How Did Freshwater Fish Survive the Flood?

Short answer: The Bible doesn’t tell us the answer to this question, but there are several possible answers.

Bible reference: Genesis 7:22

“All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”

Some have suggested that freshwater fish, the ones that lived in lakes and rivers, would have died in the salt water of a worldwide flood. They’ve further suggested that freshwater fish would either have to have been on the Ark, or that freshwater fish would have had to have been re-created afterward. Both suggestions are clear violations of Scriptural revelation. 

The Bible records that only air-breathing land animals, birds and creeping things [bugs and reptiles, basically] would have needed to be on the Ark. So no live fish would not have been on board Noah’s Ark, even freshwater fish. In fact, the only fish likely to have been aboard the Ark would have been smoked or salted fish, packed as part of the voyage’s foodstores.

Furthermore, the Bible states that God rested on the 7th day, ceasing the work of Creation, so we have no reason to suppose He re-created anything.

There are two possible answers to how freshwater fish might’ve survived the Flood and neither involve fish being aboard the Ark or it being necessary for God to give them a do-over.

1. There are areas of the world where saltwater and freshwater exist together, but they do not mix. So it’s possible that some creatures could have survived in pockets of either fresh- or saltwater.

2. [And I think this answer is likely more probable]  Observable natural selection demonstrates that species become more specialized over time. Taking into account that many of today’s species can adjust to both saltwater and freshwater [for example, those who live in seawater but spawn in freshwater], it’s probable that the ability to tolerate drastic changes in salinity was present in the fish of Noah’s day.

For a more technical exploration of this subject, here’s an excellent article by

43 Responses to How Did Freshwater Fish Survive the Flood?

  1. Aileen says:

    I do agree with the possible answer that you posted here but please consider Psalm 104. Verse 30 says,
    “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.”

    It’s beautiful psalm about creation. God is still in control of His creation, we can’t limit Him.

    • Aileen,

      We cannot limit God, but since God cannot lie, what He has done is faithfully recorded in His revealed Word; in a sense, God is limited to what is recorded in Scripture… It’s not that He couldn’t have done things any way He pleased, but that it pleased Him to do it the way that He revealed in the Bible.


      • Aileen says:

        I agree with that. But how can you interpret these verses that I’m referring to? The first thing I thought was the ending of certain species and creation of new ones, by using the word ‘renew.’

        27 These all wait for You,
        That You may give them their food in due season.
        28 What You give them they gather in;
        You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
        29 You hide Your face, they are troubled;
        You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
        30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
        And You renew the face of the earth.

        Blessings ~

      • Aileen,

        Wesley’s Commentary summarizes the majority view on these verses:

        “104:30 Spirit – That quickening power of God, by which he produces life in the creatures from time to time. For he speaks not here of the first creation, but of the continued production of living creatures. Created – Other living creatures are produced; the word created being taken in its largest sense for the production of things by second causes. Renewest – And thus by thy wise and wonderful providence thou preservest the succession of living creatures.”

        Note that the primary reason this Psalm is translated thus by Wesley and pretty much everyone else is because the Scripture specifically states that God has ceased from the work of creation. Your translation of this verse would contradicts Genesis 2:3 [the basis of the Sabbath day of rest].

        Remember: Scripture is the best illuminator of Scripture where it concerns problem passages, because the Scripture is of no private interpretation.


      • Hairysteed says:

        Did you just put the words “God” and “cannot” in the same sentence?

      • Tony Breeden says:

        God’s omnipotence is not defined as “God can do anything;” rather it is that God can do anything that is consistent with his revealed character. More to the point, Numbers 23:19 specifically notes that God cannot lie.

  2. Aileen says:

    Thanks for citing Wesley who certainly sheds some light on that passage. Many times a simple explanation is the best. This one is not a problem passage. I was applying it with a different approach, the extinction and discovery of species. Thanks for the quick response.

  3. Laughable says:

    So, you are claiming proof of the bible and gods existance by using evolution and natural selection in point 2?

