Freshwater Fish and the Flood

Here’s a question that everyone seems to want an answer to: how did freshwater organisms survive a salty flood? A recent article at Your Origins Matter, Flood Survivors – derived from an Acts & Facts article by John Morris from 2011 called Fish in the Flood – tries to offer some solutions. After first acknowledging that survival would have been very difficult, and that most didn’t make it, Morris produces his first idea:

In the complex of events and conditions that made up the Flood, certainly there were pockets of fresh water at any one time. Remember, it was raining in torrents, and we can expect that the rain water was fairly fresh. Many studies have shown that waters of various temperatures, chemistries, and sediment loads do not tend to mix; they tend to remain segregated in zones. It would be unlikely for any one area to retain such zones for very long during the tumult of the Flood, but on a worldwide scale, some such segregated zones would have existed at any given time.


The “zones” to which Morris appeals may stay separate for a while, but we must remember that the flood he envisions lasted a full year. A full year of ducking from zone to zone, every moment risking death. It’s not much help to a fish that there’s always one part of the Earth that it could survive in if it’s a continent away. Worse, Morris reminds us earlier in his article that his flood involved a bunch of tsunamis:

To make matters worse for fish, the Flood certainly involved tectonically induced tsunamis (sometimes called tidal waves)—incredibly energetic shock waves in the ocean that traveled at great speeds and pummeled the land with towering walls of water. Fish are very sensitive to shock. Likewise, the Flood involved underwater mudflows, which even today are known to flow at up to 100 miles per hour, following an underwater earthquake or other disturbance. Wouldn’t the fish have choked in the sediment-filled water?

The effect of these processes, I submit, would also have been to mix the water together to negate the aforementioned zoning.

Time for a second option then. This one basically consists of saying “maybe it wasn’t a problem.” No, really:

The pre-Flood oceans were likely somewhat salty, although not as salty as now. Furthermore, we don’t know the tolerance levels of pre-Flood fish for sediment, salt, and temperature. Modern fish have a great variety of responses to different environments. Perhaps before the Flood, fish were even more adaptable.

While it’s not in the original article, the conclusion to this YOM post claims:

Freshwater fish infected with a fungus can be treated by adding a tablespoon of salt to the fresh aquarium water.

Neither article lists proper references, so it’s not possible to easily determine if this folk remedy actually works (don’t try it at home). If it does, however, it’s probably because the unnamed fungus is even less tolerant of the salt than the fish is. The trouble with trying to dodge in this way is that the system of osmoregulation that allows freshwater fish to survive in freshwater, and saltwater fish to survive in saltwater, and fish that can survive in both to switch between, is exactly the kind of system that creationists like Morris and others would normally be insisting is divinely created by God, unchangeable and unevolvable. But because of this conundrum they need this not to be so, or they end up relying on explanations like the short-lived zones above. Or Morris’ third explanation:

There is also the possibility that great amounts of vegetation were dislodged from the pre-Flood continents and remained intertwined as floating mats during the Flood. Many creationists feel that the decay and abrasion of these mats are responsible for our major coal seams, but underneath these mats the turbulence of the surface waters would have been lessened. Perhaps many fish found shelter and nutrition under them, as insects may have on the mats themselves.

It is telling that this offering would come only after he attempts to deny the existence of the problem it seeks to solve. I haven’t seen much about these mats recently, though they seemed to be all the rage around the time that Morris wrote his original article – perhaps somebody realised that those tsunamis would have wiped the things out (those things really are more trouble than they’re worth).

The original article concludes:

Even though there is much we don’t know about what went on during the Flood, we can see that there is at least a plausible answer that can be proposed to such questions. There is no reason for Christians to doubt the truth of the great Flood. Even difficult questions have answers.

Morris thinks he’s got a “plausible” answer somewhere in there. But YOM is supposedly in the business of promoting “conversation,” and they like to ask questions at the end of their posts. “Did you buy any of that” was probably out of the running from the get-go, but for some reason they went with this:

In the recent documentary, Evolution vs. God, PZ Myers told Ray Comfort, “Human beings are still fish.”

Do you agree?

Yes, there is no way to properly define “fish” that excludes humans, just as there is no way to define “dinosaur” so as to avoid including birds – in a scientific sense we are technically “still” fish. But what has that got to do with what we were just talking about?

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9 thoughts on “Freshwater Fish and the Flood

  1. One of the stranger aspects of YECism is that they posit totally non-naturalistic miracles … God deciding to drown everyone but 8 people and a few thousand “kinds” on Earth, but then go into these elaborate pretzel arguments about how, naturalistically, various animals could have survived. You’d think “in for a penny, in for a pound” … It’s a freaking MIRACLE! … But no, they have to give a “scientific” explanation for why fresh water fish didn’t die in what would have been, at least, brackish water. It is in a way an admission that miracles aren’t enough.

  2. The pre-Flood oceans were *likely* somewhat salty,
    Furthermore, *we don’t know* the tolerance levels
    Many creationists *feel* —–
    as insects *may have* ——-
    we can see that there is *at least a plausible* answer —-

    And then they accuse scientists of using “weasel words” so they can’t know anything for certain!

    • It’s treating you as a new person, which automatically sends you to the moderation queue. You should be clear now.

  3. Adding salt to freshwater aquariums can help sick fish (I work in an aquarium store). But it’s a different type of salt then the kind used to make salt water (the grains are bigger and dissolve slowly). And you don’t add a table spoon to any size tank, the amount you add is proportional to the size of the tank. So that you don’t add too much salt and kill your fish.

  4. I thought the answer was that Noah stored the freshwater fish in the ark and then released them after the salt water subsided. He probably had some buckets for that, don’t you think?

  5. On two occasions I have been asked, ‘Pray, Mr Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’

    ‘I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.’

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