Fish are aquatic vertebrae animals that are typically ectothermic (previously cold-blooded), covered with scales, and equipped with two sets of paired fins and several unpaired fins. Fish are abundant in the sea and in fresh water, with species being known from mountain streams (e.g., char and gudgeon) as well as in the deepest depths of the ocean (e.g., gulpers and anglerfish).
Fish are of tremendous importance as food for people around the world, either collected from the wild or farmed in much the same way as cattle or chickens. Fish are also exploited for recreation, through angling and fishkeeping and are commonly exhibited in public aquaria
Fish have an important role in many cultures through the ages, ranging as widely as deities and religious symbols to subjects of books and popular movies in various cultures.
The term "fish" is most precisely used to describe any non-tetrapod chordate, (i.e., an animal with a backbone), that has gills throughout life and has limbs, if any, in the shape of fins. Unlike groupings such as birds or mammals fish are not a single clade but a paraphyletic collection of taxa, including hagfishes, lampreys, sharks and rays, ray-finned fishes, coelacanths, and lungfishes.
A typical fish is ectothermic, has a streamlined body that allows it to swim rapidly, extracts oxygen from the water using gills or an accessory breathing organ to enable it to breath atmospheric oxygen, has two sets of paired fins, usually one or two (rarely three) dorsal fins, an anal fin, and a tail fin, has jaws, has skin that is usually covered with scales, and lays eggs that are fertilized internally or externally.
To each of these there are exceptions. tuna, swordfish, and some species of sharks show some warm-blooded Poikilothermic adaptations, and are able to raise their body temperature significantly above that of the ambient water surrounding them. Streamlining and swimming performance varies from highly streamlined and rapid swimmers which are able to reach 10-20 body-lengths per second (such as tuna, salmon, and jacks) through to slow but more manoeuvrable species such as eels and rays that reach no more than 0.5 body-lengths per second. Many groups of freshwater fish extract oxygen from the air as well as from the water using a variety of different structures. lungfish have paired lungs similar to those of tetrapods, gouramis have a structure called the labyrinth organ that performs a similar function, while many catfish, such as Coryadoras extract oxygen via the intestine or stomach. Body shape and the arrangement of the fins is highly variable, covering such seemingly un-fishlike forms as seahorses, pufferfish, anglerfish, and gulpers. Similarly, the surface of the skin may be naked (as in moray eels), or covered with scales of a variety of different types usually defined as placoid (typical of sharks and rays), cosmoid (fossil lungfishes and coelacanths), banoid (various fossil fishes but also living gars and bichirs, cycloid and ctenoid (these last two are found on most bony fish. There are even fishes that spend most of their time out of water. Mudskippers feed and interact with one another on mudflats and are only underwater when hiding in their burrows.
Fish range in size from the 16 m (51 ft) whale shark to the 8 mm (just over ¼ of an inch) long stout infantfish.
Many types of aquatic animals commonly referred to as "fish" are not fish in the sense given above; examples include shellfish, cuttlefish, starfish, crayfish and jellyfish. In some contexts, especially in aquaculture, the true fish are referred to as finfish (or fin fish) to distinguish them from these other animals.
Types of Fish