Do Fish Have Feelings? 9 Ways They Show Feelings To Us

What do fish do when they are hooked? Do they feel pain? As humans, we know that the answer is yes. However, do fish have feelings? 

This article discusses 9 ways that fish show their feelings to humans. 

Fish express their emotions through body language and by the sounds they make. 

They also change colors depending on how they feel! 

Finally, there are some behaviors that indicate if your pet likes you or not.

In case you are in a hurry and don’t have enough time to read this article. Here is an on-point answer for you.

Do fish have feelings? Yes, fish do have feelings. They have emotions, social needs, and intelligence. And while they may not feel pain in the same way humans do because their nervous system is structured differently from a human’s, they do feel fear and stress.

Do Fish Have Feelings? Explained!

Yes, every living thing has some kind of feelings, therefore fish also have feelings.

Although it is difficult to know the exact type of emotions that different kinds of fish feel, science has proven that they do indeed have feelings and are capable of feeling pain.

Fish use their senses to perform everyday tasks, just like humans do.

Fish use sight for hunting prey, smell to find food, touch to keep track of their surroundings and feel vibrations in the water through special sensors along with their bodies.

How Does A Fish Feel?

The senses that are most important for fish are sight and smell.

Sight is an essential sense which allows fish to hunt prey or escape danger by seeing where it’s coming from.

The smell is used to find food and mates.

Fish can detect vibrations from other fish swimming, or from insects walking on the water’s surface.

They also have a sense that helps them know where they are in the water, which is known as a “sense of equilibrium.”

Fish communicate with one another by touching their bodies against each other, producing a vibration that transmits information.

Hormones and pheromones are also important for fish as a way of communicating with one another.

9 Ways They Show Humans Their Feelings

Fish show their feelings to humans in many ways. But in this section, we will be discussing the nine common ways that fish have feelings.

Fish Will Show You Affection

Fish can show affection to their owners.

Fish do this by swimming around, rubbing against different objects and people in the tank, and flaring or pouting fins.

Many fish-owners have experienced these behaviors from their pet fish. It may be a sign of love for your fish! 

Fish Have Memories

Fish do have memories.

They remember where the food is in the tank, and they know when feeding time will be.

Fish can also interpret information from past experiences to predict what might happen next!

In fact, fish do even better than rats at finding their way out of a maze if they haven’t been able to learn it through sight.

Also, read: Do Fish Have Thoughts? [7 Funny Things They Think Of Us]

Fish Can Get Sad

Fish can get sad.

If a fish is a tank with another, and the other fish dies it may cause them to fall into depression as well.

Fish do get stressed out, and if the stress is too much they can become sick just like humans.

If you notice that your fish are acting strange or showing abnormal signs of behavior, do not ignore it!

They may be sad or need help from their owner to get through this difficult period in their lives. 

Fish Can Fall In Love

Fish do fall in love.

They may not do it exactly the same way as humans, but they show a lot of signs that they feel an emotional connection with another fish.

Fish need to be able to reproduce and continue their species by mating with other fish. 

In addition, if you have more than one male or female fish, the male and female may do courtship displays to show their affection for one another.

This can lead to them mating with each other! 

Fish Get Thirsty

Fish do get thirsty.

If you do not give them fresh water, they can become dehydrated and sick!

The best way to do this is by doing a partial water change every week so that the fish have enough clean water in their tank.

After you do the partial water change, make sure that you give the fish freshwater that is the right temperature for them.

If you do not do a partial water change once per week, then your fish can become very sick and die!

Doing this weekly will also keep their tank clean from any leftover food or dirt in the bottom of it.  

Make sure to do research on how often you should do partial water changes for your fish before you do it!

Fish Like To Be Patted

Fish do like to be petted.

They do not have skin that is sensitive to touch, but they do enjoy the physical contact with their owners!

Many fish-owners report that when they put their hands into the tank and make contact with the fish, it makes them feel good too.    

A big reason why fish do not like being petted is that many people do it too hard or for a long time.

They do not want their owners to hurt them, and they cannot communicate this in any other way but by hiding from you!

When you go over to the tank and make contact with your pet fish, be gentle about it. Do not do it for a long time, and do not do it too hard!  

Also, make sure to move your hand slowly so that they can see where you are going with it before you get there!

Fish Will Let You Know When Hungry

Fish do let you know when they are hungry.

They show this by swimming around the tank looking for food, and trying to rub against things in the tank as if it is a person or another fish!

They do not like to be hungry and want you as their owner to feed them!

Fish also do this when they are sick, so make sure that if your fish is acting strange or looks weird, do not ignore it.

Your pet may be trying to tell you that something is wrong with them!

If the behavior continues for a long time, do research on the behavior and do not wait to take your fish in for a checkup!

