Study Shows Fish May Have Emotions And Consciousness

by | Dec 10, 2015 | Science | 0 comments

Don’t you wonder what your aquarium fish are feeling? I know I have had the thought cross my mind many times. Now, a recent study featured in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences,  observed that when Zebrafish (Danio rerio) experience stress, the temperature of their body rises by around two to four degrees. This emotional fever in response to stress has never been seen or accounted for in fish before. The study took 72 Zebrafish and put them into two groups of 36 fish each. Each group of fish was placed into a tank with interconnecting compartments containing different temperatures of water.  The  water temperatures in the compartments ranged from 18 degrees Celsius to 35 degrees Celsius.  As a control, some of the fish were left in 28 degree C water.

The subject fish, were placed in tanks in order to simulate a stressful situation for the fish.  While the animals in the control group preferred to stay in compartments with the temperature at 28 degrees Celsius, the Zebra Fish exposed to the stressful situation often swam to areas of the tank with high temperatures which caused their body temperature to increase by around two degrees to four degrees.

According to the researchers, this is an indication that the zebrafish were experiencing a form of emotional fever related to their situation. “These findings are very interesting – expressing emotional fever suggests for the first time that fish have some degree of consciousness,”  said UAB researcher Sonia Rey.

However, many other scientists have different theories regarding the level of consciousness that fish have. Some point out that fish  are not capable of having consciousness because of the simple structures of their brains. They argue that fish have a limited capacity for memory and learning and cannot feel suffering. Admiring the fish in my tank, I believe that they do have at least some sense of intelligence and memory.  MORE

  • Francis Yupangco

    Francis is a marine biologist with an MBA and over 20 years of professional aquarium experience. Francis is the former Aquatic Development Manager at Hagen USA., makers of Fluval brand aquarium products. He co-stars on Nat Geo WILD's reality TV series Fish Tank Kings where he is the resident "Fish Geek" and was Director of Marketing at Living Color Aquariums. He is an avid explorer having visited over 45 countries and lived in 7. At 17, he was among the youngest aquarists ever hired by the Vancouver Aquarium, where he worked for 7 years. His aquatic biology experience ranges from larval fish rearing to the design, construction and operational management of renowned public aquariums around the world. Francis is currently head of marketing at the world's largest vertically integrated fish farming company.


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