    • Laughable,

      Not exactly. Creationists do affirm horizontal changes [viz. natural selection, speciation, mutation, adaption, etc] within created kinds but we observe that there are limits to such observable change. For example, a dog is still a dog and recognizably so, be it a wolf, a fox, or an English Bulldog. We note that this sort of horizontal change is a bit like shuffling a deck of cards; no new information is added and at the worst changes occur by a loss of information (as when the flu mutates to beat a new vaccine).

      Unfortunately, evolutionists often conflate these observable horizontal changes with the larger claim of unobserved vertical [phyletic] changes where one kind of creture becomes an entirely different kind of creature [ie., microbes-to-man evolution], and call both evolution.

      Now, am I claiming that natural selection is proof of God’s existence or is proof of the Bible? Um, no again. I’m merely saying that the natural world we observe is more consistent with Biblical Creation than with unobservable common descent via goo-to-you evolution. I haven’t offered proof of either God’s existence or the Bible’s authenticity in this post, mostly because this post is about how freshwater fish could have survived Noah’s Flood.

      For more on the subject of evolution versus natural selection, see Deflating Dobzhansky’s Grand Assumption, or Why Microevolution Does Not Lead To Macroevolution.


  4. James says:

    So, you’re talking about evolution if they adapted.

    • No, James. You see, when they talk about evolution in your textbook, they fail to make a distinction between the observable, horizontal changes within animals that both creationists and evolutionists agree happen [adaptation, speciation, mutation, natural selection] and unobservable, vertical common descent microbes-to-man evolution which requires that one kind of animal change into another kind entirely. We do not observe this second set of vertical changes [evolution] either in present-day biology nor in the fossil record. We do observe that a dog remains a dog, be it a wolf, Australian shepherd or an English bulldog. We also observe that the fossil record evidences only stasis, sudden appearance and mass extinction. The dots are only connected in our heads and in our textbook illustrations. So, no, we’re not talking about common descent evolution if they adapted.

  5. Caitlyn says:

    thank you for creating this website, it was very helpfull when i needed it.

  6. firefoxfire says:

    They were created after is a cop out don’t you think? Most christian’s arguments end with the illogical “it was god’s will” as well as my respect for all they have to say that follows. Good day

  7. I’m trying to understnd B’resheet 5:32 {Noach was 500 years, and Noach fathered Shem, Ham and Yefet. B’reshet11:10 Here is the genealogy Of Shem. Shem was 100 years old when he fathered Arpakshad two years after the flood. Providing my math is close that can be the youngest at 503 or 502 years for Noach leaving remaning time of the tern refered to as 500. What are your thoughts or insights with above mentioined .

    • Tony Breeden says:

      I commented on this in the following post:

      “in Genesis 6:18 God makes a covenant with Noah, promising that he, his wife, his sons and their wives would be saved aboard the Ark. What makes this passage so interesting is that Genesis 5:34 notes that Noah was 500 years old when he begat his three sons, while Genesis 7:6 says that Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came. The clear implication is that God made a covenant with Noah that he and his sons would be saved from judgment 20 years before Noah’s sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth) were even born! (The Bible contains many such prophesies, so this isn’t unusual for God, who knows everything …including the future.)

      The maximum it could have taken would have been 120 years, but it must have taken less to also allow time for Noah to load the food stores and seed God told him to bring aboard. Since God specifically prophesies that the wives of Noah’s three sons would be saved aboard the Ark, we know it took at least enough time for all three boys to grow up and get married! All three boys were NOT born at the same time: Genesis 10:21 tells us that Japheth was the elder of Noah’s sons, that he was born when Noah was 500; meanwhile Genesis 11:10 tells us that Shem begat Arphaxad 2 years after the Flood and that Shem was 100 years old at that time. And if you do the math, that means Shem was born 2 years after Japheth.”

