  11. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  12. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  13. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, Spanish, mackerel[]
  14. USDA: Fish, mackerel, Spanish, raw[]
  15. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  16. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  17. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  18. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  19. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  20. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  21. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  22. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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