Does Lightning Kill Fish?

Lightning, a magnificent yet fearsome force of nature, has long fascinated and alarmed us with its power. One question that frequently arises is whether lightning can kill fish when it strikes water bodies like oceans, lakes, and rivers.

In this article, we delve into the science behind lightning strikes and their impact on aquatic life, particularly fish.

Understanding Lightning and Water

Lightning is a discharge of electricity occurring during thunderstorms. It’s crucial to understand how electricity behaves in water to comprehend the effect on fish. Water is a good conductor of electricity, but its conductivity varies with factors like salinity and temperature.

The Behavior of Electricity in Water

When lightning strikes a body of water, the electrical discharge spreads out across the surface. The energy dissipates as it travels away from the strike point, reducing its lethality. The conductivity of saltwater and freshwater also plays a role in how far and deep the electricity travels.

How Fish Are Affected

Fish, residing in water, are naturally at the center of queries regarding the impact of lightning strikes.

Survival Odds in Deep and Shallow Waters

Fish in deep water are generally safer when lightning strikes. This is because as the electric current disperses across the surface, it loses its strength before reaching deeper levels where fish often reside. Conversely, fish in shallow water are more vulnerable due to their proximity to the surface.

The Role of Water Conductivity

The conductivity of the water significantly influences the effect of lightning on fish. In saltwater, the higher conductivity means the electric charge spreads wider and faster, potentially affecting a larger area but with less intensity. In freshwater, the lower conductivity could result in a more concentrated and potentially more harmful effect in a localized area.

Are Fish Frequently Killed by Lightning?

While the possibility exists, it is relatively rare for fish to be killed by lightning strikes. This rarity is due to several factors:

  1. Volume of Water: Oceans and lakes are vast, making the chance of a lightning strike affecting a particular group of fish quite low.
  2. Fish Behavior: Fish often swim at depths where the electric current from a surface strike may not reach them.
  3. Frequency of Strikes: Lightning strikes to water bodies are less common than land strikes.


In conclusion, while it is theoretically possible for lightning to kill fish, the likelihood is relatively low. The vastness of water bodies, the behavior of fish, and the nature of electricity dispersion in water all contribute to the rarity of such events. Understanding this phenomenon underscores the awe-inspiring power of nature and the resilience of aquatic life.