Do Fish Commit Suicide


During my daily jog around the lake at our community town’s Park,  I saw something on the shallows at the boat launch. It was a huge dead Tiger Muskie fish that had beached itself. In the coming weeks, I saw two more of these strange occurrences in the same spot with no signs of struggle or trauma. Why would these powerful, dominant predators fish beach themselves? Do Fish Commit Suicide?

Yes, under certain circumstances fish will commit suicide by beaching themselves for reasons unrelated to depression:

  • Predators or a “survival of the species instinct”
  • Earthquakes
  • Lightning strikes
  • Weather
  • Confusion
  • Sickness
  • Contaminants-Low Oxygen
  • Sex-Food that’s outside their environment stranding

Small fish from a 10-gallon aquarium end up on the Living room floor, or a thousand-pound fish from the deepest part of the ocean ends up under the Boardwalk at Wildwood, New Jersey. The reasons could be different, but the results are the same. There are all kinds of fish in the sea that do some crazy stuff.

 

Do Fish Commit Suicide

The area where I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, near the Delaware River, has a dozen man-made lakes that were once working Stone Quarries. The one lake at the Park is used by the Township as part of the Parks & Recreation Program. The quarry lakes are deep and linked at the bottom, and the water is always moving in and out.  They are populated heavily with native and stocked varieties of fish.

The lake at the park is stocked with native Pennsylvania fish like Muskie, Pickerel, and Bass. It is a great place to spend the day. The water activities there include Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga, Kayak and Canoe Rentals, and classes for safe boating.

Besides the Fishing Tournaments for the kids, it also is known for some of the area’s bigger fish, like Small Mouth Bass and Northern Pike. The Tiger Muskie has always been kind of a mystery at the lake. There were some peculiar reports from some of the SUP Yoga classes that big fish that had extremely large teeth came up from the deep part of the lake and bumped some of the girls on their boards.

They finally roped off some of the shallow areas, put up a dock, and confined the Yoga classes and Kayak Rentals there. There were also reports of guys in smaller boats drifting across the lake that had fish pulled from their lines as they were reeling them in. They said they were big Tiger Muskies that had huge teeth.

Not to mention the many Ducks and Geese that were missing legs from swimming along the ledges that dropped off into deep dark parts of the lake. I mean, there are many one-legged ducks hopping around the Park. Sad but funny to see. I also had heard of aquarium fish jumping out of the tank to their death and whales and dolphins beaching themselves from the ocean but never seen freshwater fish do it.

 

Why Do Fish Beach Themselves From Water

 

It was all blamed on the Tiger Muskies that inhabited the lake, but Anglers saw them but were not catching them. We all heard about them banging boats and scaring the heck out of everyone on the lake. Some people reported that their dogs who were in the water around the deep edge were bitten by something.

After seeing this dead Tiger Muskie, which was a beautiful but ferocious-looking creature, I needed to know why. What happened to the fish, and why was it laying in the roped-off shallow end of the lake, up on the sandy side beach that was trucked in for the boat launch, Kayak rentals, and Yoga classes? The busiest area where most of the people who come to the Park congregate and where the most noise and activities happen.

The lake itself is crystal clear and aqua-colored, even though it’s very deep in spots. The lake’s shoreline is shallow for about 40 yards or so and then drops off at the edge up to more than 65 feet which is pretty deep for a local lake. The Lake is stocked, tested, and maintained by The State, and the Fish and Wildlife handle stocking fish, the health of the water, and the many Birds and animals that live there. It’s very clean and well-maintained.

There are American eagles and Hawks on the lake that I thought could maybe pull the fish out of the water and drop it on the beach, but these dead fish were maybe 20 pounds or more dried up. There are a few coyotes and other predators there, but they don’t swim in deep water and probably wouldn’t leave a meal like that on the shoreline.

After I found the Muskie, I inspected the fish carefully and saw no signs of trauma, fish hooks, fishing line, or injuries from boat propellers. No motors are allowed on the lake anyway, only the electric trolling types. The fishing line is recycled there in easy-to-see boxes all around the lake. The lake is kept up, and residents like myself even volunteer a couple of times a year to help clean up the whole Park neat and tidy for all the activities that happen there.

