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Can Goldfish Feel Pain?


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  • Regular Member

Ok, I know that all of us here are thinking "DUH OMG YES YOU AWFUL WOMAN", but I saw this mentioned on another forum and I was interested to see what people thought.

Someone said that some other person claimed that goldfish did not posses the brain capacity to feel pain; therefore (presumably) they can not feel pain.

Here is the link (it is about a video on youtube of a Goldfish with dropsy. The OP thought this fish was hilarious until others chimed in about how the fish was in pain. Then the OP posted a blurb from the youtube site about how the video poster heard from some vet about how goldies can't feel pain) http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/aquariumfo...ead.php?t=33632

I personally do think that all creatures can feel pain..after all, isn't that a neccesary biological defense mechanism, or whatever (says the art history major)?? After all if they could not feel pain, wouldn't they be going around brutally and fatally wounding themselves by accident?? I have no idea. Also I am such a softy that I see imagined distress and pain in the animal kingdom all the time and regularly freak out over nothing anyways. That's just how I roll.

Discuss??

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  • Regular Member

This has the potential to become an explosive subject..... so let's keep it polite. It if slips into anything else, it will be gone.

Thank you.

As far as pain - yes. I agree. All living creatures feel pain in one form or another and in one way or another. That is a necessity for survival - just as breeding and eating are. I will no more inflict pain on a fish than I will on another human for no reason. If there is reason to cause pain, I try to do it in the most painless way - and only for purposes that should make pain/sickness/injury lessened, not worse.

I do think, however, that the "pain" a fish feels and the "pain" a human feels may be different. A fish has no sense of "future" - and cannot anticipate worse pain. Therefore that which they are feeling is not heightened by anticipation. It is a fact.

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  • Regular Member

Oh goodness, I am so sorry Daryl, I do not meant to stir the pot here and cause a ruckus! I just saw this and thought, "hmm, I've never thought of this before, I wonder what the gang at Koko's thinks??". If you think it is inappropriate, please do take it down, and I apologize again!

I was just especially interested in the "goldfish do not possess a brain complex enough to feel pain" bit. I thought maybe some of our more sciency members could jump in an tell us all about the brain structure of our fishy friends! Because I know I myself know nothing about that.

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  • Regular Member

Goldfish have nerves, spinal chords and brains...imo, that = the capacity to feel pain

I also know that in animal physiology departments most universities require that fish be put to sleep temporarly with clove oil if they're going to have any kind of invasive, aka painful, procedure done. If they couldn't feel pain, there would be no rule in place to ensure they aren't awake to feel these things.

"goldfish do not possess a brain complex enough to feel pain"

As for that, goldfish are 'complex' enough to produce neurotransmitters and hormones which act on the nervous system. I think arthropods and insects are more debatable in terms of pain, they don't have brains but just piles of nerves called ganglia, or on an even less complex level, neural nets in some invertebrates (not saying that I don't think they feel pain, but I could see this argument applying to them).

Basically, if it's a vertebrate, it's pretty much a guarantee that the animal feels pain.

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  • Regular Member

That's totally what I thought. If its got a spinal cord, it's got nerves, and nerves register sensation.

I think its just another case of the "goldfish are meaningless moving bits of colour" mentality. They really get a bad rap.

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  • Regular Member

If goldfish couldn't feel pain, then why would they do things like flash when they have parasites? Think about when you have an itch. It's like a very small, less intense pain. So if our goldies are flashing (or playing in airstone bubbles, or itching on ornaments) doesn't it make sense then that they are responding to pain the same way we would by scratching?

Also, when I was applying a topical treatment to my Phoenix earlier this week, I grabbed her funny. I think I was putting undue pressure on her dorsal. She started wiggling violently. I dunno, this alone proves to me that I was causing her pain (on accident :( ) and she was responding to it in a normal fishy way (wiggling).

