Why Does Urine Smell Like Fish? Diet, Infection or Others

Urine is responsible for eliminating toxins and waste from the body. It is also an effective way of learning about your overall health. The color, odor and consistency of urine can tell you a lot about your body’s internal mechanisms. For example, normal urine is clear and has a slight yellow color. Typically, there is no strong smell in the urine and it does not burn or itch when you urinate.

Why Does Urine Smell Like Fish?

However, if your urine smells like fish or has a strong ammonia scent, then it could be due to a few different reasons. For instance, dehydration can cause the urine to have a strong ammonia smell. This happens as the urine is more concentrated and emits a strong smell.

Why Does Urine Smell Like Fish

There are also certain foods which can impart a strong acidic smell to urine, or a bad smell may be due to taking certain medications. Medications may also cause the color of urine to change.

Along with all of these features, the frequency of urination is also important. This is because increased urination can point to an infection, an overactive bladder, or even diabetes. On the other hand, reduced urination may indicate a blockage in the urinary tract, dehydration, or some sort of an infection.

Urine can reveal crucial information about your body’s waste elimination. Your kidneys filter not only excess water but water soluble wastes as well. Your urine changes color and consistency based on what you eat, how much water you drink and any medications or supplements that you take.

Even features like your levels of daily activity can affect the color and odor of your urine.

If you find that your urine starts to smell like fish, do not blame it on bad hygiene. on the contrary, the problem can be caused by a number of vaginal infections and UTIs. Urinary tract infections can impact not only the smell of the urine but also its appearance. For instance, when there is a urinary tract infection, the urine may take on a foul smelling odor along with appearing cloudy or bloody.

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify if the fishy smell is coming from the vagina or the urine.

What Is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection occurs when any segment of the urinary system becomes infected. This includes parts of the kidneys, bladder, ureters or urethra. Women suffer from more UTIs, most of which can be treated with antibiotics. UTIs in men are generally considered complicated with the possibility that the infection may have spread to the kidneys.

The most typical symptom of UTIs are bladder infections. Bladder infections can cause uncomfortable symptoms like burning or pain during urination, low abdominal pain, or urine that is discolored or smells bad.

Another symptom is kidney infection where the pathogens move up into the kidneys. In this case, symptoms along with those mentioned above, can also include lower back pain, fever, chills and nausea and vomiting.

UTIs can cause complications if they infect one or both kidneys. If the infection is not contained, it can damage kidney function and cause kidney failure.


This is a disorder when the body is not able to break down a compound called trimethylamine. Trimethylaminuria is derived from the diet and has a strong odor of rotting fish.

As this compound builds up in the body, it can cause a person to emit a fish like odor in their breath and sweat. The same can also cause urine to smell like fish.

The intensity of this odor can vary over time. While gene mutations are responsible for most cases of trimethylaminuria, the condition can also be caused by other factors. People who have an excess of protein in their diet or others who have certain bacteria in their digestive tract can suffer from this condition.


The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system. It is located just beneath the bladder. Its functions include making the fluid which contains sperm and protects the sperm as they travel towards a female’s egg. It also plays a part in urine continence in men.

In cases where the prostate becomes inflamed, tender or swollen, the condition is known as prostatitis. There are different types of prostatitis, each with its own symptoms and causes. But some common ones include frequent or painful urination, urine that smells like fish and discomfort in the pelvic area.

Based on the severity of the condition, some people may also experience additional symptoms. These can include urinary blockage, lower back pain, muscle aches and high fever and chills.


Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder. The inflammation may be the result of a bacterial infection, vigorous sexual intercourse or wearing tight clothes. Women may also experience recurrent inflammation by using antiseptics in bathwater, perfumed soaps, vaginal deodorants, or contraceptive creams.

One type of cystitis known as interstitial cystitis is not caused by bacteria. Instead, it is a chronic inflammation of the bladder wall that can cause severe pelvic pain.

Cystitis can bring about uncomfortable symptoms like a frequent urge to urinate but being unable to do so.  Pain with burning and itching when urinating may be experienced, or the urine emits a foul odor

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis a condition in which the normal balance of bacterial culture in a woman’s vagina is disturbed. This results in an overgrowth of the bad bacteria found in the vagina.

It is the most common vaginal infection in women of child bearing age. The condition causes vaginal irritation and itching along with urine which smells like fish.

Among these, the most noticeable symptom of bacterial vaginosis is the foul odor. The fishy odor is accompanied by abnormal vaginal discharge that can either be white or gray, and thin or foamy.