It came to me that maybe these Tiger Muskies committed suicide. I had heard stories of other fish doing this. Why?

Fish beaching themselves is not a natural behavior for most fish species. If fish are found stranded or beaching themselves, it’s usually a sign of distress or an underlying issue. Here are some reasons why fish might exhibit such behavior:

  1. Environmental Stress: Changes in water conditions, such as temperature, oxygen levels, or pollutants, can stress fish and lead them to seek refuge on land.
  2. Disease or Parasites: Fish affected by diseases or parasites may behave abnormally, including swimming towards the shore. These conditions can weaken the fish and disrupt their normal swimming patterns.
  3. Predator Avoidance: In some cases, fish may beach themselves in an attempt to escape predators. However, this is not a common behavior for most fish species.
  4. Disorientation: Changes in the magnetic field, water currents, or other factors can disorient fish, causing them to swim toward the shore unintentionally.
  5. Schooling Behavior: Some fish species exhibit schooling behavior, and if one fish in the school is stressed or confused, others may follow, leading to mass stranding events.

It’s crucial to investigate the specific circumstances and conditions when observing fish beaching themselves to determine the root cause. If you encounter such a situation, contacting local authorities, fisheries experts, or environmental agencies can help address the issue and mitigate any potential environmental threats.

Do Fish Get Depressed

 

While fish do not experience emotions in the same way humans do, they can exhibit behaviors that might be interpreted as signs of stress or distress. Factors such as changes in the environment, poor water conditions, or inadequate habitat can lead to behaviors that resemble depression in fish.

For example, they may become lethargic, lose interest in food, or isolate themselves. However, these behaviors are more indicative of stressors impacting their well-being rather than a direct expression of emotions like depression. Understanding and addressing the root causes of stress in a fish’s environment is crucial for ensuring their health and proper care.

 Experts say fish don’t seem to have the awareness or mental capacity to feel emotional pain in the same way as humans, therefore making it unlikely that they can commit suicide in the way a human would think about committing suicide.

There have been cases of animals killing themselves for no apparent reason. Some experts believe some animals of higher intelligence are capable of the level of abstract thought needed to think about killing themselves, although other animals of little intelligence can instinctually commit suicide, such as bees protecting their hive.

Then again, bees are programmed by Nature to protect their hive and the queen of the hive. Mothers of animals protect their young, but that seems to be programmed by Nature as a survival mechanism that keeps their species alive.

All mothers protect their young. I have heard about fish jumping out of Aquariums because of living in a stressed environment.

This sad Video proves Orca whales should not be locked in water cages- I believe Escape was what this poor creature had on his mind.  After her final show for the day at Sea World, the Killer Whale jumped out of its tanks in front of everyone who was still at the Park.

She made an attempt to commit suicide that was obvious to people there. The owners of the wale said that a few weeks earlier, Morgan, the wale, ended one of the shows by banging her head numerous times and showing signs of agitation and some sort of depressive behavior. There is a huge movement to stop these shows. Escape from mistreatment could be a big reason why fish and Mammals beach themselves.

 

Aquarium Fish seems to be the one type of fish that will exhibit this type of behavior. These Tropical fish won’t intentionally kill themselves in the sense that a person who commits suicide kills himself.
But they may jump out of an aquarium tank for a good reason. Maybe that fish is trying to ground itself to escape a predator. There are a lot of rules about mixing fish that eat each other when you buy an Aquarium, and this is one reason why.

If you fish, especially in the Ocean or on the Surf, then hear the saying a fish frenzy. This is when a school of Bluefish feeds on a school of smaller Bluefish or small bait fish. I have seen this happen many times.

When small fish swim up onto a sand bar or even the beach to escape bigger ones chasing them, sometimes they get out of the water. In that particular case, the little fish wiggled and flopped itself back into the water. if they are lucky enough to escape the feeding.

