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Do Fish Have Feelings? Discover What Researchers Say

The debate regarding “do fish have feelings” or not is ages old. It is still a matter of confusion for many of us.

But as per recent studies, fish do have feelings. It’s only that, unlike us, they do not bear any facial expression displaying their emotion.

Their brain functions are not much improved, they have prominent feelings of pain, fear, shyness, and anxiety.

Do Fish Have Feelings? The Detailed Explanation!

Fish are more likely to experience emotions than we can even think of.

Studies say that fish have a tiny and simple brain that lacks the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is the most crucial organ in mammals used for a higher level of information processing.

Hence, many argue that fish show minimal capacity for learning and memorizing. They have a very simple and behavioral repertoire, unlike us.

Many researchers disagree with the above-said information. A group of scientists ardently think that fish can also have emotions and consciousness.

A fish’s brain is different from a mammal’s, but it does have some unique capabilities.

It has various structures with a similar evolutionary origin to that of mammals’ brains. And these structures can play a key role in generating emotions in fish.

In case these brain areas in a fish get damaged, you can see various behavioral effects in them.

The reckoned biologist Victoria Braithwaite, in her book “Do Fish Feel Pain?” has mentioned that “there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals.”

You cannot find fish screaming audibly but their behavior can make you know clearly understand that they are suffering and dealing with pain.

Neurobiologists have also discovered that fish have a nervous system. This nervous system can respond and comprehend pain.

Fish have neurotransmitters, i.e., endorphins, which relieve suffering to a certain extent. Their nervous system can produce these painkillers on their own, making it easier for them to deal.

A study by the Queen’s University Belfast has proved that fish can quickly learn to avoid pain sensations.

Researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada have found that fish can feel fear while they are chased.

Feelings Like Humans

It is difficult to say whether the feelings of fish are as robust and clear as humans.

At the anatomical level, fish have neurons called nociceptors. It can easily sense harmful conditions like exposure to caustic chemicals, high pressure, and scorching high temperatures.

They can feel a frightening sensation when they come in contact with any unknown object or when they are chased.

You can even witness this when you tap your thumb against the aquarium wall or dump your hands into the water to pick the fish up.

Do Fish Feel Sadness?

The feeling of sadness is not much clear in them.

However, fish do feel anxious when they are not kept in a familiar and suitable environment. For example, many fish prefer to live together in a shoal. If you try to separate them from their school, you will find them having an unhappy time in your tank.

This sadness can also make them aggressive.

Do Fish Get Sad when Other Fish Die?

Though fish have some feelings and feel the need for companionship, feeling sad for a fellow fish is unnatural.

Fish do not get sad in case the other fish dies.

Yes, they feel some types of emotions, but they definitely cannot have feelings like humans.

Possibilities are also there that they might feel something similar to it.

Do Fish Cry?

Fish lack various parts of the brain, which makes them different from humans. On the other hand, there is also not many pieces of evidence about whether they engage in crying or not.

Webster thinks fish certainly cannot produce tears. As their eyes get bathed constantly in the water, you can hardly find it out even if they cry.

Do Fish Feel Lonely?

That is entirely dependent on the fish type.

For example, some fish prefer to stay in the form of a school. For such fish, it may become difficult enough to feel cheerful if you are keeping them separately.

If schooling fish are kept alone, they will feel something similar to loneliness, which you can easily spot out from their behavior. Thus, while petting fish in your home aquarium, it is recommended to keep them in a pair so that it can offer them companionship.

Many fish tend to become aggressive when kept with tank mates. Hence, they are best kept alone. For such fish, loneliness is not at all an issue.

Do Fish Like to be Petted?

Fish do like to be petted. They love to get loved.

If you caress them regularly, the fish might get used to it and tend to return again and again to get more of it.

Petting a fish is something different from the way you pet a cat or dog.

Do Fish Love their Owners?

To your surprise, fish are capable of recognizing their owners. Fish build some sense of attachment towards their owners, which makes them quite friendly with their owners.

Many scientists have also found that fish feel skittish or anxious when a stranger walks into the room.

The feeling of love may not be much stronger in them, but they can still recognize you.

Feelings Based on the Variety of Fish

The matter of feelings can be different for different fish species. Here is what you need to know about them.

Do betta fish have feelings?

The small and lovely bettas are pretty intelligent and impressive. Though the brain of a betta fish might not process complex emotions like that of humans, they do exhibit emotional feelings.

Do goldfish have feelings?

Goldfish have feelings too. Their feelings might not be as strong and clear as mammals. But you will feel that your goldfish is eventually recognizing you as it has some memory capacity.

Do jellyfish have feelings?

Jellyfish do not have a brain that can render them the senses of feelings. Jellyfish get some sensations when you touch them, but they cannot exhibit any emotion.


Fish having feelings is much of a fun idea, but it is pretty evident in them. Fish’ emotions may not be as conscious as ours, but it does not mean that their feelings are non-existent.

You can easily find them react in different ways as per the different feelings they experience at a time.