Can Fish Have Feelings Of Joy? 3 Studies Say Yes



  • Fish feel joy. Oxytocin is mainly responsible for happiness or joy in humans and also in fish.
  • Some signs of joyful fish are the energetic swimming pattern, glowing and healthy skin, fearlessness, regular breathing, jumping and enjoying food.
  • Things that make a fish happy are the natural, clean and playful environment.

Fish is a tiny creature whose feeling has been debated for centuries. Can fish have feelings of joy? This question has confused scientists for a long time.

Some scientists believe that fish can experience a range of emotions, including joy, while others believe that fish can only feel fear.

In this article, we will explore the evidence that fish feel joy. At the end of the article, you will be able to know when your fish is happy or feeling joy. Moreover, how can you make fish happy?

Can Fish have Feelings of Joy? Yes they have

According to scientists, fish have highly developed nervous and endocrine systems. The brain and hormones control emotions in fish.

The research clearly shows that fish feels pain. If fish can feel pain, it is certainly capable to feel other emotions like joy.

Study 1

Many experts have discovered the production of hormones related to happiness, pleasure or joy in fish. Oxytocin (Love Hormone) is mainly responsible for feelings of joy. In fish, oxytocin (isotocin) is related to love and joy as in humans.

Through this discovery, it is believable that fish can have feelings of joy too.

Fish have feelings of joy as oxytocin is produced in them.

Study 2

The researcher in the Journal of Animal Sentience discusses the subject of “Fish are Smart and Feel Pain: What About Joy”? They explain that in the early 20th century, spontaneous leaping and somersaulting behavior were noticed in fish.

Social interaction and friendship between fish have been widespread. When members of their species surround fish, they tend to produce more chemicals that are associated with happiness.

Study 3

In another study, it is claimed that fish feel joy in playing. Play is related to positive emotional experiences like joy and pleasure in humans. Fish also participate in play; these are signs that fish feel joy and have a playful nature.

Fish have Feelings of Joy – Observation Also Says Yes!

Joy or happiness is a positive reinforcement due to which fish may like a thing or action.

For instance, it started to show affection when I petted or touched one of my fish. Fish was really enjoying that. When I moved to another side of the aquarium, it swam toward me. This shows that the fish was feeling joy when I touch her.

The jumping of fish for food like cats or dogs and fast swimming shows that fish have feelings of joy

Similarly, I have a bag where I put my favorite food for my Tang. Whenever I start to open it, Tang recognizes the bag. It swims faster and jumps for joy. It means fish feel joy like pet cats or dogs.

You can feel joy in your aquarium fish through similar observations.

Can Fish have Feelings of Joy as Humans?

No doubt, fish feels joy but the feelings of fish cannot be similar to human. Humans have complex types of emotions, while in fish, joy is not so complicated. 

The conscious awareness in fish is not on the same level as in humans. The brain of fish is not well-developed as compared to humans.

Similarly, humans can express their joy through words, smiles or laughs but fish cannot do it.

How Can You Tell If A Fish is Happy?

Fish don’t smile or laugh, so how a fish owner can know that fish is happy? You can observe if the fish is happy or feels joy in several ways.

Can fish have feelings of joy? Their swimming pattern can exhibit their joy

The happy fish will have an energetic swimming pattern, glowing & healthy skin, fearlessness, regular breathing and enjoy food.

If your fish shows these signs, then it is feeling joy.

How Can I Make My Fish Happy?

If aquarium fish get sad, you can make them happy. Through the following ways, fish can feel joy.

1. Create Natural Environment

Fish loves to live in a natural environment. So, try to create a natural environment in your aquarium. The color and quality of water should be according to the natural habitat of your fish.

The mineral content in water for saltwater fish should be checked. Add some natural or artificial plants and rocks to the aquarium. Fish like these things and it will keep them happy.

2. Keep Water and Aquarium Clean

Fish cannot live in a bad environment. The natural habitat is clean for them because algae-eaters and other species keep it clean. Try to add fresh water to the aquarium.

3. Remove Excess Algae

Some fishes may feed on algae, but that’s not true for all fishes. Must check whether your fish like algae or not. The excess algae may deplete oxygen for fish and make the aquarium dirty.

Fish feel joy in a clean environment. Therefore, clean the environment by washing the sides of the aquarium and removing the excess algae. Take a long brush and algae magnet to clean the fish tank.

4. Provide A Large Room to Roam

Want to see your fish happy? Keep the fish in a large tank. Fish love to roam. There should be enough room in the tank for the roaming of fish.

5. Change their Food

Most people avoid changing the fish’s food. You know, fish may get bored. In the natural environment, fish loves to eat different types of food. So, change the food of fish. The next day, you will see that fish would be excited and waiting for new food.

6. Provide A Playground

You will be surprised and think, “Do fish need a playground? Here, a playground means a challenging environment. You should provide rocks, plants, and gravel to the fish in an aquarium. Try to create an environment that is not boring.

These are the ways that will help you to make fish feel joy.


It is concluded that fish have feelings of joy in their way. Fish cannot smile or laugh but when they feel joy, they show their feelings in their way.

So, when you see a fish playing or roaming in the aquarium, imagine it smiling with joy.

Can your fish feel joy? And have you ever observed it? Tell us in the comments.


  1. Functional aspects of emotions in fish by Silje Kittilsen
  2. Fish are smart and feel pain: What about joy? Animal Sentience 21(16) by Franks, Becca; Sebo, Jeff; and Horowitz, Alexandra (2018)
  3. Landin, J., Hovey, D., Xu, B., Lagman, D., Zettergren, A., Larhammar, D., … & Westberg, L. (2020). Oxytocin receptors regulate social preference in zebrafish. Scientific reports10(1), 1-12.
  4. Chandroo, K. P., Duncan, I. J., & Moccia, R. D. (2004). Can fish suffer?: perspectives on sentience, pain, fear and stress. Applied Animal Behaviour Science86(3-4), 225-250.

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