Rethink Fish

Everything you think you know about fish is wrong

Content from Compassion in World Farming 

Fish are intelligent, sensitive creatures and like many other animals, they explore, travel, socialise, hunt and play. Some species care for their young and use tools as humans do. Fish are sentient animals capable of suffering and feeling pain. 

Most fish have highly developed senses with excellent taste, smell, hearing and colour vision. Until fairly recently, many people didn’t realise that fish were sentient or feel pain, and the mental abilities of fish were given limited attention by the scientific community. Now, recent discoveries open up a new world of understanding. Far more complex than we ever realised, fish live rich social lives: communicating; hunting cooperatively; and, in some cases, developing cultural traits.


Ray and shark from below 2125x1411.jpg


Recent experiments have demonstrated the advanced intelligence of fish. On certain mental tests, even tiny cleaner wrasse outperform many primate species including orangutans and chimpanzees using powerful memory and grasp of game theory to solve reef-based food puzzles. 

Very few animals are capable of recognizing themselves in the mirror. Animals that have been observed passing the so called ‘mirror test’ include chimps, dolphins, elephants, and some birds. Now – thanks to new research – we can add the wrasse to the list. It seems that even the smallest of fish are self-conscious.


The male Japanese pufferfish creates an amazing two metre wide geometric nest in the sand. Working diligently for around a week, he fans the sand with his fins and makes it beautifully symmetrical. He does this to attract and impress females. 

Tusk fish are capable of using tools - crushing clam shells with rocks to get to the meat inside. They carefully select rocks of the right size and shape, and often transport them to other locations to use when foraging.

Groupers - cooperative hunting between animals of different species is rare and impressive. Groupers go to caves where they know their moray eel friend lives and use gestures to invite them out to hunt. The eels flush fish out of tight spots on the reef and then the grouper catches them in open water and they share the food. Recently, researchers discovered that groupers also perform the same behaviour with octopuses. Moray Eel and Grouper fish hunting together 2000x1334.jpg