  8. i. k. faucett says:

    I’m asking questions about the water that floated the ark. why can’t people just read the kjv and understand the truth. # 1 God created the heaven and the earth. I believe, and can probably prove it, that the waters were fresh water, not salt water. it rained 40 days and 40 nights, ( fresh water, of which the flood was made.) after the flood, rivers were created, and I believe that the fresh water, or the seas, (oceans) slowly turned to salt water because there was no longer watering from the ground, which was, of course, fresh water. there was no salt water. study the bible, kjv, and don’t take other peoples word for it, study it for yourself! I can tell you many things that people don’t study.

    • Tony Breeden says:

      ik faucet,

      Nowhere in the KJV does the Bible say that God only created fresh water. The Bible mentions that rivers flowed out of Eden, so rivers existed well before the Flood. It says nothing as to whether the seas and oceans were salt water or fresh water. I should mention that in addition to rain, the Bible mentions that the fountains of the great deep burst forth so rain wasn’t the only source of water.

      The bottom line is that your argument is a well-meaning non sequitur. You are not getting these conclusions from the KJV. Rather, you are reading into the text things that it doesn’t say.


      • Leslie Boggs says:

        Thank you for such calm, intellectual, biblical, and scientific answers. Horizontal changes within “kinds” of animals is scientifically visible and proven. Vertical changes from one kind to another kind (missing link for ex.)have never been proven in any fossil record. Carbon dating is a horribly flawed system because fossilized dinosaur bones are now found to still have dead tissue and blood cells within the bones.(not fully fossilized) This means according to scientific method they must be thousands of years old and not millions or billions of years. God has granted you wisdom and discernment both in your rebellion and now in your return to faith. I pray this public forum will plant seeds and fertilize the faith of many before the return of the Lord.

  9. Adam says:


    Where did all the water come from that caused the flood and where did it go after the flood was over? The Bible says that the flood covered the earth to 15ft above the tallest mountain. That sounds like more water than there is on Earth today. I’m also confused as to what day of the 40 days of flooding rain caused the ark to start floating and to whether the flood lasted 150 days or 300 days.


  10. stuartfield says:

    A little known but important piece of information about the Genesis flood is that the extremely similar Epic of Gilgamesh in the Sumerian legend predates Noah’s story by at least one thousand years in the written form and at least five hundred years for the setting. The similarities between the two tales are so remarkable that we cannot write them off in good conscience as mere coincidences. In the earlier flood legend, Utnapishtim receives instructions and exact dimensions on how to construct a large ship to avoid an imminent flood (as does Noah in Genesis 6:14-16), takes animals and his family aboard to preserve life on earth (as does Noah in Genesis 6:19-7:1), lands the ship on a mountain after the flood has stopped (as does Noah in Genesis 8:4), releases a dove and a raven from the ship in order to aid his search for dry land (as does Noah in Genesis 8:6-11), and burns a sacrifice after the flood for the gods who find its odor pleasing (as does Noah in Genesis 8:20-21). Because several additional minor parallels exist, I would encourage everyone to read Tablet XI of the short epic in its entirety in order to appreciate fully the similarities between the two legends. Since the Gilgamesh tale is the earlier version of the two, we can only surmise that the authors of Genesis copied the Epic of Gilgamesh or inadvertently patterned the story of Noah’s ark on an even more ancient flood legend that we have yet to discover.

    • Tony Breeden says:

      Actually, since the Biblical account is more realistic and more legendary element (like a cube-shaped Ark reflecting Sumerian notions if perfection rather than realistic dimensions necessary for transporting humans, animals and goods without killing everyone aboard) tend to follow original source material, it makes more sense that the Gilgamesh Epic was written down first but finds its origins in the oral tradition which was later faithfully recorded in the Bible

  11. stuartfield says:

    Records of flourishing civilizations in China, Egypt, Babylon, and Mesopotamia exist straight through the flood era of 2500-2000 BCE. This contingency creates a stack of obvious problems without planned solutions because the flood supposedly vanquished the inhabitants of these regions. If this was the case, why do we now possess their journals made before, during, and after this global deluge? The flood would have certainly destroyed these societal accounts if God were truly guilty of genocide. If people from each region somehow managed to survive and continue these records, why isn’t the cataclysmic flood mentioned in their accounts? In fact, no sort of catastrophe on this level exists anywhere in the written histories of any society during any era. On the other hand, records of ancient civilizations frequently mention several local floods. This is quite possibly the most compelling reason why many Christians have abandoned a global flood hypothesis in favor of a local one, a proposal rapidly gaining in popularity that I will debunk toward the end of this chapter. Had the authors known their descendants would one day be able to date these civilizations, the story most certainly would have been different from what we have today.

  12. Joe says:

    Was the flood water salty, or was it fresh? If it was fresh, why are the seas and oceans still salty? If it was salty, why are the great lakes and many of the world’s rivers fresh? Going by the possible answers above, is it really true that every single species of fish we have on this planet today, can survive in both salt and fresh water?

    What technology did Noah use to keep the meat needed for meat eating species, fresh for the time spent on the water? A single lion needs 40 kg’s of meat a day to survive, and that’s just one of the meat eating species.

  13. brs says:

    So natural selection happens horizontally, but somehow isn’t generationally additive, forming a tree structure of new species. That is ridiculous. That is 2+2=3. Welcome to the literal interpretation of an old book of stories. May as well claim that they all ate green eggs and ham as food after climbing up a beanstalk to escape the rising water.

    • Tony Breeden says:

      Sigh. It’s not ridiculous. These horizontal changes are observable what happens in nature; this is the point everyone agrees on. Creationists simply disagree that unobservable vertical change occurs.

  14. When the Scriptures state that Shem had Arphaxad two years after the flood, would that be from the beginning or end of the flood?

    Thank you much!

  15. Lynn says:

    You wrote:
    1. There are areas of the world where saltwater and freshwater exist together, but they do not mix. So it’s possible that some creatures could have survived in pockets of either fresh- or saltwater.

    There are areas where saltwater and freshwater exist together… but they all mix eventually. So this argument fails.

    2. [And I think this answer is likely more probable] Observable natural selection demonstrates that species become more specialized over time. Taking into account that many of today’s species can adjust to both saltwater and freshwater [for example, those who live in seawater but spawn in freshwater], it’s probable that the ability to tolerate drastic changes in salinity was present in the fish of Noah’s day.

    You said “…many of today’s species can adjust to both saltwater and freshwater…” which means by definition there are those species of fish that can’t adjust. Those species that couldn’t adapt would have gone extinct… yet they some how survived?

    You also said ” it’s probable that…” there is a big difference between probable and certain.

    The question of freshwater fish surviving the flood in saltwater oceans is still a large question mark in the Noah/Great Flood mythology.

    • Tony Breeden says:

      Depends on whether you want to give God the benefit of the doubt or not. I merely set out to demonstrate that there are reasonable answers to this question, if you are willing to give the Bible the same benefits of the doubt you give scientists when they speculate but don’t have a definitive answer.

      • Lynn says:

        It’s not about giving God the benefit of the doubt… and your answer isn’t reasonable. Freshwater fish would have been wiped out by the salinity of the water.

      • Tony Breeden says:

        You dont find my answer reasonable but no skeptic would. You’re assuming today’s tolerance levels because you presume millions of years of evolution from the outset. In other words, you aren’t judging my argument on it’s own merits. According to the creationist scenario, creatures at the time of the flood would’ve been much stronger and able to tolerate many more changes than they can today.

  16. Carla Rousseau says:

    I say maybe God just protected them because the marine life was left to god because God never said Noah had to take care of the Marine life.

  17. Alex says:

    I think Tony Breedon you have been remarkably patient and answered this long list of questions (mainly from cynics who know no better than to believe what they’ve been taught under the guise of it being ‘scientific’) in a remarkably convincing way. Well done.

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