This is a sexually transmitted disease that can trigger the symptoms of fishy smelling urine. The disease is caused by a parasite which survives in the urogenital tract.

The parasite lives in the vagina and urethra and can be transmitted by vaginal intercourse. Trichomoniasis causes inflammation which can result in symptoms like painful sex, frothy vaginal discharge and soreness of the vagina. In addition, urine not only burns but also smells bad.

Kidney Stones

As mentioned earlier, urine does not typically have a strong smell. But if your urine smells like fish or brings about a burning sensation when you pee, then you may have an infection or kidney stones.

Kidney stones get formed from chemicals in the urine. Urine has a number of wastes dissolved in it and when the amount of waste exceeds the amount of liquid in the kidneys, crystals start to form.  These crystals attract other elements and combine with them to create a solid. This solid keeps getting larger unless it is expelled from the body through urine.

If you drink enough water, then these chemicals will get removed from the body when you pee. Having enough liquids will flush them out and stop kidney stones from forming. But if you do not have enough liquid, then you may suffer from the formation of kidney stones.

After it gets formed, the stone may either stay in the kidneys or travel down the urinary tract. Smaller stones may still move out of the body without causing too much discomfort. But larger ones may remain in the kidney and cause a backup in the system.

When you urinate while suffering from kidney stones, you may experience urine that smells like fish or appears cloudy. Other symptoms of having kidney stones can include severe lower back pain, on one side or both. You may also experience stomach pains that do not go away, or some nausea and vomiting. Some people may also notice blood in their urine along with having fevers and chills.

Liver Problems

Dark colored urine could often be the first indication of a liver disease. This is because a healthy liver breaks down and excretes bilirubin. This is a pigment that is produced by the turnover of red blood cells. If someone has liver problems, their liver starts to accumulate bilirubin instead of expelling it. As more and more bilirubin collects, it can cause the urine to become brown.

This discoloration is an indication that something is wrong with the liver. If such discoloration is also accompanied by urine that smells like fish, then you should consult with your doctor.

A condition known as fatty liver disease could be the cause of your unusual urine behavior. In this condition, fatty tissue build up in the liver due to high amounts of fat in the diet. Overtime, this can cause your urine to smell bad among other symptoms.

Foul smelling urine due to liver disease can only be treated by first treating the liver disease.


An increase in the frequency of urination could be indicative of diabetes. At the same time, your urine may also start to smell bad.

A more advanced stage of diabetes known as diabetic ketoacidosis can cause harmful substances known as ketones to build up in the body. If this is not detected and treated quickly, it can become a life threatening condition.

In this condition, ketones do not get expelled and can cause symptoms like feeling very thirsty, needing to pee often and foul smelling urine.


The general rule about the amount of water you should drink is around 6-8 glasses. Some people do this by actually counting the number of glasses, but your body will also tell you when you are thirsty.

Once the body has lost one to two percent of its total water, your thirst mechanism will inform you to up your fluid intake. Pay attention to your thirst guide and drink water as needed.

As you get older, this mechanism starts to operate less efficiently. Keeping this in mind, it becomes more important for older adults to drink water regularly. A good indicator is to check the color of your pee. As long as urine appears pale, yellow and odorless, you should be okay.

Just remember that the less water you drink, the higher the concentration of urea and other substances in your urine. This change can easily be detected when you pee.

You may find that the odor of your urine improves by drinking more fluids. As a general rule, make sure to drink enough fluid so that you do not remain thirsty for long periods. When you exercise or are in the sun for long, steadily increase your fluid intake.

Remember that your urine characteristics can function as an early warning sign for health problems. So if you are a woman who feels that her urine smells like fish, then you should consult with your gynecologist. Your doctor will have you examined for a vaginal infection.

Or, if you are a man who notices a fishy odor, then consult with your doctor to determine if you may have picked up an infection from your sexual partner.

Because there are so many variables that can cause urine to small like fish, it is important it get tested. Only laboratory testing will help you determine the cause of your foul smelling urine.

How to Prevent Fishy Smelling Urine?

Many conditions that cause urine to smell like fish can be treated with medications and antibiotics. This is especially true if the condition is diagnosed as an infection or other underlying health disorder.

In other cases, where the cause may be related to the diet, you can try and eliminate trigger foods. Some people may not be able to break down proteins well which can cause a fishy odor in urine.

And if your problem is not related to diet or other health conditions, then you can reduce the discomfort and embarrassment of fishy odor in urine by wearing loose, comfortable clothing. While this measure will not resolve the issue itself, it can prevent buildup of bacteria. Putting on loose, breathable clothing will also reduce the irritation around the sensitive parts.