When I say, “I am worried. I think Jack is in depression” what would your initial thoughts be? “Poor child. Must be stressed because of his busy life” but what if I tell you the Jack I am talking about is not a person but my pet fish? You would probably think I am the one in need of medical assistance, wouldn’t you?

But here is the thing: Depression in fishes is as true as depression in human beings!

So indeed you might not be as different from your pet fish as you assumed.

Depression in fishes
Depressed wishes usually hover in the bottom half of the tanks

Myth Busting Time!

First myth-buster for you guys would definitely be –

“Fishes are not as simple and primitive as you think.”

They are a lot more complex than you give them credit for.


Well it has been thoroughly researched that the nerve structure of fishes is very similar to those of mammals like us. They have a brain developed enough to recognize each other like old friends do and store them in their memories which is why they are able to recall past social interactions with other fishes. They also have the innate capability to express affection to one another by rubbing their tiny bodies together.

The epitome of the findings is that fishes are sensitive due to which they hurt when they are wounded (on the inside).

So don’t you dare hurt your pet fishes’ feelings!!! (Just kidding)

Depression in fishes
Fishes are more intelligent than you think

Now you tell me why a species that feels emotional pain as deeply as humans cannot experience depression as it is?

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Scientific Explanation Behind Depression In Fishes

I used to have a small aquarium with two goldfishes when I was small. I was almost the one taking care of them as I was the one who pestered mom and dad to death to get me the aquarium. I used to feed them on time and changed the water of the aquarium regularly.

At first, they were quite playful, moving here and there, exploring their new surroundings but as days went by one of the fishes slowed down. It used to hover around day and night at the bottom of the tank, didn’t even come up to eat his food when it was time. One day it died. And days later the other one died as well.

I didn’t realize the cause of their sudden death up until now when I realize that the hovering at the bottom of the tank was a BIG sign of depression in my fishes.

Depression in fishes

A study carried out by Julian Pittman has revealed the tell-tale signs of fishes when they are depressed. His test “the novel tank test” has proved that fishes, when they are depressed, always tend to hang out in the lower half of the tank as compared to a non-depressed fish who swims on top, most of the time.

So basically, if your fish is depressed, it will swim in the bottom half of the aquarium with its fins down.

His study further reveals that the natural inclinations of fishes, when introduced to new environments, is to explore the place by swimming here and there, moving up and down that it is pretty evident that the fishes are enjoying themselves. But the fishes who develop depression are very similar to humans when it comes to the tell-all symptoms.

Like humans, fishes who are depressed give up on usually everything: food, play, friends, socializing. Depressed fishes tend to sit at a corner of the tanks almost still as a statue, don’t come up for food and exploring the surroundings is the last thing on their mind just like humans who when depressed retrieve themselves from any kind of social engagement.

What Can Be Done To Help Fishes Out Of This Painful Ordeal?

Research has found that the cause of depression in fish is mostly a lack of movement and stimulation. They are creatures who are most interested in exploring new things and surroundings.

They are naturally curious beings and seek out everything around them which is why they grow bored in no time when they are forced to be confined into small spaces like tanks and aquariums.

When depression kicks in, it is advisable to introduce new toys, plants and caves or tunnels in their tanks to allow their brain stimulation and growth. This will definitely keep them busy and distracted which is what they most need.

A lot of plants to chew on and cages or tunnels to swim through decreases stress levels in fishes and keeps them calm.

So the next time you get a pet fish be wary of these signs and don’t let it suffer unnecessarily.

Images Source: Google Images

Source: New York Times, PETA.org

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