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Ok jab your fish with something if you have one who you can touch. My Black Moor is hand fed so if I put my hand in the tank he comes to it looking for food and will swim through it and around my hand for a while. One time I'm cleaning the tank I put the siphon in and whack I accidently smack Omor (my Black Moor) well Omor is pissed off and swims away. I stop cleaning process grab a pellet reach in but Omor wants nothing to do with my hand it took a solid 5 to 10 minutes to get him to come back to my hand. I think that says that yes goldfish feel pain and for longer than the 3 seconds some believe.

I think the bigger pandoras box being opened is the comment of do fish have any sense of the future. I have never been a fish and would not know what they have a sense of. Because your fish does not do career planning does not mean it has no sense of future or what is going on. Your fish is just lower on Maslow's hierarchy and isn't worried about much more than food and housing (water) conditions. If your basis for this no future sense is that they don't seem to have a plan it could be argued a starving child in a 3rd world country has little sense of the future they are way to busy trying to feed themselves to have any idea what they are going to do in the future.

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Maybe Daryl means they have "no sense of future" because that area of the brain does not exist in goldfish (or any fish?)? I don't know anything about that sort of thing in humans, never mind fish, so I could not say.

I mean, they do obviously have some sense of "future", I would think, because when you stand over the tank, they anticipate the addition of food by gathering near the top, yes? They know that in the past when the Big Dark Shape Outside the Tank comes near, usually food follows...so they have some grasp of past and future....right?? Just obviously not in the totally abstract way we humans think of past and future, with all its associations and implications and aspirations and so on.

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Guest jake n bake

id say all living creatures can experience pain but fish cant show it cuz they cant do any facial expressions, obviously they dont no smiling means happy. And ur rite, if gfs couldnt feel pain most would die easier. Therefore, they can feel pain.

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  • Regular Member

I agree chloe. This is a fun thread by the way.

Maybe the real question isn't the fishes sense of future but much more the over valued self absorbed sense of future a human "senses". We call them dreams or BS I think. LOL

Thanks for the great thread Chloe definitley made me think I actually went and googled fish pain to learn some stuff after I posted.

Cheers.

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  • Regular Member
I agree chloe. This is a fun thread by the way.

Maybe the real question isn't the fishes sense of future but much more the over valued self absorbed sense of future a human "senses". We call them dreams or BS I think. LOL

Thanks for the great thread Chloe definitley made me think I actually went and googled fish pain to learn some stuff after I posted.

Cheers.

:thanks aw thanks, I thought it would be interesting to discuss!

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  • Regular Member

I suspect goldfish don't feel pain the same way we do. They do feel sensations, and react to them, and that can cause them discomfort. But I've also seen one of my own fish, and another of someone else fall asleep on a heater and get severely burned without swimming away - which I don't think a mammal would do. However their nerves work exactly, I don't believe they react to all the same stimuli the same way you may be imagining.

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  • Regular Member
I suspect goldfish don't feel pain the same way we do. They do feel sensations, and react to them, and that can cause them discomfort. But I've also seen one of my own fish, and another of someone else fall asleep on a heater and get severely burned without swimming away - which I don't think a mammal would do. However their nerves work exactly, I don't believe they react to all the same stimuli the same way you may be imagining.

That's interesting. It may be that fish don't have nerves that sense temperature, or rather the damage inflicted by temperature extremes..something to do with being cold blooded? I'm not sure. I've also heard of lizards and snakes burning themselves on 'hot rocks' sold by pet stores. I know that humans have different kinds of nerves to sense pressure, heat, chemicals, etc., we don't just have generic nerves that feel all types of stimuli. Maybe goldfish don't have all the same types we do.

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  • Regular Member

I tend to agree that goldfish can feel pain. Only because I can't stand the thought of we humans accidentally dropping them on a cement floor and thinking, "oh, at least he's still alive." Safer to think they can feel pain, just in case we're wrong. Basically, you can tell I'm just a pragmatic fishy.

