March 23, 2023

How To Speak Fish: More Than Just Blowing Bubbles

You may not hear it, but your fish have a way of talking to each other. Even though they don’t make a sound, their actions speak louder than words!

Like any living creature, fish have a way of communicating with each other. They communicate for the same reasons as any other animal (or human, for that matter). These include dominance, mating/spawning, playing, hunting and more. However, most fish never make a sound though, so how do they communicate with each other? Let’s explore!


Fish who live in close proximity with other fish of the same species will often assert dominance to claim territory. This applies to fish in an aquarium and in the wild. Depending on how dense the population is, fish will get downright violent to protect their homes and establish dominance over weaker fish. Cichlids demonstrate dominance by charging at one another, nipping other fish, gaping its mouth, and even locking lips. Bettas flare its gill covers to appear larger and more menacing. Many fish are known to kill others over territories and ranking.

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Another way that fish send messages to each other is by changing color – sometimes in such subtle ways that a human may not even pick up on the difference. In an aquarium, however, typically the fish in charge will boast the most colorful shades of the bunch.


When initiating spawning behavior, fish are interesting to watch. Many have a way of almost dancing to attract a mate, and it is quite a sight to behold. Many males will brighten its colors to attract females, and will show off for them (much like humans!). They build nests to entice the female to a safe place to spawn, and may even nip at her to coax her into its lair.

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Fry can often be observed interacting with each other and will initiate what looks like play. Like all animals, the fry are learning through this method of play. Many valuable skills are learned in the beginning of a fish’s life, such as how to find food, how to become the strongest, and how to attract a mate. It is always survival of the fittest, and oftentimes fry will die in the early stages because they lack these important skills.

Group Conversation:

When all of these ways of communicating apply to a group of schooling fish, it’s much more interesting. Think of a school of tuna in the sea that are not only able to communicate, but can make formations to appear as though they are one large fish instead of hundreds of smaller ones. They learn to watch each other’s cues, and without a second thought, will react to their environment all together, as if they really are one entity.

Fish are sometimes over looked because they seem uninteresting at a glance, but observing for a longer period of time and seeing them communicate with one another is absolutely amazing. The fact that they are able to convey a message without a single sound is one of nature’s greatest accomplishments.

summerSummer Davis is the mom of three kids, four dogs, and several tanks of fish. She boasts a passion for all animals, whether they are in the water or on land. This fish aficionado has kept many different species in her time, but holds a special place in her heart for wild and domestic bettas. When she’s not talking about fish, Summer “spins” her extra time as the director of a baton twirling organization.