Do Fish Get Depressed In Tanks?

Do fish get depressed in tanks? Recent research has shown that certain species of fish may exhibit signs of depression that are major. While some may think this is a bit absurd while dismissing fish as mere creatures incapable of expressing complex emotions, however, there are a lot of striking similarities that we have with fish.

Do fish get depressed in tanks?

Can a fish be depressed in tanks? In my search for answers from scientists, I figured they would find my question absurd. However, they didn’t. Not at all.

It’s clear that not just our beloved friends with gilded faces are depressed, but a few scientists believe that fish could be an excellent animal model for the development of anti-depressants.

The latest research, I’d discover, is changing the way scientists view fish cognition and establishing a convincing argument that pet owners and their pets aren’t as distinct as many believe.

Julian Pittman, a professor at Troy University in Alabama, uses zebrafish in his studies to create better medications for depression.

“The neurochemistry is so similar that it’s scary,” according to Julian Pittman. He is a professor at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Troy University (Alabama). According to The New York Times, professor Julian Pittman is working there on new treatments for treating depression by using the tiny zebrafish.

Presently, Dr. Pittman is using itty-bitty Zebrafish to aid in the development of new treatments for depression. (More than 16 million Americans experienced major depression-related episodes in 2015, according to research conducted by the National Institute for Mental Health.)

Dr. Pittman likes working with fish for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they’re so transparent regarding their depression. He is able to test the efficacy of antidepressants using what’s called”the “novel tank test.” Zebrafish are dropped into a fresh tank. If it is found that after five minutes, it’s hanging around in the lower portion then it’s probably depressed. If it’s swimming onto the top — which is a typical orientation when navigating new surroundings — then it’s probably not.

The degree of depression is measured by the amount of time that passes at the top as compared to. the lowest.

This is likely to seem a bit odd to the six out of six who have suffered from clinical depression.

Do you think this story sounds a little odd, considering these fish cannot tell us what they feel? But Dr. Pittman says that while watching his zebrafish, he noticed that some of them seemed to lose interest in all things, similar to those suffering from clinical depression.

“You can tell,” said Culum Brown who is a behavioral biologist from Macquarie University in Sydney and has published more than 100 research papers on the fish’s cognition. “Depressed people withdraw. The same can be applied to fish.”

While researchers have employed mice and other mammals to study emotional issues for many years, the connection of these models to our own experiences is at best hazy.

It’s a fact of “We cannot ask animals how they feel,” declares Dr. Diego A. Pizzagalli Director of the Center For Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research at Harvard Medical School.

While researchers might find similarities between serotonin and dopamine levels, neither rats nor fish are able to “capture the entire spectrum of depression as we know it,” says Dr. Pizzagalli.

A heated discussion is taking place among the community of researchers in fish on whether depressed or anxious is a better term.

What convinced Dr. Pittman, and others in the last ten years is watching the zebrafish are bored of almost everything such as toys, food exploring, and even exploration — just as people who are clinically depressed.

The main cause of common depressions in fish populations is likely insufficient stimulation, according to Victoria Braithwaite, an associate professor of fisheries and Biology at Penn State University, who is interested in fish intelligence as well as the preferences of fish.

Study after study reveals that fish are defying the stereotypes of aquatic life Some fish employ tools while others identify the individual faces of each.

“One of the things we’re finding is that fish are naturally curious and seek novel things out,” explained Dr. Braithwaite. That’s right your goldfish could be bored. To combat depression, she recommends adding new items into the tank or changing things up in the place where items are.

Dr. Brown agrees, pointing to an experiment that he conducted which showed that when you place the fish in an enriching physical and complex environment which means lots of edible plants or cages that you can swim in -it reduces stress and boosts brain growth.

Furthermore, small tanks that have low-quality water and low oxygen levels make the situation even more difficult.

The issue with small tanks isn’t only the lack of space for exploration, as stated by Dr. Brown, but also the quality of water can be erratic and there might not be enough oxygen.

“A goldfish bowl for example is the worst possible situation,” he stated.

If you own pet fish, you might want to accept where Dr. Brown keeps his extensively landscaped six-foot aquarium. Dr. Brown recommends a “two-foot tank with lots of plants and stuff” for the average Betta fish.


How do I know if my fish is sad?

Strange swimming: When fish are stressed, they tend to create strange patterns of swimming. In the event that your fish swims in a frenzied manner without a plan, breaks into the bottom of the tank, scratches himself on the rocks or gravel, or secures the fins of his side, he might be under a lot of stress.

Can fish get depressed?

According to scientists, fish can be depressed, and studies are currently being conducted on marine animals in an attempt to discover ways to treat humans who suffer from depression. You may be wondering what humans might be able to share in common with fish but experts believe that there’s more to it than what you imagine.

Why is my betta fish depressed?

The biggest reason for betta fish to be unhappy is that they’re not properly kept,” Hickey stated. I was told that bettas are tropical fish, and require heaters. The ideal temperature for bettas is around 78 F. A betta that is lethargic without a heater might be cold.

Why are my fish not moving?

If your fish appear fatigued and unfocused It could be the result of a variety of reasons. The most common reason is the unsuitable temperature of the water. If the water in your fish tank has become too hot, or cold, they’ll be extremely inactive. Verify the temperature of your heater and ensure that the aquarium is at the proper temperature.


Do Fish Get Depressed In Tanks? The answer is, yes. To keep your fish from becoming blue, you should include plants to eat in addition to cages for them to traverse into the aquariums. In addition to making their surroundings more appealing and enjoyable, it will also provide the fish with a lot of fun that will help reduce stress, and even encourage brain development.

(Source: The New York Times )

Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.