Fish such as salmon sacrifice their lives to reproduce.  When they swim far upstream to breed and lay their eggs in places where the little salmon can hatch and begin to grow without too many enemies to eat them, it is only to ensure that the species survives. There’s nothing for the adult salmon to eat, and they are worn out to the point they are ready to die or are eaten. There is nothing in it for them, so they sacrifice themselves.

This is a constant reason that I am picking up on that animals and fish that do kill themselves do it for the survival of their species or to protect their young, which could be construed that they are protecting the future of their species which is probably programmed into their DNA to do this.

Otherwise, the results could end up being that after a long time on Earth, their species could end up extinct. This might just be some mechanism that is installed into all living organisms that keep their species alive as long as possible.

I think a valid reason that a fish might beach itself is because of an instinct that is bred into them to sacrifice themselves for the safety of their young or their species. Just as we see in the animal world and with some insects like honey bees who will die for the survival of the nest.

Why Do Goldfish Jump Out of the Water Tank

 

Goldfish jumping out of a water tank is a concerning behavior that may be triggered by various factors.

  • Poor water quality, including high ammonia levels or low oxygen levels, can drive goldfish to seek oxygen at the water’s surface, leading to jumping
  • Overcrowded tanks, inadequate space, or aggressive tankmates can also stress goldfish, prompting them to leap out of the water.
  • Certain diseases, like parasites or infections, can cause discomfort, making the fish attempt to escape their environment.

In some cases, goldfish may jump if they are startled by sudden movements, loud noises, or changes in lighting. Addressing these underlying issues and ensuring proper tank conditions can help prevent this behavior and promote the well-being of goldfish.

An Aquarium Fish may jump out of the water and onto the ground (beached themselves) because of a Predator, or I actually heard this ” They just ain’t happy with the accommodation for whatever reason”. Bullies or the waters too cold or too hot. No Unexplained strange phenomena going on here.

Goldfish-emergency.com “says the water is too warm and can lead fish to jump, as can parasitic infections, which cause the fish to try to escape its discomfort. or it can’t accept the new environment that the tank provides.

The site also says fish could just be lonely, and they leap from their bowls to find other fishy friends. However, a biologist from the University of Maryland has found another reason for this behavior – evolution.

They went on to say that some Aquarium fish just ain’t happy when you capture them and put them in a 10-gallon tank. They might have no place to hide. They might have parasites, and you can’t see them.

So trying to jump out of the tank will be a last-ditch effort. A desperate move to escape. That doesn’t sound like suicide to me. It sounds like an escape for survival.

In 2017 in Beijing, China, hundreds of fish were caught on tape jumping out of the water “like something out of a Hitchcock film”.  On June 13th, hundreds of fish began jumping and flailing wildly, leaping straight out of the water in a desperate attempt to escape…well, something. The event happened at Boai Park in Jiaozuo, Henan Province, at about 4:30 in the afternoon.

All of the fish appeared to be silver carp, which are common throughout China. The incident was caught on camera by an amazed resident who submitted the video to the China Youth Daily newspaper. There was some evidence that it could have been an earthquake or a lightning strike which sounds pretty reasonable. An Earthquake or Lightning Strike could have been a reason that some fish are found on the beach with no signs of trauma. Most of the fish were still alive.

 

Mass Stranding Fish Suicide

 

The term “fish suicide” is not accurate and may attribute fish behavior to human behavior. Mass strandings of fish typically occur due to environmental stressors, such as changes in water conditions, pollution, or disease. It’s essential to investigate and address the specific environmental factors contributing to mass strandings to prevent harm to fish populations and maintain ecosystem health.

“Stranding or “strand feeding” is conducted by monster European catfish that are beaching themselves to attack the unsuspecting pigeons that congregate on several islands in France. The whole process is quick, lasting from less than one second to no more than 4 seconds, and the attacks were systematically triggered by active pigeons.

 

 

Introduced to the Tarn River in 1983, these non-native species to France range 3-5 feet in length. In other regions, these giant catfish have grown to over 9 feet long, weighing in at over an incredible 300 pounds.

