Do fish feel emotion?

In this post, we will answer the question “Do fish feel emotion?”. We will also discuss which types of emotions fish are capable of feeling. 

Do fish feel emotion?

Fish are more emotionally complicated than people give them credit for, according to recent research. The prisoner cichlid, a monogamous fish species that establishes long-lasting couples, was researched by scientists at the University of Burgundy in France. When female cichlids lose their preferred mates, they become melancholy and cynical about the world, according to the researchers. 

For years, scientists have argued about whether animals other than humans have the ability to think and feel like we do. In humans, there is a level of awareness that may be informally defined as the ability to be aware of one’s own thoughts and feelings. However, the topic of which other organisms have awareness is still open and contentious. 

We can also inquire as to whether there are distinct levels of consciousness and whether other organisms’ experiences are similar to ours. Many people believe that dolphins and deer can sense emotions, but what about fish, bugs, or plants? Which leads to another important question for scientists: how do we determine whether animals or plants have feelings? Experts recently researched one possible answer to this question, and we discovered that fish appear to be more likely than previously assumed to experience emotions. 

Scientists have used a variety of criteria to support or refute the idea that nonhuman animals are capable of emotions and consciousness. Many people believe that fish, for example, do not have this capability since their brains are tiny and primitive, as well as because they do not have the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for most of the high-level information processing in mammals.

Fish are said to have a limited capacity for learning and memory, as well as a limited behavioural repertoire. According to this viewpoint, fish reactions to adversity are more than merely involuntary reflexes, but they are still quite basic and lack emotional substance. 

Philosophical school 

Others, for several reasons, are adamant that fish cannot experience emotion or consciousness. The brain of a fish, for example, is small and arranged differently than that of a mammal. It also has structures that are evolutionarily related to sections of the mammalian brain that are known to play a critical role in emotion generation (the amygdala) and learning support (the hippocampus) (the hippocampus). We detect similar behavioural impacts in fish and mammals when these regions are injured, implying that they serve a similar purpose. 

Fish have outstanding learning capacities, which they use to support a wide range of sophisticated behaviours, according to a large body of studies. Many fish species can memorize mental maps and accomplish complex navigational tasks. 

It is possible for others to determine how likely they are to win battles with other fish by viewing and recalling previous clashes with potential adversaries. Some even manufacture and employ equipment for cracking open bivalve mollusc shells, such as an anvil. 

We now know that fish can receive and respond to painful stimuli such as substances such as acetic acid, which induce pain in mammals. This includes phenomena like mental state alterations, which go far beyond simple reflexes. 

The capacity for stress-induced hyperthermia, or “emotional fever,” is one attribute used to identify awareness that was previously assumed to be absent in fish. This is a physical reaction that is similar to a fever-induced sickness, except that the trigger in this case is a stressful situation rather than an infection. In a nutshell, when the body is stressed, it becomes warmer. 

Only amniotes (mammals, birds, and reptiles) were previously assumed to have an emotional fever and thus the ability for consciousness among vertebrate creatures. Previous research had suggested that toads and goldfish did not have the same fever. 

Test on zebrafish 

A stress-induced zebrafish population was studied by experts and then kept on their own in a tiny net in the center of the experimental tank, allowing them to be seen and studied by themselves. Being ectotherms (cold-blooded creatures), fish must migrate to a temperature that is compatible with their internal physiological condition. So you’d expect them to move into warmer water following a stressful incident. 

After 15 minutes in the net, the confined fish were allowed to freely swim among the tank’s other chambers, each of which was heated to a different temperature than the rest of the tank. Those who had been subjected to a stressful situation spent considerably longer time in warmer waters than those who had not been subjected to a stressful situation, showing that their body temperatures had risen by 2°C to 4°C — and that emotional fever was the cause. 

The fact that certain fish are capable of experiencing emotional fever does not mean that all fish are aware of what is going on around them. On the other hand, those who claim that fish do not have feelings no longer have a case to make because their supposed absence of emotional heat has been shown. It also adds to the growing picture of fish as complex animals capable of being sentient and conscious, at least to some level. Most importantly, this could have an impact on how we think about the evolution of feelings and consciousness among vertebrate animals, as well as our arguments for fish welfare protection. 

There are a lot of fish that don’t know who their owners are 

On the subject, there are several investigations and scientific research. Despite the abundance of anecdotal evidence, distinguishing fact from fantasy might be difficult unless you possess the fish in the issue. 

Still, some fish have a higher level of intelligence than others. Large predators, such as the Siamese Tiger Fish, and fish with complex social systems, such as cichlids, are among the smartest. 

Tetras, kinguios, bettas, platys, guppies, and mollies, for example, have easier social lives. Although they can recognize when someone approaches the aquarium, it is most likely because they are about to eat. 

Providing a dedicated aquarium mirror is one of the easiest ways to observe this type of social activity in bettas. Because bettas lack some of the higher self-recognition capacities present in birds and mammals, they will view their reflection as a threat to attack. 

Some fish can recognize their owners

Certain fish, particularly large predators and fish with a complicated social hierarchy, are more likely to recognize their owners, as we’ve already discussed. 

To hide and outsmart its prey, this sort of fish need a larger brain and superior eyesight. Cichlids, in particular, spend a lot of time remembering who’s in charge, who’s a possible mate, and who’s lower down the food chain. 

As a result, they prefer to prioritise “something additional to think about before meals” in their minds. The Puffer, FlowerHorn, Giant Gourami, and Arowana, to name a few, are known for being friendly with their owners. 

In the aquarium world, a recent study exploring the ability of Archerfish (genus Toxotidae) to recognize faces is generating a stir.


In this post, we answered the question “Do fish feel emotion?”. We also discussed which types of emotions fish are capable of feeling.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know in the comments section below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Do fish feel emotion?

Is it possible for fish to develop emotional attachments? 

When female cichlids lose their preferred mates, they become melancholy and cynical about the world, according to the researchers. It turns out that human and even mammalian emotional attachment to a spouse is not uncommon. 

Do fish have feelings for theer keepers? 

If fish have feelings, they must experience love. They have feelings for their tank mates, their friends, and possibly their owners. 

Is it true that fish have feelings?

Fish not only have feelings, but they may have developed this ability hundreds of millions of years ago, suggesting that they have a complex emotional life. Animals’ emotional states are a source of constant debate among biologists today. In a groundbreaking study, Portuguese scientists demonstrated for the first time that fish experience emotional states that are triggered by their surroundings.

Do fish experience pain? 

Yes, fish can sense pain, according to a large body of scientific research. Their intricate neurological systems, as well as how they react when harmed, call into question long-held notions that fish can be handled inhumanely. 

Are there personalities in fish? 

When we think of fish, we usually conceive of them as a group with little variation between individuals. A recent study, on the other hand, suggests that fish have distinct personalities: some are bolder and more willing to explore, while others are more cautious and take fewer chances than their colleagues. 

Is it true that fish can hear you when you speak to them? 

Originally posted as a question: Is it possible for fish to hear your voice? Yes, but the sound does not travel well across water or air. Underwater, loud or screaming will be hardly audible to the fish. They will not be alarmed or afraid. 

What kinds of animals are there? Are you unable to sense pain? 

The claim that most invertebrates are incapable of feeling pain has been challenged by evidence that invertebrates, particularly decapods such as crabs and lobsters, and cephalopods such as octopuses, exhibited behavioural responses that suggested that they may possess the physiological capacity to do so.


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