Migration in Fishes

Many fishes migrate on a regular basis, on a time scale ranging from daily to annually or longer. It may be of short distance over a few meters to thousands of kilometers.

Reason for Migration in Fishes: Fishes usually migrate to feed, to reproduce, or in some cases, the reason is not known. Most fishes migrate to reproduce, as some live in seawater but reproduce in fresh water and vice-versa.

Classification of Migration in Fishes:

The types of migratory fishes are as follows:

  1. Anadromous
  2. Catadromous
  3. Oceanodromuos
  4. Diadromous
  5. Amphidromous
  6. Potamodromous


Anadromous fishes migrate from the sea up into freshwater to spawn, examples – salmon, striped bass

  • These fishes spend most of their lives living and feeding in the sea.
  • Salmon and striped bass are well-known Anadromous fishes, that make large migrations. Salmon spawn in the cold, clear waters of lakes or upper streams. They lay eggs in gravel beds.
  • Salmon stops feeding during the journey and changes its body color from silver to reddish-brown.


Catadromous fishes migrate from freshwater down into the sea to spawn. Freshwater Eels (A. anguilla) are catadromous fishes. They spend most of their lives in freshwater.

  • During the journey, the eel changes the color of the body from yellow to metallic silver grey.

fish that live and migrate wholly in the sea. These occur widely throughout the world’s oceans.

Examples- Herring (Clupea harengus), Cod (Gadus morhua), Tuna


George S. Myers coined the inclusive term diadromous to refer to all fish that migrate between the sea and freshwater


fish that migrate from freshwater to the seas, or vice versa, but not for the purpose of breeding


fish whose migrations occur wholly within freshwater.

Examples- Carp, Catfish

Some other movements found in fish:

  • George S. Myers coined the inclusive term diadromous to refer to all fish that migrate between the sea and freshwater
  • Some fish such as tuna move to the north and south at different times of the year following temperature gradients.
  • Altitudinal migration
  • The bull shark is a euryhaline species that move at will from fresh to salt water, and many marine fish make a diel vertical migration, rising to the surface to feed at night and sinking to lower layers of the ocean by day.
  • Freshwater movement of fishes also occurs, often the fish swim upriver to spawn.
migration in fishes

Migration in fishes

Significances of Migration in Fish:

The significances of migration in fishes are as follows:

  1. For suitable feeding and spawning places
  2. For protection from predators
  3. For increasing genetic diversity
  4. An adaptation in character to survive extreme climatic conditions.


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References: Kotpal Vertebrata (Book for graduation)


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