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Visual Perception in Fish

Almost all fish have eyes; many of them can see quite well.

By D.M. Recktenwalt |

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Fish are found worldwide in a broad range of habitats, from muddy temporary puddles to clear streams, rivers and lakes. They live in salt- and freshwater, clear water and turbid water. They live near the surface, in midwater ranges, above or buried beneath the substrate, even at depths far below where sunlight can penetrate. As might be expected, fish have developed a diverse variety of eyes, often uniquely adapted to their particular needs and environments. Since they also display a wide range of shapes, patterns and colors, we can be fairly sure that sight is important to most of them.

Fish vision would be considered shortsighted in comparison to that of terrestrial creatures. It is designed to be sharpest when the fish is most at risk or in the greatest danger of predation. In most cases, a fish’s eyes are set on opposite sides of the head. This monocular vision (mono meaning “one”) provides a nearly 360-degree viewing area, half from each eye, with little or no overlap. In contrast, predatory species often have eyes set closer together and toward the front of the head, providing a measure of binocular or overlapping vision, allowing the fish to focus both eyes on a single image, which is an advantage when hunting.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the July 2010 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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