Fish depression is no joke (+Understanding it)

This article will center around the fact that fish, although it may sound strange, can also become depressed. The article will show what are the signs you may send when depressed, and what are ways you can help them feel better.

Fish depression is no joke

Yes, fish depression is no joke. And even though it can seem strange to some people, research has shown that fishes can develop depression. Research done by a scientist called Julien Pittman, and released in 2017, showed that fish are capable of getting depressed.

In the study, the scientist identified that the neurochemical work of fishes is surprisingly similar to humans. During the study, Julien used a brand of fish called Zebra Fish because they will usually respond similarly to humans to antidepressants.

In Pittman’s study, different fishes were submitted to different experiences. While one was kept in a tank with ethanol, and then taken out of it, so it could experience withdrawal, there was another healthy fish.

Both of them were put on new tanks, and their behaviors were observed. The first one, that had experienced the stressful withdrawal situation, would only swing in the lower levels of the tank, while the other, was exploring the higher.

What this behavior shows us is that the first fish had signs of depression. That is because they were less curious about this new tank, and seem less motivated to explore. As for the second one, it was more active and explored the tank more.

And even though it is not possible to say fish have feelings, since they are not able to manifest them, it is understood that they will show some sort of reaction to the environment they are in. Because of that, one may say that the fish is depressed, stressed, or even going through a stressful situation. 

All of this puts in question all of the thoughts that people had previously about fish. They were seen as animals that had no intellectual capability, or memory. 

And besides Pittman’s studies, another one that was done by researchers at the University of Oxford, and the University of Queensland showed they will be able to memorize a high rate of information. Contributing to the view that a fish may feel more than what we imagined.

So if you are considering having a fish as a pet, or already have one, you should be aware of what can lead a fish to be depressed. Know that it can happen if they feel they are not stimulated enough, if the quality of the water in the tank is not good, if they are experiencing some illness, or if they feel insecure in their tank. 

And if you feel your fish may be feeling depressed, now you will be able to understand which signs to look for.

What are the signs my fish is depressed?

Once you know that fish can get depressed, you must keep your eyes open to the signs. The first sign a fish may be depressed is if its swimming pattern has changed. It can be that they are just standing still at the bottom of their tank, or sometimes they can even start to swim a lot faster and frenetically. 

In that, they may start to crash the bottom of their tank, or rubbing on the rocks of the tank, or even lock their fins to their side. All of those, when they happen more frequently, may be signs something is going on with your fish.

A depressed fish will also not interact in the same way with the things in the tank. You may notice that they are hiding between the rocks more often, and don’t show curiosity in exploring if you change the way things are in the tank. They may also not be excited to play with you when you try.

When a fish is depressed, it may also go to gasp on the surface of the tank. This is most often a sign of depression due to the quality of the water inside the tank. 

Aside from that, when a fish is depressed it will change its eating pattern. It is most common that fish won’t eat when they are feeling depressed. So if you notice your fish is not coming to the surface and doesn’t show excitement as you start to give them food, it can be a sign that they are depressed.

And finally, you may start to notice some white spots in your fish, and that can be a sign that they are sick, which can lead their behavior to change. Try to look if it is just the white spots, or if there are any other bruises on them. If that is the case, you should look for a veterinarian that specializes in fish.

How can I help my fish that are depressed? 

If you realized some of those signs, which led you to believe that your fish is depressed, then the best thing you can do is deal with the stressor event. Change it in the best way you can to a manner that will lead them to feel good.

Try to change their water, and the disposition of the objects in the tank, and play with them so they feel stimulated, and see if that brings a positive change in their behavior. 

But if you think it may be that they have a health problem, you should get in touch with your veterinarian, and they will tell you what to do. By doing that, you may begin to feel some positive changes in your fish’s behavior in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Are fish being depressed a joke? 

How can I make my fish happy?  

If you have a fish, and you want to make it happy, there are some ways you can do that. The first one is by learning how adaptable your fish is, and what are ways for you to make the tank better for them. It is relevant to know if they can adjust easily to having other fish and so on.

And when you are bringing them to their tank, make sure you make the tank a fun place. Get one tank in which they can move a lot, and put enough rocks and plants so they can explore. Remember to try and recreate an environment that will feel natural to them. And when you build it up, be sure to create some spaces in which your fish can hide.

You should always be aware of the quality of the water in the tank. Make sure it is good, and the Ph level is favorable. The quality of the water is extremely important not only in keeping them happy, but also healthy. The same is said about cleaning the tank.

You should also keep an eye on the temperature of the tank right, for that, you can use a water heater, which will put the temperature in the right way depending on the type of fish you have. 

And don’t forget to change the water filter. To keep your fish happy, always remember to take away the excess algae, and if your type of fish adjusts well to other fishes, make sure to bring them some company.

How can I tell my fish is happy?

If your fish is happy, there are some clues it will give to you. The first one comes from the way they swim. If they are happy they will swim freely in their tank. And when they are happy they can have some sort of vibrant glow on their skin.

This is a sign they are healthy, and when fish is healthy, they are usually happy. Aside from that, they will show they are happy by not being afraid of other fishes in the tank. But if you realize they are cornered, it may be a sign that they are not enjoying the company.

You can also tell that they are happy by observing the way they breathe. If they start to breathe irregularly, it may be a sign that they are under stress. And finally, you can tell they are happy if you see that they are enjoying eating.

Are fish good for mental health?

Yes, studies have shown that when people get the chance to observe fish in tanks, it can reduce their anxiety levels. Aside from that, people can become relaxed easier and can have an improvement in their mood.

It can also be beneficial to people that have Alzheimer’s. To them, watching bright fishes in a tank can lead to a reduction of disruptive behavior.  

Why are fish calming?

Studies have shown that watching fish swimming in a tank can have a calming effect on people. This seems to happen because once you are watching the fish swimming around the tank, it can have a pretty hypnotic effect on you. It will quickly relax your mind, but also your muscles.

What causes my fish to wiggle?

When your fish is wiggling it may be a sign that something is not right. When they are moving like that, it means that they have lost control over their muscles and nerves, and it is not a sign of one specific disease, but rather a sign that they may be experiencing some stressful situation.

If you figured out your fish is wiggling, be attentive and try to identify what may be causing them to be stressed, the water, the lack of activities, other fish, or some health condition. And maybe by fixing that, you will be able to make them happy and healthy again.

Can fish feel pain?

Yes, the study has shown that fish can feel pain, in the same way as they can react to stressful situations. This is because they have a complex nervous system, and it can change their behaviors when they are feeling pain.

Can fish become bored?

Yes, just like any other pet, fish can also get bored. And not only that, when they are too bored, it can lead them to act as if they are depressed. That is why it is so important to keep your fish active. You can do that by playing with them, having other fishes in the tank, if they are social fishes, and by keeping their tank always new and interesting to them.


This article explained that fish can get depressed. It also showed what are the main signs your fish is depressed, and how you can help them improve

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.


Stress in Fish: Symptoms and Solutions

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