The behavioral strategies developed by predators to capture and kill their prey are fascinating, notably for predators that forage for prey at or beyond the boundaries of their ecosystem. In a good amount of these events, the monster Catfish will eat the prey that is available on the beach.

Scientist believes that mass Strandings are on the rise, especially in populated areas of the world. They also believe that some human spectators who witness these special events sometimes will join in, as in the case of dolphins, where people will help the Dolphins along by helping capture some of the fish that is pushed onto the shore.

The Dolphins are smart enough to take help. Scientist believes this could be extremely problematic and even could explain why more Bottlenose Dolphins are dying in this unique phenomenon of Nature.

Are strandings something we should be worried about?  These are species like the Bottle Nose Dolphin and  Killer Whales that are unusual that are beautiful, and very important for the ecology of our planet.

If there are activities humans are doing precipitating these strandings, then we need to know about it. The world needs need to make decisions about pollutants, shipping noise, and sonar that seem to be part of this developing problem. Are we in some way contributing to the declining health of critical populations like the northern White Whale?

Dolphins have always been known for their intelligence, but it seems they’re even cleverer than we thought after one South Carolina resident captured the amazing moment that bottlenose dolphins took themselves to the beach for a bite to eat. Vacationers were lucky enough for a view of this cool feeding process.

The video shows the dolphins taking part in a unique feeding ritual called ‘strand feeding’, which sees them actively working together to first herd a school of fish onto the beach before literally launching themselves out of the water to feed on them. Once the dolphins snap the tasty treats into their mouths, they simply slip elegantly back into the water.

 

 

It has been known for a long time that Dolphins are a species that beach themselves like some whales. The main cause of death would be asphyxiation from being exposed to the water for too long. According to Scientists, this type of feeding, although it’s productive and not unusual, can also be very exhausting to Dolphins or any species of Salt or Freshwater fish, especially predator fish. It could be deadly.

So Food could be the reason I found the beached Tiger Muskie?

Dolphins have to move up to 500 pounds of their body weight, along with numerous attempts at feeding themselves. Dolphins also take on huge predators like the Great White Sharks to protect their own. They have been known to fight to the death to protect their young ones.

The scientist also believes that some aquatic creatures can become confused. This is because some fish, like Dolphins and sharks, and mammals, like Wales, rely on sound to navigate the geography of some marine areas. Sickness may lead them to see or hear a mirage. Just as people in deserts see mirages of water, so might Whales and Dolphins.

Some fish are the leaders in their groups, whereas other fish may follow them. If they become sick and diseased for whatever reason and get confused, others that follow the fish can get confused, also leading themselves into shallower waters where they get more confused. This wouldn’t be considered Suicide.

So Confusion would make the list of reasons why a fish might end up on the beach.

Here is another fact to consider Wales and Sharks can die miles off the coast from a variety of causes, and if the dead Wales carcass is fully intact, it starts to decompose. The carcass could float and be washed up on a beach if the winds and the tides are right. Another reason may be that mass beaching can be due to loud noises from Naval Sonar and Air Cannons that are used in Oil Exploration. Decomposition of the fish or, in this case, the Mammal carcass might cause them to wash up on the beach.

Shark, Dolphin, and Whale Stranding, better known as Beaching, could be more of a problem than thought before. Because of a whale and Shark mass beaching in South Africa recently and due to their size, most of the whales that were alive needed to be euthanized by a shotgun. This gained Worldwide attention.

Mass Stranding of marine mammals and fish has been happening for a long time. Environmental Activists blame humans for creating the problems of Pollution, Shipping Noise, and Military Sonar. In the Ocean, Scientist believes that Wales and Dolphins, along with other fish, are affected and killed by the feeding process of Stranding.

 

Fish That Use Stranding or Beaching

 

The largest stranding or beaching of killer Whales on record is 835 animals, but sometimes you will see mass stranding involving just two or three. There are some species, like Pilot Whales, that are notorious for mass standings.

