Can Fishes Feel Lonely When Alone? Answer Is Not Simple



  • Some fish feel lonely and boredom when alone.
  • Schooling fish get sad when kept alone in an aquarium.
  • Zebrafish, guppies, platies and discus feels lonely when alone while bettas prefer to live alone.

Can fishes feel lonely when alone? The answer to this question is not simple. Some species feel loneliness, while others may feel good when kept alone.

Many fish live in schools made up of vast members of their species. When a fish gets separated from its school, they feel lonely.

But some fish species love their freedom and don’t depend on others. These don’t feel lonely. You should be aware of the nature of fish before keeping them alone or in a group.

This blog post will help you find out whether your aquarium fish is social or has introversion.

Can Fishes Feel Lonely When Alone? Some Fish Do

Have you ever thought of being alone in a small room where you have all the facilities? Will you feel lonely? Of course, yes. After some days, you will feel boredom and lonely.

In the case of fish, it is believed that fish don’t feel lonely like bettas, but some species feel lonely when kept alone.

Why do Fish Get Sad When Alone? Reasons of Sadness

Fish is tiny creatures that have feelings too. The complexity of emotions may differ compared to humans, but they feel too.

Fish get sad sometimes when kept alone. This sadness could be easily observed in an aquarium fish. When a partner fish dies and only one fish remains, it feels sad alone.

Similarly, a fish separated from schooling feels sad and alone. In schooling, they live together and fight together with predators. If the school fish is sole, there are chances that it can become prey. Therefore, such fishes feel sad when alone.

Schooling fish feels lonely when alone.

Why Don’t Fish Get Lonely?

It is thought that fish don’t get lonely because their emotional intelligence of fish is not as stronger as that of humans. James D. Rose says in his article that in fish, the cerebral cortex lacks some regions and is not highly developed, unlike humans. The cerebral cortex is mainly responsible for emotions and feelings.

The brain part that controls feelings is not complex. Therefore, it is believed that fish don’t feel complex emotions like loneliness.

Fish don’t have complex emotions, but some species feel loneliness and boredom compared to others. They have social nature like a schooling fish.

Lonely And Social Fishes – Some Examples

Let’s discuss the nature of some fish species that most people love to keep in their aquariums.

1. Do Gold Fish Get Lonely?

Goldfish are adaptable to every environment. You will find it the most friendly and satisfied fish. But don’t experiment with it. Every fish want to swim in an ample space where it can roam freely.

If you are going to keep goldfish in a bowl, then prefer to keep it alone. Goldfish will love to roam alone in the whole small space. Make the small bowl like a natural habitat by adding gravel and plants. In this way, goldfish will be happy alone. The lonely goldfish have more life than a fish living in a group.

In the pond or sea, goldfish swim together. These are schooling fishes. Therefore, in the case of goldfish, there are both possibilities. Goldfish can live alone, while goldfish love to live with other fish.

The aquarium should be large for a group of goldfish to keep all the fish happy. Otherwise, goldfish get frustrated in a small bowl with a group of fish and wish to be kept alone.

2. Do Betta Fish Get Lonely by Themselves? – The Self-Sufficient Fish

No, bettas don’t feel lonely. Betta fish is known as fighting or self-sufficient fish. They cannot live with other fish and their requirements are distinct from others.

Give a large aquarium with clean water & plants and you will see a happy betta fish. Betta fish don’t feel stressed or depressed when alone. But if your betta is feeling stressed or sad, keep another female betta fish with a male betta.

Betta fish is famous for its aggressive nature. In their natural habitat, these fish stay alone and stick to their territory. If two male betta are kept with each other, they get aggressive and fight. Therefore, don’t keep two male bettas in the same aquarium.

3. Zebra Fish Feels Lonely When Alone

The study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavioral Science says that Zebra fish are friendly.

These fish may undergo stress when isolated. When isolated Zebrafish were kept in a social environment, they started to recover from stress. This research shows that female Zebrafish feel less lonely than male Zebrafish.

Guppy and Zebrafish cannot live alone - Can fish feel lonely when alone

4. Oscar Fish – Don’t Care Either Alone or in Group

Oscar can stay alone or adapt to a group. It doesn’t care. The only thing Oscar want is plenty of good food.

 If you do not satisfy its food needs of Oscar, it will start hurting or eating other fish in the water tank. Oscar likes to prey and is known as predatory fish.

Therefore, keeping it alone or with a similar type of Oscar gang is preferred.

5. Guppy Fish Feel Lonely When Alone

Guppy fish can’t live alone. If you keep it alone, then they may die. Therefore, it is recommended to keep them in groups. There should be many guppy fish in the same aquarium as they like to live in the company of others.

Guppies are perfect if you want to get many fish in one aquarium. They won’t fight and lives peacefully with each other.

6. Platies & Discus – Cannot Live Alone

Platies and Discus are not schooling fish but enjoy other fish’s company. Both have social nature. Therefore, they require similar species of fish around them. Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to survive.

Do Fish Get Lonely if One Dies? Yes, few may Die

Yes, in some species, other fish may feel lonely if a fish dies. One of my guppy fish died three years ago—only two left in the aquarium.

They were not sad enough and living together. But one day, another female guppy died. After that, the last guppy could not survive more. It left the food and died within a week. It means fish feel lonely and sad if one dies.

Due to the death of the partner fish, the remaining fish sometimes, can feel sad.

What Happens if a Schooling Fish is Alone?

Schooling fish lives in a group of five or more. They eat together and schooling helps them to fight against predators. But what happens if a schooling fish is alone in the wild or in an aquarium?

If schooling fish is alone, then it will not eat. It starts gasping and shows an unusual swimming pattern. In the wild, schooling fish will become prey to predators quickly. If schooling fish is kept alone, it will not survive for a more extended period.


It is unclear if fish feel lonely when alone, as there is no clear way to measure this. However, some studies suggest that some fish species feel better when they are in the company of other fish. If you have fish that feel lonely, try keeping them in a larger tank with more fish.

How do you keep fish in the aquarium, whether in a group or alone? Tell us in the comments.


  1. Wilson, A. D., Krause, S., James, R., Croft, D. P., Ramnarine, I. W., Borner, K. K., … & Krause, J. (2014). Dynamic social networks in guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68(6), 915-925.
  2. Daniel, D. K., & Bhat, A. (2022). Alone but not always lonely: Social cues alleviate isolation induced behavioral stress in wild zebrafish. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 251, 105623.
  3. Rose, J. D. (2002). The neurobehavioral nature of fishes and the question of awareness and pain. Reviews in Fisheries Science, 10(1), 1-38.


  • Frank R. Snow

    Frank R. Snow has two hobbies. First, aquarium fish keeping while writing is the second. He has been an aquarist for the past nine years; therefore, his love for fish is extraordinary. He shares the fish’s feelings. So, together we will make the life of our underwater friends easy.

    Snow Frank R.

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