Fish Are Not Scared Of You

Fish do not fear you.

They do not have a natural instinct to be scared of humans, and they do not run away from us or hide when we approach them!

The only thing that fish can do is swim around the tank trying to find food or rub against things in their environment as if they are trying to communicate with another fish or human!

If you do not feed your fish for a long time, then they will become scared of you because their instincts tell them that humans are dangerous.

They do not want anything bad to happen to them so if they do see us coming towards them, they may hide in one spot for a long time.

This is because they do not want to be put into a dangerous situation where we may accidentally hurt them!  

Fish Can Identify Their Owners

Fish do recognize their owners!

They do not do this by sight, but instead, they can sense the person through other senses.

If you are very gentle with them every time that you feed or take care of your fish, then they will become familiar with your scent and the sound of your voice.

This way, they do not become scared or stressed when you approach them!

If your fish does swim up to you and rub against the glass of their tank, then this is a sign that they like seeing you.

They do not do this for everyone. If someone else approaches the tank, then your pet fish will ignore them because it knows that they do not like that person!

If you do this for your fish every day, then they will become bonded to you.

This is important because it means that they feel safe around their owner and know them very well! 

What Kind Of Feelings Does Fish Have?

Like humans, fish are also emotional beings who feel pain, joy, loneliness, and love.

A lot of people believe that fish do not have feelings like humans do because they lack the neocortex part of the brain which is thought to create emotions in people. 

However, what studies show is that fish actually do experience emotions but on a different level than human beings. 

Studies have proven that fish experience basic emotions such as fear, anxiety, and pleasure. 

It is also believed that they can process between 50 to 200 different kinds of sensations which makes them more aware of their surroundings than most people think.

Do Fish Feel Affection? 

Fish do not have the exact same emotional range as humans, but they do experience emotions. 

Fish do express love for others in their own way and there are many types of feelings that fish can express towards other creatures including humans. 

Just like most pets or animals, fish will show signs when they are fed up with certain behavior and do not like being touched in certain areas.

When it comes to affection, fish do show it in their own way. 

For instance, when fish are kept together they often form tight-knit groups.

Where each member is important to the other members of the group and there can be signs of affection amongst them.

Like nuzzling or lateral nudges with fins touching another fish’s body. 

Fish will also seek out the contact from others which can be a sign of affection. 

Fish do not generally show emotions in the same way that humans do.

It is difficult to say for certain whether fish feel exactly like we do, but they do have different behaviors when feeling stress or fear.

This indicates that there are some similarities between how humans and fish experience emotions such as love.

Do Fish Have Memories?

Fish do not have the capacity for memory in any way that would resemble how humans remember things. 

However, they do respond to various stimuli by instinct and with their innate responses to stimuli that are passed down through generations of fish within a species. 

For example, when an aquatic creature is startled or scared it will often times swim rapidly away from the direction from which the stimulus came. 

If a human were to do this, it would be because they remembered that the movement of swimming away from something frightening.

Made them feel safe in the past and want to do it again when presented with a similar situation or object/creature. 

Fish do not have these memories about specific objects but instead instinctually respond either by fight or flight in the interest of survival.

Do Fish Feel Sadness?

Yes, fish do feel sadness.

Pet fish in aquariums have shown signs of sadness when placed in a new environment, or if the owner is not around for an extended period of time.

Studies have also found that caged fish show signs of depression when placed into dirty water with no food supply.

Sadness is a natural emotion that helps us humans do what is best for our environment and ourselves.

Fish have been known to show signs of sadness. When they are not comfortable in their water conditions. Also, if the owner has traveled away from home for an extended period of time.

Do Fishes Fall In Love?

You guys know love is blind.

You do not see a person’s flaws or imperfections. Love does not care about whether someone is rich, poor, young, or old.

It just loves for love’s sake and nothing more! So do fishes fall in love? 

We do not know. All we do know is that fish do mate for life and they do love their young.

But it could be out of instinct or fear or protection more than actual affection.

So it might be something like the way humans fall in love with each other because obviously you are all blinded by your own romantic notions too!

What do fish do when they fall in love?

There is no way of knowing if fishes do actually fall in love or are just mating because it’s instinctual.

However, if you watch the male and female together, there are certain signs that might tell you what they feel for each other.

For instance, do they immediately swim toward one another as soon as they see each other?

Do they do a little dance to get the attention of the other fish?

Do you notice one chasing after another? Or do they seem uninterested in each other despite being close together? 

Do Fish Get Thirsty?

Fish lives in water 24x7x365.

Fish do not drink water as we do, they absorb everything through their skin and gills.

However, this does not mean fish do not get thirsty or dehydrated just because they do not have to go down to the ground for a glass of water.

Fish can die from dehydration if their tank is low on fresh clean oxygen-rich water.

