can a fish cry?

Can A Fish Cry? Do Fish Have Tears?

While learning about the general behavior of fish, their anatomy, and physiology, this basic question often pops up in our minds that can a fish cry? Can they produce tears?

No, fishes can’t cry and can’t produce tears. Although they do feel general emotions like sadness and depression that can trigger tear production in highly developed animals.

It is often thought that fish may lack the limbic system, but in reality, fishes do have a limbic system, but they lack the biological machinery to produce tears.

Let’s see in detail why a fish can’t cry and what is the reason behind this.

Why Can’t A Fish Cry?

First of all, they don’t need to produce tears, that might sound absurd but that’s true. Humans, other mammals, and other highly developed animals need tears to lubricate their eyes.

As a result of persistent friction imparted by the constant blinking of eyes, their eyeballs can get damaged. Thus, tears are produced for protection against this friction as well as dust and microbes trapped within the eyelids.

Moreover, crying is a very explicit emotional behavior and is only limited to very well-brained animals such as mammals. Creatures like fishes can’t process very deep emotions through depression is frequently seen in fish, but they are unable to express them in terms of tears.

Most importantly it is seen that most of the fish species lack the important brain components that are responsible for processing and expressing deep emotions.

Anatomy Of Fish’s Brain:

Well, it was once a commonly asked question that does fish have a brain, so yes fish do have a brain and a highly developed one indeed. The important thing is fish’s brain is quite similar to the mammalian brain except for a few differences.

Do Fish Have A Cerebral Cortex?

Fishes generally lack some vital areas like the cerebral cortex and neocortex. The cerebral cortex is the neurological component that is involved in many functions including tear production as well.

Absence of cortex Cleary states that fishes are both mentally and emotionally unable to process a complex process as tear production. In mammal’s tears are not only used as an expression of emotion but also as a protective agent.

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Do Fish Have Limbic System?

It is a major misconception that fishes lack a limbic system thus are unable to produce tears. Fishes do have a well-developed limbic system that actually helps in the formation of tears but there are other limitations as well.

Fishes lack major biological and anatomical machinery involved in tear production.

Do Fish Have Circuitry for Producing Tears?

Apart from the absence of the cerebral cortex, fishes also lack any physiological need for tears. Above all fishes don’t have lacrimal apparatus the main circuitry responsible for tear formation and release.

This biological machinery is seen in most mammals and is composed of a gland called the lacrimal gland and ducts called the nasolacrimal duct. The absence of these structures in fishes renders them deprived of this ability.

Do Fish Feel Pain?

Yes, Fish do feel pain and often express it as well. This is a huge topic of debate, and it has been studied for quite a time. Fishes are intelligent creatures and are capable of feeling emotions and pain as well.

Although their sadness and pain are not the same as ours and so as the response is quite different too. When we think that fishes don’t cry, we assume that they won’t feel pain as well, but it’s not true.

When fishes can feel happy and excited, they can feel sad, lonely, depressed, and painful in the same way.

If Not Crying How Do Fish Express Pain and Sadness?

Although pain is aptly felt in fish, the response is quite different from other animals. They can’t shed tears like us and other mammals, but they do express their pain and agony in terms of “loud noises”.

These crying sounds are equivalent to the physiologic crying in higher animals. In the beginning, it was thought that these sounds are for attracting the opposite gender. According to recent research, it is clear that these sounds are mostly produced in pain and depression.

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Furthermore, fishes may express their emotions by isolating themselves from other tankmates. If you see your fish moping around the bottom quite frequent it is a sign that your fish is gloomy.

Thus, fishes do express their emotions in a variety of ways that are quite different from ours.

Do Fish Feel Emotions?

Fishes are quite intelligent emotionally and are capable of feeling emotions and interpreting them. Happiness, when you are just about to put food in an aquarium. Depression, when they isolate themselves from the rest of their tankmates.

Moreover, sadness and excitement all are appropriately felt and sometimes reflected by their actions. Thus, it is clear that fishes are capable of executing very complex processes and interpreting their emotions.

According to recent research, fishes can even recognize and remember their owners for a long period, this is evidence that fishes are pretty brainy.

Is There A Fish That Can Cry?

Interestingly enough there is a fish that cry like a baby and produce agonizing sounds that resemble a baby crying. A three-spined toadfish (Batrachomoeus Trispinosus) is the only species that produces non-linear calls.

These calls are without any regular pattern, and they are complex signals with various waveforms intermixed. These noises serve three important functions.

three-spined toadfish
Picture Credit:
  1. Such high-pitched noises are used to scare off any predator and to protect themselves.
  2. Mostly these noises help them recognize each other and to call the opposite gender.
  3. They are used to express deep emotions like pain, agony, and depression.

Being Mammals, Do Dolphins and Whales Cry?   

As it has already been said mammals and higher animals possess the ability to cry and produce tears. So, the question arises that do dolphins and whales that are mammals produce tears?

No, whales and dolphins, and other aquatic mammals don’t produce tears. They don’t need to cry despite all the pain and sadness as their eyes are always wet.

Although, dolphins and whales have a well-developed cerebral cortex that provides them with emotional depth to feel sorrow.

One of the most significant things seen in dolphins and whales are loud crying sounds that resemble painful crying in other animals.

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To protect their eyes from salty water these marine mammals produce thick mucous that completely covers their eyes. So as their eyes are protected, they don’t need to cry and none of these mammals cry.                       

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Do fish cry underwater?

Fishes and all other underwater creatures don’t cry as they don’t need to cry. Moreover, they are deprived of the mental capacity, emotional dept, and biological circuitry to produce tears and cry.

How do I know if my fish are happy?

Fishes are quite capable of feeling and expressing happiness and it is seen by their movements.

1-Fishes are active, energetic, and entertaining when they are happy. You can see them.
2-swimming actively up and down all around the aquarium.
3-They eat and sleep properly when they are happy and satisfied.
4-A happy fish will play with its owner and will respond quickly.
5-They interact with other members of the tank actively.

What can make my fish sad?

Fishes do get sad and depressed as well. The following could be the main reasons behind their sadness.
1-A smaller tanks and more fish can certainly make your fish feel sad and stressed.
2-A hungry fish is sad and needs to be fed quickly.
3-Unhealthy water conditions can also put unnecessary stress and make them sad.
4-A fish living alone and also feel sad as they are quite social animals.


This is clear from our discussion that fishes are unable to cry, and they certainly can’t produce tears. They lack the mental ability, emotional depth, physiologic need, and biological machinery needed for tear production.

Although fishes are emotional, intelligent, and brainy, they can adequately feel and express all their emotions. The way they respond to these emotions is in a variety of ways. Despite feeling the pain, depression, and sadness; fishes still can’t cry.

Hope this article will prove beneficial for you guys.

Best of luck with your fish!!!

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