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Do Fish Fall in Love?

We know that fish have a whale of a time swimming around all day eating food but we weren’t sure if they were capable of companionship so, we decided to find out!

Can fish fall in love?

Remarkably, fish are known to demonstrate characteristics of falling in love with a mate. Similar to other monogamous animals, falling in love and forming a bond with your mate can have several evolutionary benefits, leading to a higher likelihood that your offspring will survive to pass on genetic make-up to the next generation.

The term monogamous means to have only one partner. While most animals are polygamous, meaning they mate with multiple partners, there are a number of species that choose to mate for life.

Here are a few fish that we know choose to be monogamous.

Seahorse

A seahorse is a small marine fish characterised by its unique horse-like head, curled tail, and upright posture. They are found in a variety of habitats, including seagrasses, mangroves, estuaries and coral reefs. You can even find seahorses off the coast of the UK.

In a cute display of affection, seahorses dance with each other every morning, reinforcing their bond. They might even entwine their tails together for an added touch, and can change colours as they move.

Many species of seahorse are monogamous, but some have been known to change partner as each new season rolls around. You can come and observe seahorse behaviour for yourself at our Sunken Shipwreck exhibit, which features the UK’s native species of snort-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus).

Clownfish

Clownfish (Amphiprioninae), with their orange bodies and white stripes, are usually found with their mates in tropical waters. You hardly see one without its partner, cruising around together in sync. In this species, the females are dominant and will pair up with a single male, usually the largest male available.

They’re a team, whether they’re finding food or protecting their spot, often tucked snugly into the swaying tentacles of a sea anemone. Similarly to humans, clownfish have love hormones that allow them to feel love deeper than some other fish that mate for life.

French angelfish

The French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) is a striking marine species recognised by its distinctive black body. Juveniles have bright yellow bars along their body, while adults are almost entirely black with some yellow tints of their scales. They inhabit coral reefs and rocky areas in tropical to temperate waters, usually found in the western Atlantic Ocean.

French angelfish are very rarely alone, choosing to spend the majority of their life with their mate. They forge a close relationship from a young age, and typically will do everything together, including hunting, travelling and even defending territory in pairs!

Butterflyfish

The butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae) is a colourful marine species recognised for its vibrant patterns and delicate, fluttering movements reminiscent of a butterfly in flight. There are over 100 different species of butterflyfish, and they are typically found throughout the world’s oceans.

It’s thought that butterflyfish mate for life as they are often found in pairs! You can usually identify a mated pair by their behaviour. For example, if one was to lose sight of the other, they will swim upwards to get a better view and find each other again.

Other sea creatures that mate for life

You may be wondering whether it’s uncommon for animals to mate for life, but you’ll find its more common than you’ve been lead to believe, here are some more examples of fish that potentially mate for life!

Mantis shrimp

The mantis shrimp is a fascinating marine creature, distinguished by its striking colours, powerful claws, and lightning-fast strikes. They call coral reefs and shallow coastal waters home.

Interestingly, some mantis shrimp have been observed as mating with up to 30 partners during their lifetime, but others will mate exclusively with one for life.

Hawksbill sea turtle

The hawksbill sea turtle is a marine reptile known for its pointed beak-like mouth and intricately patterned shell. Found in tropical and subtropical oceans, playing a vital role in coral reef ecosystems.

In this instance, the female chooses which male to mate with regardless of their build or how handsome they are, showing a love that is more than skin deep.

Once the female has chosen a mate, she will stick with him for life.

Do lobsters mate for life?

It’s a commonly held misconception that lobsters mate for life, although this isn’t true. It’s actually quite the opposite, with lobster mating patterns being quite the whirlwind romance.

The female will pick out the strongest male in the area, stay with him for up to two weeks and then leave him once her shell has regrown. Although it isn’t impossible for that pair to mate again, it is very unlikely!

So, if you’d like to come and see some of these behaviours for yourself, book your tickets to Bristol Aquarium today and put some of your knowledge into practice!

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