Freshwater fish are fish that spend some or all of their lives in fresh water, such as rivers and lakes, with a salinity of less than 0.05%. These environments differ from marine conditions in many ways, the most obvious being the difference in levels of salinity. To survive fresh water, the fish need a range of physiological adaptations.
41.24% of all known species of fish are found in fresh water. This is primarily due to the rapid speciation that the scattered habitats make possible. When dealing with ponds and lakes, one might use the same basic models of speciation as when studying island biogeography.
Freshwater fish differ physiologically from salt water fish in several respects. Their gills must be able to diffuse dissolved gasses while keeping the salts in the body fluids inside. Their scales reduce water diffusion through the skin: freshwater fish that have lost too many scales will die. They also have well developed kidneys to reclaim salts from body fluids before excretion.
Many species of fish do reproduce in freshwater, but spend most of their adult lives in the sea. These are known as anadromous fish, and include, for instance, salmon, trout and three-spined stickleback. Some other kinds of fish are, on the contrary, born in salt water, but live most of or parts of their adult lives in fresh water; for instance the eels. These are known as catadromous fish.
Species migrating between marine and fresh waters need adaptations for both environments; when in salt water they need to keep the bodily salt concentration on a level lower than the surroundings, and vice versa. Many species solve this problem by associating different habitats with different stages of life. Both eels, anadromous salmoniform fish and the sea lamprey have different tolerances in salinity in different stages of their lives.
About four in ten North American freshwater fish are endangered, according to a pan-North American study, the main cause being human pollution. The number of fish species and subspecies to become endangered has risen from 40 to 61, since 1989.1
- Lake ecosystems
- River ecosystems
- List of common fish names
- Freshwater fish of Australia
- List of fishes in Bangladesh
- Freshwater fish of Barbados
- List of fishes of Great Britain
- List of freshwater fishes of Greece
- Freshwater fish of India
- Freshwater fish of Ireland
- List of freshwater fishes of Korea
- Freshwater fish in the Philippines
- Freshwater fish of the United States: Idaho, Maryland, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, plus a List of official and unofficial fishes by state
- Borgstrøm, Reidar & Hansen, Lars Petter (red): Fisk i ferskvann - et samspill mellom bestander, miljø og forvaltning, Landbruksforlaget 2000
- Jonsson, Bror: «Fiskene» i Norges dyr - Fiskene 1, Cappelen 1992
- "Freshwater fish in North America endangered: study". Retrieved 2008-09-11.