Fish do not have an automatic mechanism that tells them when they are thirsty.

If you do not do regular water changes, it is possible for your fish to get dehydrated and die because of this.

Fish can also be affected by the temperature of their tank – if the water in the tank gets too hot or cold then fish will get thirsty.

There are some fish that do not do well in cold water so it is important to keep this in mind before you decide on getting a pet fish.

Fish do feel thirst if their gills start irritating them, which can happen when the tank gets dirty and polluted with waste matter like nitrates, ammonia, etc.

If your fish’s fins look damaged or their gills do not look pink and healthy then this could be a sign that your fish is thirsty.

Do Fish Like Being Pets?

When kept as pets, fish do not do well when in a small tank.

It is much better to let them have large tanks that are cleaned often and provide enough space for their habitats. 

Fish do enjoy being pet, but they need room to swim around so care should be taken when you buy your fish its own habitat or aquarium.

What Do Fish Feel When They Get Hooked?

It’s an unexpected thing for a fish to get hooked.

The line goes taut and the fish start to feel pain.

They do not know what is happening or how it happened, but they do understand that something went wrong.

Fish can get injured when hooked because of the sharp teeth in their jaws which are there for catching prey.

When a person hooks them with a fishing rod, this causes injury even if they do not yank on the line.

Do Fish Know They Are Hooked?

Yes, fish do know they are hooked.

Fish feel panic when becoming attached to a hook.

They do not like this feeling and do whatever it takes, including jumping out of the water, in order to escape their suffering.

When getting hooked they do not do it on purpose.

They do not know that they are hooked when getting reeled in, until the very end of this process.

When fish get hooked they only see a worm or another type of food and think that there is nothing wrong with trying to eat it.

Because their instinct tells them that if something looks like food then go ahead and eat it.

Do Fish Learn To Avoid Hooks?

When a fish escapes from hooks, it can do so because of habituation. 

The more times a fish escapes from being caught on hooks, the better chance it has to overcome its fears and learn how to avoid them for good!

Do Fish Recover After Being Hooked?

Fish do not recover after being hooked.

Once they are caught, the fish is usually gutted, filleted, or cooked alive.

Fish do feel pain when hungry and do show signs of fear.

If you know a fisherman please ask them to use barbless hooks so that it will be easier for them to release their catch back into water instead of killing them.

Many times peoples just want to catch and leave the fish back in the water.

So do not waste time and just do it fast as possible because fishing is a good hobby but do respect your catch of the day.

Do Fish Have Feelings For Their Owners?

Yes, fish do have feelings for their owners.

Fish do not have complex emotions like humans do, but they do feel affection for their owners.

They show that through body language and behaviors in many ways.

Fish can recognize you as the one who feeds them or gives them food treats when they are hungry.

You will notice your fish swimming to get to where you are, even if it is not feeding time.

Fish do have memories, so they do remember who feeds them and where you are located in the house or room.

Fish also feel sadness when their owner leaves the home for extended periods of time without giving your fish any attention while you’re gone.

This is because fish need interaction with humans to remain healthy both physically and mentally.

How Do You Tell If Your Fish Loves You?

There are some signs that show your fish loves you.

Your fish will do the following things when it loves you: 

Your fish has started to recognize your voice. 

When you are not near, your fish starts looking for you. 

You have noticed that each time before feeding or playing with your pet, he/she comes closer to see what is going on. 

Your fish comes closer when your hand is near. 

After playing, your pet may come and rest on your hands or lap. 

You can see that after being fed, he/she starts swimming around in happiness showing appreciation. 

When your pet is injured or sick, you can notice that it has come to you for comfort.

There are even more signs that show your fish loves you.

I recommend you to read: Top 20 signs your fish loves you!

Can Fish Hear You When You Talk To Them?

Yes, fish do have ears, or more specifically ‘otolith organs’ in their inner ear. 

They do not hear the same way humans do because fish don’t have eardrums to vibrate but they do pick up vibrations and other environmental sounds quite well. 

The only noise that is actually heard by a fish would be something like scraping rock on another surface.

Which would cause them to feel distressed or startled.

They do not hear the same way humans do nor do they have the ability to decipher speech as we do.

But they can definitely pick up on noises and sounds in their immediate environment.

This is why it is important not to tap loudly or make sudden noise around your fish tank because you could scare them out of their wits!

Can My Fish See Me?

Yes, it is obvious that fish do see you.

They look at you when they are in the aquarium, on the glass.

Fish do not have eyelids that close to protect their eyes from water or debris while underwater.

So, it is important for an owner to be able to tell if his/her pet fish has any changes in vision.

If a fish looks like he/she cannot see, do not hesitate to take him/her to a veterinarian.

Fish do react when humans talk and make sounds around them.