Short-finned Pilot Whale photo
Short-finned Pilot Whale

Records are going back to Puritan settlements in New England reporting mass standings in the same places we see them today. Scientist believes this phenomenon happens in similar or even the same places over and over. This might make it easier to narrow down the reasons why.

That may explain why I saw more than one carcass of a dead Muskie on the lake beach.

While it’s not accurate to describe fish intentionally “committing suicide” through stranding or beaching, some fish species are known to engage in behaviors that involve temporarily leaving the water. However, these actions are typically not indicative of self-harm but are related to their natural behavior or survival strategies.

 

Other Fish like:

  1. Mudskippers: These fish have adapted to live in intertidal zones and can move on land using their pectoral fins.
  2. Walking Catfish: Certain species of walking catfish can move short distances over land, especially during wet conditions.
  3. Climbing Perch: This tropical fish can tolerate low oxygen levels and can move across land using its pectoral fins.
  4. Snakehead Fish: Some species of snakehead fish have been reported to move short distances over land, particularly in search of new habitats.
  5. Eel Catfish: Found in South America, eel catfish can survive in moist environments and may move on land during certain conditions.

These behaviors are typically related to these fish adapting to specific environments or dealing with changing conditions rather than intentional actions resembling suicide. Understanding the natural behaviors of these species helps in providing appropriate care and maintaining their well-being in captivity or natural habitats.

Only in California are grunions fish that spend their lives in the ocean. But when the tides are at their high during the spring and summer months, grunion fish make a trip up onto beaches to mate and lay eggs. Grunion fish mate on the beaches of California and Mexico. They are popular sites in coastal communities like Santa Barbara and San Diego.

The eggs are protected by the wet sand until they are big enough to get back into the water. This happens with a high tide that will wash them into their new home.  Which doesn’t take that long? This doesn’t sound like Suicide.

  • So Sex might make the list of why some fish beach themselves.
  • Maybe Predatory Fish Come to Shallows at Night to Eat is the reason.

In doing this research, I found that except for the Tropical fish in the Aquariums, most all the beached events have to do with Predatory fish. Dolphins and Sharks, not to mention Killer Wales, get a lot of attention when they end up on the beach, especially in places like Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the shore towns are heavily populated.

I do know that the Tiger Muskie was the only species of fish there, and if it were contamination, low Oxygen, or Noise Pollution that killed the Muskie, then other fish would have been victims too.

Maybe they had an appetite for some Duck in the shallows. Not just the legs but the whole thing. They knew where to get some. I haven’t seen any muskies on the sandy beach lately when jogging, but I learned a lot about Stranding, Beaching, Fish, Mammals, and the difference between Suicide and Survival.

Strand Feeding could be happening more frequently than we know and could be more of the cause of Beaching Suicides than people thought because of the Predator’s desire for food and their ability to get it at whatever cost. Hopefully, a man won’t interfere with the process. Then we forgot about Salmon who commit Suicide after breeding, making the long trek upstream only for the good of nature.

 

Conclusion:

Although, Strand Feeding could be happening more frequently than we know and could be more of the cause of Beaching Suicides than people thought because of the Predator’s desire for food and their ability to get it at whatever cost. Hopefully, a man won’t interfere with the process.

Under certain circumstances, fish will commit suicide by beaching themselves for reasons unrelated to depression:

  • Predators or a “survival of the species instinct”
  • Earthquakes
  • Lightning strikes
  • Weather
  • Confusion
  • Sickness
  • Contaminants-Low Oxygen
  • Sex-Food that’s outside their environment stranding

 

How Much Oxygen Do Fish Need

For more great articles packed with information on indicators that streams are healthy and carry fish like this one stay here at MyWaterEarth&Sky-The amount of oxygen dissolved in a stream or lake’s water can indicate a lot about the water’s quality and how well it can sustain the smallest to the largest……………………………………………….… Continue reading

 

 

JimGalloway Author/Editor

 

References:

New York Business Times- Evolution Causing Fish to Jump Out of Their Bowls?

SALON- Learning from suicidal salmon

Goldfishemergency.com-  Goldfish Emergency

 

 

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