Do Fish Have Feelings For Different Environments? 3 Emotions



  • Fish have feelings for different environments. Fish feel aggressive in a competitive environment.
  • Fish feel threatened by changes in water flow and anxious in continuous lightening.
  • Mechanoreceptors, Chemoreceptors, Photoreceptors and electroreceptors act to perceive environmental changes.

Fishes are often considered simple creatures, but they are pretty complex. They have a variety of ways to communicate and their behavior can change based on their environment.

But the question is, what do fish do when their environment changes? Do fish have feelings for different environments?

Do Fish Have Feelings For Different Environments? –Yes, They Do

Extensive research has been conducted on fish’s behavioral changes by changing their environment. The study suggests that fish feels differently in different environment.

The fish’s environment has a clear relationship with its feelings of aggression, stress, happiness and sadness.

An unfavourable environment causes aggression in fish - Do fish have feelings for their environment

Fishes are cold-blooded animals and cannot regulate their internal body temperature to environmental changes.

Sonia Rey Planellas, a researcher from the University of Stirling, have experimentally proved that when the environment of fish changes, it shows emotional fever. She exposed the Zebrafish to stressful environmental conditions.

Zebrafish were released after 15 minutes into a fish tank with a different compartment. In every container, the temperature of the water was different. Due to the rise in their body temperature, Zebrafish moved quickly into the compartment with warmer water.

The stressed fish spent more time in warmer water than other fishes. The author says emotional fever is the reason behind it.

So, the above research proves that fish have feelings and are conscious of their environment.

How do fish feel in different environments?

Fish feels their environment and reacts differently to different environment. Three common feelings that fish have for favorable or harsh environments are discussed one by one.

If you have aquarium fish, then you must consider these feelings. In this way, you can provide the best possible environment for these tiny creatures and they will be happy.

1. Feelings of Aggression – Harsh Environment

According to popular research by the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, the aggressive behavior of fish is related to environmental changes.

This research states that if the ratio of fish population in a particular environment is more significant than food availability, the aggression or stress in fish would be prominent. It means aggression is related to environmental effects.

Fish require shelter to prevent themselves from predators and light or harsh environmental conditions. If there is no place for the fish to hide – she feels aggression and fear of the predator

Fish search for shelter and prevents themselves from harsh environment

The aggressive fish fight, attack, bite, threaten other creatures or adopt flight behavior instead of fighting.

2. Fish Feel Threat – When Water Flow Changes

Global climate change is leading to water flow changes threatening fish populations worldwide.

Warmer water temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns are disrupting the natural habitats of fish and as a result, fish populations are declining.

A United States Geological Survey report has shown that water flow in rivers and streams has changed over the past few decades. The report concluded that these changes are likely to have a negative impact on fish populations.

Thus, the evidence suggests that fish can feel environmental changes. The survival of fish could become problematic if their ecological conditions are not according to their body needs.

3. Fish Feel Anxiety – In Continuous Lightening

Fishes feel the change in environment, which could be observed through their swimming pattern. The swimming speed increases with the variation in the environment.

For instance, more swimming activity in African catfish was observed in continuous lightning. It is a fish’s strategy to cope with a stressful environmental change. This behavior is somehow similar to humans.

Have You Ever Noticed? Some people start walking more & more whenever they feel stress or anxiety. Similar is the case of fish.

The favorable environment attracts the fish, and these creatures always try to avoid unfavorable environmental conditions.

Do fish have feelings for different environments? The answer lies in the fact that fish prefers to live in favourable environment

How do Fish Perceive Environmental Changes?

Like a human being, fish knows whenever their environment changes. They can detect slight changes. Fishes’ lateral line system and sensory organs help them perceive or feel water pressure changes.

4 Sensory Organs in Fish

Fish have four sensory organs that enable them to perceive every environmental variation.

1. Mechano-receptors work to feel the change in the water pressure. When a freshwater fish is placed into salt water, it responds to a change in chemical concentration.

2. Chemoreceptors perceive a change in chemical concentration in their environment.

3. Photoreceptors and eyes are present in fish. They can feel day or night time.

4. Electroreceptors also play a vital role in perceiving changes in the surroundings. Some fishes feel the changes in their environment by using low-level electric signals.

Through these electric signals, fish can sense a change in water pressure, the presence of other fish or food near them and even the absence or presence of light.


The researchers clearly state that fish do have feelings for different environments. The change in their environment affects their behavior. They can distinguish between different environments and react accordingly.

It means that fish are more complex than previously thought and that their cognitive abilities should be considered when making decisions about their care and environment.

Have you ever kept a pet fish? If yes, then observe their feelings after changing the environment. Do they show feelings of aggression or joy toward a particular environment? What environment keeps your fish happy? Tell us in a comment.


  1. Behavioral indicators of welfare in farmed fish;
  2. Do fish have feelings? Maybe … by Sonia Ray Planellas
  3. Environmental enrichment for fish in captive environments: effects of physical structures and substrates.
  4. A Review on Fish Sensory Systems and Amazon Water Types With Implications to Biodiversity.
  5. United States Geological Survey.

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