Asked in Care of FishThunderstorms and LightningFishFrying and Sauteeing Foods
Why do fish not get 'fried' when lightning strikes?
July 17, 2015 5:46PM
- Really fish do get fried if they happen to be in the area of the strike, but because the ocean is vast and lightning is dispersed into the water for only a very short distance, most fish are only stunned. If lightning was able to travel in water and not be dispersed would you want to go to the beach?
- Contrary to what some people believe, salt water is a GOOD conductor of electricity! Anything containing ions is a good conductor of electricity. Pure water (meaning ONLY hydrogen and oxygen molecules) is a poor conductor. The reason salt water is a good conductor is due to the charged ions from the salt (Na+ and Cl- ions). You may be thinking "then why can I be electrocuted at home if we don't have salt water?" Well it's because your home water isn't exactly pure - there are several other ions and minerals in it. (Free ions means free electrons are available to flow and create a current in water)
- They do. Every year around 7000-10000 lightnings strike the sea around the world and and when this happens most of Earth's marine life dies. Luckily fish are are fond of sexual intercourse and the sea life grows to its peak numbers around summertime.
- Ask anyone who has been shocked and they will tell you that salt water is a very good conductor since our bodies are mostly salt water; great conductor. Salt water fish/wildlife do not just make up for their loss by having a reproductive free for all, it takes years to replace damage to any part of a reef system. Most lightining strikes happen in open water where there is almost no damage the the ecosystem and whatever fish is hit is not fried but boiled.
- There are conductors, semi-conductors and insulators in this world. While fresh water is a good conductor due to the impurities in it, salt water is only a semi-conductor and the lightning dissipates faster than it does in fresh water. But even in fresh water the lightning only travels so far before it too will dissipate.
Most people think that water is a conductor and that that is why it causes people to die from electrical shock when exposed to it. This is untrue.
My answer is two fold. First of all pure water is an insulator. When it is mixed with impurities those impurities are actually the conductors, not the water. Second electricity always takes the path of least resistance (It will travel through the material that is most conductive).
If your in a pool of water and the lightning strikes most of the charge won't travel through the water, because it is an insulater. It will travel through you the conductor. You are the path of least resistance (especially if your touching the bottom of the pool or the side of it). That is why people are killed in a pool from lightning strikes. Most of the people that survive such strikes were probably floating in the water, not touching anything else but the water (thus not completing a circuit).
I would suggest that most fish in the ocean do not get killed for this reason. Salt water is a very good conductor and as such the salt water pulls the path of the electricity from the lightning bolt around the fish, not through it. I would add this as another reason among the others above.
When someone is in a bath tub and an electrical item is drop in and that someone is electicuted, this is because the the path of least resistance is throught the person touching the bottom and sides of the tub. The water is mostly insulated from the current so it travels almost entirely through the human body.
because the electricity is dissipated.
Some fish can be electrocuted by lightning. It depends how close they are to the lightning strike. Natural waters usually have enough ions in it that the electric charge from lightning will be dispersed very quickly and so will not carry enough charge to electrocute fish if they are very far from the lightning strike.