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How Do Fish See? How Do Fish Sleep? How Do Fish Breathe?

Jane Lindholm
Fish swim in a tank at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

But Why visits the New England Aquarium in Boston to get answers to those and other questions kids have sent us about fish.


This episode features a coloring page by Vermont artist Shelby Spinks. You can download and print this picture of Swimming Fish here and you can color as you listen!

How did the first fish get into the ocean? How do fish breathe under water? If you put a fish's head underwater, but not its tail, would it survive? How do fish get diseases? How do fish see underwater without googles? Why do fish swim when they are asleep? Do fish drink water? Do fish have ears? How are fish born?

They swim in oceans, lakes and streams, and sometimes even in tanks in your living room! We’re talking all about fish this week with Jo Blasi, manager of education and training at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

"How do fish see underwater without goggles?" - Bennett, 4, San Carlos, Ca.

"Animals have eyes that are built in the best way for their environment. Your eyes are designed to see in air and that's the way that they work best. If you swim underwater with no goggles, your eyes can't see really well. When you put on goggles, there's a little teeny tiny bit of air that's trapped in the googles with your eyes and you can still see underwater."

"Fish don't need goggles because their eyes are designed to work underwater. They still have the same parts that you do: there's a cornea, an iris and a pupil, the way the light gets in and bounces around and then transmits a signal to their brain so they can see things. Some fish can actually see really well. But their eyes are designed to work better in a water environment, rather than an air environment."

"And fish don't need to blink because they don't have any eyelids! No blinking necessary."  --Jo Blasi, New England Aquarium

Read the full transcript.

About the coloring page artist: Shelby Spinks is influenced by nature and animals. She spends her spare time researching fairy tales, mythology and fables. She admires the works of Milo Winter and Mary Blair. Besides digital illustrations Shelby also enjoys acrylic paintings- mainly dog portraits. See more of her work at


Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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