Do you think fish ever get sad, and can they cry tears? If they did, would the water get saltier?

love Rudi, age 6

Hi Rudi,

I don't know if fish get sad - it is very hard to know what an animal is feeling because we can't ask them like we can each other. Also, fishes don't have the face muscles that we do and can't make all the expressions that humans do (such as frowning and smiling).

However, they certainly don't cry. Fish lack the special duct which produces tears. Most land-living animals need tears to stop their eyes from drying out - as far as we know only humans cry when they are sad. Fishes don't have this problem as their eyes are permanently wet. Fish also get by without eyelids or eyelashes!

If you think you know a fish who is sad then you should check if it has changed colour or is behaving in an odd way (e.g. not eating) - even if we don't know if fish get sad they can get sick so it is our job to keep an eye on them. I have a lungfish (see http://www.gly.bris.ac.uk/www/admin/personnel/Pa.html) and he once went off his food and turned pale, but he got better after a while (and a meal of nice crunchy snails!).

Graeme answered this at exactly the same time, so I will not repeat him, only to say that, even though it is unlikely that fish can feel sad, if they are not kept well (or for that matter if anyone is cruel to animals) it can make other people sad.  So we should always treat animals kindly.

Last edited by Neil Gostling (16th Feb 2007 17:56:34)