Fun facts about fish - BC SPCA
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Fun facts about fish

March 2, 2020

Fish are involved in today’s society through the pet industry, the recreational fishing industry and fish farming. Fish are also essential to the ocean, lake and river ecosystems that we depend on.

While fish are often thought to lack intelligence and emotional capability, they are in fact, sentient creatures, meaning they have feelings and can experience both positive and negative emotions.

Continue reading to learn why fish are such incredible creatures.

Fish are social

Fish interact and form relationships with each other and other fish species. For example, there are many species of fish that act as “cleaners” for larger fish. The cleaners benefit by eating the parasites off of the larger fish, which is a source of food for them, and the “clients” benefit through a reduction in parasites.

Other species of fish work together to hunt prey. Fish, such as groupers and coral trout, will send a visual signal to show other fish the location of a hidden prey. Together, they will catch prey at a higher rate than when hunting alone.

Fish do remember!

Contrary to popular belief, fish do have great memories. Some species of fish can recognize and remember humans that give them food rewards. Cleaner fish, as described above, can recognize their clients that they regularly clean, which can be up to 100 different fish. The clients also remember and recognize their specific cleaner.

Fish can also remember musical tunes; one group of researchers fed their fish while playing a specific song before releasing them into the wild. Five months later, the fish returned when the song played at sea.

Fish are smart

Fish will avoid situations they know to cause them pain, and will seek out experiences with rewards. Fish can also learn how to use tools. Many fish, for example, use rocks to crack open bivalves such as clams, oysters and mussels for food. The archerfish specifically displays incredible intelligence. They learn how to catch prey items out of the air above them by shooting a stream of water at them, with the correct volume based on target size.

Fish are excellent communicators

Even though fish do not have vocal chords, they still excel at communicating with one another. They accomplish this through various sounds, scents, electrical pulses and motions. For example, knifefish and elephant fish can send and receive electrical signals used during courtship, navigation and hunting.

Fish are flexible

Salmon and sea trout live in both saltwater and freshwater. These fish hatch in freshwater, and then swim to the sea where they mature into adults. They undergo significant body changes and have specialized organs to adapt to and excel in both freshwater and saltwater.

Fish can migrate extremely far distances

Adult salmon living in saltwater environments migrate a vast distance to return to freshwater to spawn. Salmon can travel up to 50 km per day on their spawning journeys, which is equivalent to us running more than a marathon every day. In total, their migration can reach upwards of 3000 km from the ocean upstream through freshwater where they will spawn. Their total journey equates to driving halfway across Canada!

The migration would not be possible if salmon weren’t such excellent swimmers. Swimming upriver is no easy task, but luckily salmon are great jumpers and can jump up to two meters over obstacles in their way.

Fish have exceptional sensory capabilities

Fish can detect movement in the water through a special row of sensory scales along their body called the lateral line. These sensory scales pick up low frequency sound waves that vibrate through the water.

Salmon are known as one of nature’s best navigators due to their sensory capabilities. Salmon return to the same river, and sometimes even the same riverbed, in which they were born to spawn. They are guided by magnetic fields and their keen senses. It’s believed the salmon, who can smell chemicals down to one part per million, can detect pheromones that are unique to their home stream.

Fish are important to sustaining ecosystems

Salmon are the nutrient backbone to B.C.’s coastal ecosystems. Pacific salmon are semelparous, meaning that after they reproduce, they will die. Their carcasses are an essential nutrient source for many of BC’s resident animals, and provides nutrients to the new salmon hatching.

Fish can change colour

Fish are also known to change colours depending on camouflage needs, environmental conditions and time of the year. Colours range all across the rainbow, from blues and greens to pinks and reds.

Can you spot the fish?

Fish as farm animals

Finfish represent the largest component of the aquaculture industry in Canada, with over 26 different species of finfish farmed. The most common farmed fish species in Canada are salmon, trout and Arctic Char.

The National Farm Animal Care Council is currently developing Canada’s first Code of Practice for farmed finfish. A public comment period will be open from June to September 2020.

Show your support for these fascinating, complex creatures that deserve humane care! Subscribe to our Action Alerts to be the first to know when the comment period opens.

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