Do Fish Feel Pain ?..Not as other mammals

Do Fish Feel Pain


Do fish feel pain like us? Well, this is one of the most sought-after questions about fishes. Unlike humans, it is quite difficult to spot any feeling in fishes. But that doesn’t rule over the fact that they are living creatures and ought to have feelings.

So, if you ask, do fish feel pain, the answer is yes. But unlike mammals, they are not expressive and incapable of screaming. Their pain can be traced when they wiggle rapidly to get rid of the pain-causing object. Fishes feel pain when they receive pressure, caustic irritating chemicals, or get injured.


Do fish feel pain?


Do fish feel pain? Well, this is one of the most interesting things to know about these aquatic creatures. Since fishes are comparatively meek and less expressive, it is hard to tell whether they feel pain or not.

However, neurobiologists have recognized that fishes have a nervous system, which helps them perceive pain and respond to it. As fishes are higher vertebrates, they have neurotransmitters like endorphins, which relieve their suffering. Hence, if their nervous system comprehends pain in their body, they supply the natural pain reliever or painkiller to soothe their agony.

Now, it’s obvious that fishes won’t scream audibly to make us aware that they are in pain. So, how can we understand their suffering? Well, you can spot their pain from some of their activities and behavior.

It has been seen that when fishes are exposed to irritation-causing chemicals, they mostly behave like us. They lose their appetite and have fast-beating gills. Also, if you observe correctly, you will find them rubbing their affected areas against the wall of the tank.

Researchers have found that more than 20 pain receptors, known as nociceptors, are in the mouth and head of some fishes. Also, these sensory receptors are present in the areas where their flesh gets penetrated by a sharp object like a hook.

How much pain do fish feel?


A large team of neurobiologists, fishery scientists, and behavioral ecologists believe that fish do feel pain but not in the way humans do. According to them, fishes do not come with a much efficient neuro-psychological capacity, which is required for conscious awareness or expression of pain. Hence, the pain of fish is not that usual like us.

Unlike humans, fishes do not possess a neocortex. It is the very first indicator of the doubt regarding the awareness of pain in them. Mammals usually have certain nerve fibers, known as c-nociceptors, which create intense sensations of pain.

But the anatomy of fish is not at all comparable to humans. As per studies, primitive fishes like rays, sharks, etc., don’t possess these fibers. Rarely, fishes like trout and carp have this kind of sensory receptors. And this is why psychological prerequisites required for a conscious feeling of pain are hardly developed in fishes.

However, bony fishes possess simple nociceptors. Thus, they show their reaction to injuries and other kinds of interventions. However, the intensity of pain felt by these fishes is not as much as humans.

Why do fish not feel pain?


As per the latest studies, some fishes do have pain perception. But it is mostly argued that they cannot feel pain like us. Well, that’s because fishes lack sufficient density of nerve fibers to perceive the sensation of intense pain.

Usually, a typical human cutaneous nerve comprises 83% of Group C nerve fibers. But the nerve density in fishes is not even near to this percentage; thus, making them unable to feel a similar kind of pain like humans.

Do jellyfish feel pain?


Well, this is an interesting question to come up with. Nevertheless, the answer to it is very easy and simple.

Jellyfish do not have a brain. These aquatic creatures only respond to the changes in the environment around them when they receive signals from their nerve net that resides right below their epidermis, i.e., underneath the outer layer of their skin.

This nerve net is quite sensitive to touches. But it is used only to get a sensory signal through their body. So, whether it can be comprehended as pain or not is quite unknown. It is usually said that the pain experienced by sea jellies is similar to the pain of a bee sting.

Do crayfish feel pain?


Unlike other fishes, crayfish or freshwater crustaceans are more unexplainable about their feelings. While fishes are always active and lively, you can barely find crayfishes to move around, so analyzing their mood or perceptions is really difficult.

However, crayfishes are viewed as a group of fish that maintain reflexes. But it does not cause them any internal suffering. Hence, they don’t truly feel any serious pain. And this is because reflex actions and pain signals are distinct and not correlated.

Pain signals are generated from brains. But crayfishes reportedly do not have a brain like us.

Do betta fish feel pain?


Some researchers say that bettas are capable of being happy or unhappy. Also, there is plenty of experimentation done on whether fish feel pain or not. Based on those studies, many veterinarians believe that bettas do experience pain and suffering.

Bettas are said to possess the correct anatomy for receiving pain signals. They usually produce some natural painkillers, which even mammals release. They can even consciously choose to avoid the feeling of a painful stimulus. Sounds interesting, right!

Do fish feel pain when caught?


So, are you now wondering, do fish feel pain when they are caught? Well, we all have seen that fishes try to get back to water hurriedly whenever they are brought outside water. This rapid behavior in them is a mixture of fear, an instinct for self-defense, and the last hours of getting rid of captivity.

So, as you bring fishes out of the water, they tend to feel a shortage of breath without the supply of adequate oxygen. Hence, it is much of a suffocating feeling for them when they are caught.

Besides, in terms of their anatomy, some fishes have neurons, which can detect high temperatures, potentially harmful agents, caustic chemicals, or intense pressure. So, if you catch them under intense pressure or using toxic agents, their brain will perceive it as pain.

Do fish feel pain when hooked?


Do fish feel pain when hooked? This question is very obvious to come to our mind, as we have often seen people catching fishes for commercial selling or hobby purposes. And after fishing, if they are used for trading, they are kept hooked and cut before selling.

So, the answer to your question, do fish feel pain when they get hooked is a yes. Although their brains are not as complex and big as mammals to express pain aloud, when they get hooked, you’ll find them wiggling violently.

It is simply one of their unconscious reactions to their agony. Though there are some debates regarding the sentience of fishes, it won’t be a mistake to believe that they do feel pain when they are hooked, as it is evident from their restless movement and relentless jumping to get rid of it.

Do fish feel pain when suffocating?


Unlike humans and other animals, when fishes are kept out of the water, they are completely unable to breathe. Unless water passes through their gills, they cannot produce oxygen for breathing.

So, when you bring fishes out of the water, you’ll notice them wriggle hastily because they tend to lack oxygen and starts suffocating, ultimately leading to their death. Such squirming activities of fish might be considered as a piece of evidence that they are in discomfort and feel pain.

Well, there is a stress-related hormone known as cortisol, which significantly increases when a fish is out of water. However, dying is dependent on the type of the species. While cod and haddock can remain conscious on the deck for two hours or more, many fishes die only in a few minutes. The unique walking catfishes can survive up to 18-19 hours above the water without suffocation.

Do fish feel pain when slaughtered?


As it is pretty evident that some bony fishes feel pain when they get in contact with intense pressure or have any kind of penetration into their flesh, it is not unnatural for them to feel pain while getting slaughtered.

However, they produce some opioids, which are innate painkillers in their body. These compounds can relieve them from pain. However, a fish will barely get a chance to feel pain as you kill it with a knife struck hard on its head at one shot. It will die immediately!



Well, studies on do fish feel pain has always been a hot cake for scientists all over the world. Though some research has come up with an answer to it, many things are yet to be discovered. The latest studies say that they do not feel severe pain like us, but they do feel some kind of pain.

Hence, whether you are hooking them or hitting them with pressure, fishes will sense the stimuli and feel minimal pain in their body. So, while caring for your fish, make sure you do not do anything that can cause stress or pain in them.