Can fish swim backwards?
Care & Breeding

Can fish swim backwards?

Fishes are fascinating creatures and their swimming patterns are very interesting. Today we are going to see if it’s possible for a fish to swim backward. I chose this topic because I keep getting questions like these so today we will discuss about swimming patterns of fish in detail. 

Can fish swim backwards?
Can fish swim backwards?

Are fishes able to swim backward?

Many fishes are able to swim backward. Some theories have stated that some fishes can swim backward regardless of their species or habitat. But fishes don’t display this pattern of swimming until it is necessary. 

Swimming backward is actually not very necessary for fishes so they don’t always do it but sometimes they do swim backward when they are moving against the water flow or when they want to catch prey. 

What are the reasons fish swim backward?

Sometimes fishes swim backward when they are moving against water flow, they also swim backward when they want to catch prey. Swimming backward technique can also be a lifesaver for them when they want to avoid predators.  

How do fishes swim backward?

Swimming backward required lots of energy so fishes swim backward only when it’s important. For swimming in a backward position, fishes move their anal and their pectoral fins to use enough force for swimming backward.

List of Fishes that can swim in a backward position


It’s very easy for triggerfish to swim in a reverse pattern. For swimming in a reverse pattern, triggerfish use their top and bottom fins to swim. So triggerfish adjust its body in a specific position to swim backward.

Black Ghost Knifefish

This is a dark black colored fish with a long body. This fish is also able to swim backward. They only swim backward when it wants to catch prey. For swimming backward, black ghost knife fish swirl their fins on their belly. 

But unlike other fishes, it’s important for black ghost knifefish to swim in a reverse pattern because if they swim forward, their prey will be lying on their tail and then it won’t be able to catch its prey. So it’s important for them to swim backward in order to catch their prey. They are also able to swim sideways.

Blue Gill Sunfish

This fish can also swim backward easily. Blue fill sunfish use multiple fins at the same time for swimming backward.

For swimming in a reverse position, they use their fins without rotating the position of their body. For pushing themselves in backward position they use their dorsal and anal fins while tightening their pectoral and caudal fins to control their body. 


Well, eels are very popular for swimming backward. For doing this, they generate some sort of waves that travels the length of their body. The waves are reversed during backward swimming. To keep moving against the flow, eels use their anal and pectoral fins.

Dorsigera Fish

They are also known as Red Breast Acara. It’s a freshwater fish from South America. They are able to swim in a backward position.

Blenny Fish

Blenny fish are also able to swim backward. They have tiny bodies and it’s easy for them to swim in reverse patterns.

Is there any fish that can’t swim backward?

Yes, there is a fish that can’t swim backward. Its name is Rhabdolichops Troscheli. This fish is not able to swim in a backward position. This is because their environment is not very suitable for swimming in a backward position. This fish is native to areas that have strong water currents. So they have to swim forward if they want to survive. They may disappear due to strong water currents if they swim backward. 

Sharks are also not able to swim backward. This is because their body is streamlined to move in the forward direction. They can’t swim backward due to their body shape. Another reason they can only swim forward is because their pectoral fins are not able to curve upward so they can’t swim backwards. If they still try to move backward, then they can die because water will start entering their gills and it will be hard for them to breathe.


Which fishes are best at swimming backward?

Eels, Blue Gill Sunfish, and triggerfish are really good at swimming backward. 

Why did my fish swim backward?

It can be because of sickness or they might be trying to attack any other fish or they must be hiding from their predators. These can be the reasons behind your fish swimming backward.

What should I do if my pet fish starts swimming backward for longer periods?

This can be actually dangerous so if your fish starts swimming in a reverse pattern for long periods then you must consult a veterinarian as soon as possible because maybe your fish is sick or is under stress. Because it’s not very common for home aquarium fishes to swim backward for longer periods.

Do fishes in home aquariums swim backward?

No!! You won’t be able to see a pet home tank fish swimming backward because only swim backward in the wild where they have lots of space to swim. Fishes in captivity don’t swim in backward patterns.

What happens if home aquarium fishes swim backward?

If they start swimming in a reverse pattern for longer periods, then water can enter their gills and thus they will find it hard to breathe. This is because the gills of many aquarium fishes are only designed to move in the forward direction. 

Is there any home tank fish that can swim backward?

Yes!! Bettas, goldfish, and clownfish can swim backward. But they don’t prefer swimming backward as it’s not very necessary and also it requires lots of energy.

Why is it important for tilapia to swim backward?

Well, it’s important for them to swim backward because that’s the only way they can eat!! Because if they don’t then the food will float towards their tail so they need to swim backward in order to eat. It’s quite easy for them to swim in the reverse pattern since they do it every day and it’s part of their routine. 

Can koi fish swim backward?

Yes, they do swim backward when they feel unsafe. This usually happens when a predator is attacking them. Other reasons of koi fish swim backward can be stress or bad water quality which can lead to sickness. 

Can a shark swim backward?

No, it’s not possible for a shark to swim in a backward position.

Do fish swim backward for longer periods of time?

No, they don’t swim in reverse positions for longer periods. They only swim backward if it’s necessary. They swim reverse in situations like hiding from predators or when they trying to attack prey. Swimming backward for a longer period is not safe for them as it requires lots of energy.

Can Gudgeon fish swim backward?

They are quite rare fish but still, some people have observed them swimming in a reverse pattern in the Bahamas. 

Can goldfish swim backward?

Yes, they are able to swim in a reverse pattern but only for shorter periods of time. Because excessive swimming in the reverse pattern can make them sick so they don’t swim backward too much.

Are bettas able to swim backward?

Yes, they can swim backward. They mostly swim backward when they are fighting with any other fish. 

Can fish swim backwards?
Can fish swim backwards?

Summarization of article

  • Some fish can swim in a backward position and some of them cannot.
  • Swimming backward requires lots of energy
  • Swimming in a reverse pattern for longer periods is not safe for fish.
  • If a fish swims in a reverse position for too long it might lose its energy and water can enter its gills, and it will get suffocated.
  • Fishes swim in the reverse pattern due to many reasons like hunting, hiding from predators, sickness, etc
  • Consult a vet if your home aquarium fish is swimming too much in a reverse pattern


Fishes are very interesting species. Every time I learn a new trait about them I share it with you all. Fishes are very intelligent creatures and they perform many actions for many reasons and swimming backward is one of them. In early times, fish didn’t use to swim backward as it wasn’t a part of their lifestyle. But with time they evolved and started to swim backwards sometimes due to competition and certain advantages.

Well, many fishes are able to swim backwards but they don’t prefer it since it requires too much energy. Other than that some of them can’t swim backwards due to certain factors. 

If you are a fish keeper and you see your home aquarium fish swimming backward for too long then this is a danger alarm for you and you need to consult a vet. 

Can fish swim backwards?
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