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  • Regular Member

I think that pain is a basic survival mechanism. The purpose of a nervous system is to react to the environment, and pain tells an animal when it is being eaten or otherwise harmed. It is possible that the heater incidents happened because fish have little use for the ability to sense temperatures, so lack the temperature-sensitive neurons.

I agree that fish probably can't imagine pain and bodily damage the way humans can, but they certainly feel it and are driven to react, and it leaves them feeling stressed.

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  • Regular Member

lol just to have some fun cause I do love this thread I'll try something.

Maybe fish don't feel pain at all in fact maybe we have created this abstract thought that we need pain to survive and therefore everything must need pain. Our own needs projected on to those of another. Maybe fish are just smart enough and naturally know how not to harm themselves. Why is it that a skittish fish all by himself in a tank hides. He knows he is food for someone and knows hiding is what protects him. Why does he know this he has never been stalked by another fish or seen the inside of a frying pan. He just knows to protect himself. Maybe lieing against the heater was comfy and because heaters are not naturally occuring he didn't know any better. Maybe we are just to stupid as humans to know better and adapted something to tell us how dumb we can be (especially those of my gender who are still trying to figure out what pain means sometimes).

Maybe I am BSing this whole post but maybe I believe it. Don't let the fish pain thread die. That would pain me.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • Regular Member
But how do you guys know for sure?

GF prolly do feel pain but doesn't understand it, only that its endangering its life.

The same could be said for an infant, they don't necessarily think about why they are feeling pain and what the consequences are. But they are 'hard wired' to feel it and avoid whatever caused it, I don't think fish are any different.

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  • Regular Member

It all depends on how you define pain.

Goldfish (and all organisms with a central nervous system) absolutely have the ability of differentiating between 'bad', 'normal' and 'good' impulses from their nerves. I would classify this as pain.

Now, goldfish (and other organisms) may not necessarily feel pain the way we do. Heck, it's questionable that different people feel pain the same way. Using the species of humans as an example, individuals in any given population will have great differences in their pain tolerances, in what does and does not hurt and in their reactions to pain. What remains the same (barring paralysis and CIPA) is the nervous response to 'bad' stimuli.

Edit: As a side note, the nerves that sense pain are the nerves that end in nociceptors. These nerves also give an organism the ability to differentiate between hot and cold. Nociception has been documented in fish.

Edited by Nomi
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  • Regular Member

Hi there,

I'm a bit late to the discussion, but here's my two cents...

There's little doubt that fish sense pain; it's an essential survival mechanism that when lacking in an individual would quickly be selected against. As to whether they feel pain the same way we do, I'd have to agree with Nomi: pain perception is rather hard to quantify, and I myself have noticed plenty of times that even different people tend to assess pain in a different manner (and sometimes they even don't notice it and burn there hand if they're not careful; I know someone who has this problem; for that matter, my parents' dog doesn't even make a sound when you occidentally stand on his tail).

As to pain being linked to perception and realisation of future events, I don't think that that has much to do with the perception of pain itself. It might heighten the perceived strength of the pain if you're anticipating it, but it won't change the kind of pain that is felt. To put it another way, I might find chocolate even more yummy when I'm famished, but in its essence chocolate always has the same taste; the same taste is just more or less pronounced to me.

On perception of future events, I'm unsure whether fish have that ability. To make it clear that it isn't a matter that's as obvious as it would first appear to be: while the term 'bird brain' also seems to be obvious, studies have shown that (certain types of) birds do possess the ability to plan for future events and even take into account the action of others in their planning. What I'm getting at is that the absolute size of the central nervous system or the dexterity a species has, need not be a limiting factor on the cognitive abilities they can display. Don't get tricked into placing humans (or primates in general) on a pedestal: we just took what was already there and took in one or more steps further (but that doesn't mean that other species didn't do the same).

Cheers

Alain

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