10 Reasons to Wish You Were a Fish

By Kathy Kranking; Art by Debbie Palen

Being a kid is fine, but have you ever wished you could be something else? Here’s what life would be like if there were something fishy about you!

1. You could breathe underwater.
How long can you stay underwater when you’re swimming? If you were a fish, you would never need to come up for air! People get oxygen by breathing air with lungs. But most fishes breathe using gills instead of lungs. Gills are hidden beneath gill covers on a fish’s head, and they take oxygen straight from the water. So you’d be breathin’ easy!

2. You could be in a school that doesn’t have homework.
Many kinds of fishes hang out in groups called schools. Some schools of fish move along slowly, while others zip around quickly with the fish barely a fin’s length apart. But either way, schooling is a smart way for fishes to survive. Staying in a group can keep them safe from predators, make it easier to find food, or even help them find mates. Schools rule!

3. You could have tough scales covering your body.
If you’ve ever fallen and skinned your knee, you can see how scales would come in handy. Scales are bony plates that are part of a fish’s skin. They come in lots of different shapes and sizes, depending on the kind of fish. But they all help to protect the fish from injuries and predators. Having scales is like wearing a built-in suit of armor!

4. You could live in an anemone like Nemo.
The tentacles on a sea anemone are pretty to look at, but for a fish they can be deadly. That’s because they’re covered with stinging cells that paralyze a fish so the anemone can eat it. Yikes! But clownfishes are covered with thick mucus that protects them from an anemone’s stings. And staying among the tentacles protects them from predator fish. So if you were a clownfish, an anemone would be your best friend!

5. You could be your own nightlight.
Do you get nervous in the dark? If you were a flashlight fish, you could have light whenever you wanted it. Flashlight fishes have a built-in patch of light under each eye. The light comes from bacteria that glow in the dark. Scientists think that the fishes use the light to find food at night. So you’d have no trouble locating a midnight snack!

6. You could “see” with your skin.
If you were a fish, you’d have a special kind of sense: the ability to detect nearby movements or vibrations. You would do it with a lateral line, a row of tiny sensors along each side of your body. So even if you weren’t looking, you could feel the movements of prey or predators nearby. You could also zip around in a school without bumping into your neighbors, and you could swim in the dark without slamming into things. Kind of like having “spidey sense” for fishes!

7. You could look in two directions at the same time.
Imagine being able to look for lunch to your left while also making sure no one on the right is about to turn you into lunch. If you were a blenny, you could move your eyes independently to see what’s going on all around you. You’d always have an eye—or two—on just about everything!

8. You could make yourself disappear.
As you swim along in the ocean as a fish, you might get the urge for a snack. But what do you do when your favorite food tries to get away from you? Instead of tiring yourself out chasing prey, you could use camouflage (KAM-uh-flahzh) to catch food. If you were a crocodile fish, for example, your skin markings would help you blend right into the coral. It would be as if you were invisible! And when an unsuspecting prey animal comes near—chomp!—you would just gobble it up.

9. You could fly through the air.
This may sound like it should be in a story called “10 Reasons to Wish You Were a Bird.” But there really are fishes that can soar through the air. Flying fishes have big fins that work as wings. They aren’t true fliers, but they can glide pretty far. If you were a flying fish, you would start swimming really fast toward the surface, then shoot right out of the water. With your fins spread, you could glide almost a quarter the length of a football field before splashdown!

10. You could camp out on a coral reef.
If you’ve ever been camping, you know that mosquitoes can be a problem. Unfortunately, there are blood-sucking pests in the ocean, too. But if you were a parrotfish, you would have a secret weapon to keep pests away. Parrotfish ooze “sleeping bags” of slime to protect themselves while they sleep on the reef. If you could do this, the slime would work as a mosquito net, keeping pests out while you get your zzzzzz’s.

So what do you think? Do you wish you were a fish? 
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