They also swim away from sharp objects like nails or tools that are used for decoration in the tank if they do not feel safe near these items.

Many fish owners tell stories about how their pet fish come up to the surface to greet them when they get home.

Fish do have some sense of time and can recognize their owners after a while.

Fish do not see color, but it is possible that they may be more sensitive to reds or greens than other colors because these are in lower frequencies of light waves.

So if you want your fish tank decorations to have a particular color, do not buy things that are in the other colors.

It is better to go with more darkly colored backgrounds because these do not cause any type of light waves that could be harmful to fish or interfere with their vision.

Fish can see your movements if you stand up close to the tank and move around.

But it is better to do not to do this because you can scare them or make them feel like they are trapped.

How Do I Play With My Fish?

One of the most touching things about fish is how they do not require you to do much in order for them to show love.

They do not play games or do tricks, but it does not mean that they do not want interaction with their owners.

Showing affection towards your pet fish can be as simple as giving them time and space when they need it.

There are many games to play with your pet fish that do not require any special equipment or toys. 

The simplest way is to just turn on the aquarium light and watch your fish swim around, do their thing! 

Allow them some time alone by dimming the lights if possible so they can rest after a long day of swimming and eating.

Fish also love bubbles and will play with anything that creates bubbles in the water.

They do not have arms or legs to play with you, but they do have a very active tail that they can use for games of tag and other fun activities! 

If you are looking for a new toy to give your fish then try some aquarium-safe toys such as floating food balls.

These will keep your fish entertained for hours and do not require any special training!

FAQ’s [Frequently Asked Questions]

Do fish know when they are being killed?

Yes, fish know when they are being killed because the electrical signals in their muscles change, which sends a message to their brain.

The signal tells the fish that it is being attacked and starts preparing for death by sending out hormones that will activate its immune system.

It’s amazing that this simple reflex can mark our last moments of life.

Do Fish Have Personalities?

Yes, fish have personalities.

Indeed, the behavioral repertoire of these animals actually mirrors that of humans.

Fish can go through shock, stress, depression, and many other emotional stages that are all documented in studies by researchers.

Which fish love their owners?

Cardinal tetra (predominately red in color, although variations exist in the wild), Siamese fighting fish, and discus or angelfish.
Feeding is believed to be an important factor when it comes to building a strong bond between pet and owner.

Fishes listed above can generally live on a diet of bloodworms and rotifers.

Can fish recognize you?

Yes, fish can theoretically recognize you.

Depending on the species, it may take hours, days, months, or even years for them to show any signs of recognition.

Still though, if these animals are familiar with your scent then they will likely act differently than when you just turn up one day out of nowhere.

That is to say, they might become more curious or happy.

Do fish get lonely?

Fish don’t get lonely. As long as they have enough room to swim, they’re happy.

If it is smaller than what you would think of as the average fish.

It could get stressed if not given an opportunity to get away from other fish or people who are touching them for too long. 

Do fish have empathy?

No. The belief that fish have empathy is nothing more than an old wives’ tale, thought to be true for too long now to matter.

Fish do not have any comprehension of other living things and thus cannot develop any emotional attachment or connection with them either much less feel their pain as we might.

Little else should be said on the topic given its insignificance.

Can a fish be happy?

Yes, fish can be happy.

Fish appear to show a range of emotions through the way they swim, their shoaling behavior, and even their smiles!

Some fish seem to enjoy companionship by adopting signature side-to-side movements in their tank and chasing each other.

Interestingly enough, when we provide them with toys many seem to choose ones that resemble aquatic plants.

Obviously, these behaviors reflect some form of enjoyment and happiness on the part of the animal.

Can fishes cry?

A fish can cry; we all do it.

But they don’t have the same kind of tear and eye mechanisms that humans do.

So their tears are often shed in response to pain rather than sadness. Fish seep out “tears” from their pores when stressed or afraid.

Some marine biologists believe that this secretion is a way for them to protect their eyes from saltwater.

Because the saltwater damages their eyes, making tear production essential.


In conclusion, do fish have feelings? The answer is yes.

They do feel things and they do have feelings for their owners, friends, and family members who love them back.

Fish have a difficult time telling us what is going on inside of them but they do express themselves to us in many ways that we can understand.

We just need to pay more attention to what is going on inside them and how they are feeling.

Since they are also living beings they also do get thirsty, do get hooked, do fall in love, do have memories, and do feel sadness.

They do not like being pets but they do enjoy spending time with us. When we are gentle with them and respect their needs which is very important to ensure that they do not become stressed out. 

Have you ever created a bond with any of your fish? Have you ever seen any of your fish do anything special to show their feelings for you? Or do something that seems like they are trying to communicate with you in some way?

If so, feel free to share about this experience in the comment section below.

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