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Do Fish Fart?

Following on from our Facebook post about fish who sing (yes, really…see the news clipping below!), we have pondering if they make any other human style noises. So here we are…debating whether fish fart or not! Too much spare time on our hands? Maybe!

Loving the reference to childhood favourite 'Operation'. Brilliant!
Loving the reference to childhood favourite ‘Operation’. Brilliant!

Believe it or not, whether fish suffer flatulence is an ongoing debate among ichthyologists (people who study fish). So…. do fish fart? As with many such hotly debated (?!?!) topics the answer depends on the definition of farting. If you consider farting to be the by-product of digestion – in other words gases expelled from the rear end – then most fish don’t fart. However there are two exceptions, the shark and the herring. It is reported that the sand tiger shark purposefully gulps air into its stomach at the surface then farts it out at the other end so it sinks to its desired depth!



Biologists have also linked a mysterious underwater farting sound to the bubbles coming out of a herrings’ rear end. It apparently sounds like a high-pitched raspberry, and biologists now believe it is how the herring communicate to each other in order to keep their shoal together at night and alert other fish of their presence! Lets hope that’s a trend that remains firmly in the fishy world and doesn’t start to catch on above land too!



This phenomenon has been named Fast Repetitive Tick and once even sent the Swedish navy scrambling for answers. Top on the hit list of probable causes was a Russian submarine, so discovering it was only herring and not in fact an army of spies came as a relief! The herring are not entirely alone though. Some other marine fish also make quite distinctive gassy sounds. For instance cod/groupers make their swim bladder vibrate to produce a kind of drumming sound, whilst some other fish make noises by belching. But so far it’s only some herring species that seem to use the ‘art of the fart’ to communicate. So while in polite society flatulence is considered a social faux pas, for a herring it is an important social tool!


 So, there you go! Happy bubbles folks….the kind that comes out of your regulator, obviously!

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