Senses of Fish

If you’ve ever watched fish swimming in an aquarium, you’ve probably noticed that they rarely bump into anything because of a special sense called the lateral-line system, which provides fish with information about their external world similar to humans, we depend on our 5 senses but fish depend on a 6. What are the Senses of Fish?

Like all other living organisms, fish have survived by acquiring information about their world through the senses:

  1. Sight
  2. Smell
  3. Taste
  4. Touch
  5. Hearing
  6. Lateral Lines-is a set of ultra-sensitive nerve endings that run alongside fish from the gills to the tail used to detect movement & vibration in water.

All fish depend on their senses to live and survive in their own unique environment, utilized to assist in acquiring food (prey), defending against predators, navigation, and in some cases schooling with others of their own species.

Senses of Fish


In addition to taste, smell, sight, hearing, and touch, fish have a unique sensory structure, known as a lateral line, which enables them to sense vibrations in the water. The lateral line is referred to as the sixth sense of fish and is an extension of their sense of hearing.

Humans experience the world around them with a total of 5 senses but fish have 6 senses. We share some similarities with fish senses but because fish and humans live in completely different environments there are plenty of differences.

In addition to tasting smell sight, hearing, and touching fish also have a fish has an extraordinary sensory structure called a Lateral Line which enables them to sense vibrations in the water. The Lateral Line is an extension of a fish’s hearing and is their 6th sense. Fish also have unique senses and perceptions that are used for them to survive.

The Sense of Taste-Fish have a sense of taste that they use in conjunction with other senses and rely on to find food. Some fish have taste buds on their face that can taste the food before putting it in their mouth. Like catfish who have whiskers called barbels that look like stinkers but they are not. They are similar to taste buds that drag along the bottom of the water to find food.

The Sense of Smell-  Fish have an amazing sense of Smell one of the best in the animal Kingdom Fish don’t have noses instead have two openings on both sides of their snout above their mouth which are called nostrils or nares. The faster they can move through water the stronger the sensory organs Nares can detect odors. They can use the advantage to find food or a mate to navigate to home water or detect a predator.



Fish Behavior-Sensory Systems-Organs


The Sense of Sight-Fish have fairly good eyesight but don’t see as far and clear as humans do. Even in clear waters fish can’t see more than 15 feet or so. Fish near the surface can detect most colors but not in deeper water especially if the water is cloudy. Fish have no eyelids but have a protective film that covers their eyes. Bright colors and shadows will alert fish especially if they are feeding on the surface. Use bright color lures only if the water is murky.

The Sense of Lateral Lines– Fish have an additional sense related to hearing called the Lateral Line which is an ultra-sensitive nerve ending that runs along the side of the fish from the gills to the tail. Schematic drawing of fish lateral line. Bottom right shows... | Download Scientific Diagram

Tiny hairs connected to nerves under the skin can detect location and vibration, giving them an edge in murky water against other aquatic creatures. Even contain temperature sensors and can sense the salinity (salt content) of the water around them.

The Sense of Hearing- Fish have the ability to hear sound vibrations moving through the water. Fish don’t have ears but they don’t need ear openings on their bodies because sound travels 5x faster in water than air. Fish ears are located under the skin, in the skull & near the eyes used for balance and hearing. A fish’s hearing is so good they can hear a worm crawling on the bottom of a lake.

The Sense of Touch- Fish can hear and feel their way in their environment. For fish, the sense of touch is most important in those species that live in close association with objects: the sea floor, coral reefs, aquatic plants, and in some cases other fish. For many fish, the sense of touch is also important during mating and traveling in schools without bumping into each other.


Can Fish See Underwater?

Yes, According to scientific studies, fish can see clearly underwater up to a distance of one meter, anything beyond that range appears blurry, and fish may fail to detect moving objects or potential threats. This limited range of vision is due to the refraction of light in H2O, causing visual distortions and……………………………read more


JimGalloway Author/Editor




Recent Posts

link to Fish Ladder

Fish Ladder

In the United States, more than 2 million dams and other barriers block fish from migrating upstream to spawn as a result, many fish populations have declined. For example, Atlantic salmon used to be...