Genesis 7:21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

Did the fish just carry on?

  • 2
    Yes everything that could survive In water for an extended period of time did just that Feb 9, 2021 at 23:02
  • If you're interested in proposals from creationists for how sea creatures survived all the turbulence etc of the flood, please ask at Christianity.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 10, 2021 at 2:07
  • This would pretty much wipe out all the land flora as well, if it's a worldwide flood where no land is left, no? Most plants can't survive months under water. So you're completely gutting the terrestrial ecosystem. That would have to have effects on ocean life, including fish, in all sorts of ways. Feb 10, 2021 at 19:04
  • Would the water be salt or fresh? If there are significant changes either way, many fish would not be able to survive. Feb 10, 2021 at 19:04

2 Answers 2


Gen 7:20-23 says this (with my emphasis):

21 And every living thing that moved upon the earth perished—birds, livestock, animals, every creature that swarms upon the earth [, and all mankind. 22 Of all that was on dry land, everything that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 And every living thing on the face of the earth was destroyed—man and livestock, crawling creatures and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth, and only Noah and those with him in the ark remained.

The following words (highlighted above) are used:

  • V21 & 23b, "earth" is אֶרֶץ (erets) = land
  • V22, "dry ground" is חָרָבָה (charabah) = dry land or dry ground
  • V23a, earth/ground is אֲדָמָה (adamah) = arable land or dry ground

Thus the author of Genesis uses three different words to denote the habitat of creatures that were destroyed, namely creatures that live on dry ground that breathe.

That is, the fish are not mentioned as being destroyed because fish do not breathe and do not live on the land. Thus, fish we unaffected by the flood.

Note that these same three words appear in Gen 1 creation account for which the main point is the creation of arable dry ground for cultivation (See especially Gen 1:10). The flood was the undoing of the creation account.

  • "fish we unaffected by the flood" How were fish 'unaffected' by a worldwide flood? That's like saying land animals would be 'unaffected' if the entire planet suddenly became land and there was no water. Feb 10, 2021 at 19:07
  • @AnthonyBurg - I am not sure what point you are making. The language in Gen 7 is entirely about land-dwelling, air-breathing creatures. Fish are not mentioned.
    – Dottard
    Feb 10, 2021 at 20:03
  • Why would the account have to specifically mention fish for a common-sensical inference that they were affected? Feb 10, 2021 at 20:38
  • @AnthonyBurg - becuase it say three or four times that the impact was on land-breathing land animals. Fish of the sea are never mentioned and it appears to go to some trouble to single out land animals that beathe.
    – Dottard
    Feb 11, 2021 at 2:52
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    @AnthonyBurg, whilst the bible doesnt specifically say anything about fish in this passage, it is interesting that Genesis 7:11 says... "all the fountains of the great deep burst forth". Fish dont tend to do so well when that kind of thing happens even today, so i do not think one can automatically assume the fish were not also destroyed by the flood (or at least some of them). We have fossils of prehistoric fish that no longer inhabit the earth, perhaps these are the ones that were destroyed in the flood?
    – Adam
    Mar 12, 2021 at 20:59

If all terrestrial plants were covered in water, this would have led to drastic changes to the earth's atmosphere (it would be equivalent to destroying all the terrestrial plants all at once), which in turn would have led to changes in the ocean. (Think slightly increasing atmospheric %s of CO2 are a problem for sea life? That would be nothing compared to this.) Further, rapid admixture of water from somewhere else capable of causing a complete, worldwide submersion of land very well would have changed the salinity of the water, resulting in problems for various marine animals and vegetation. Any fresh bodies of water would be submerged and mixed with the oceans, leading to widespread death for animals adapted to fresh water.

If we are to take the narrative in a 'literal' sense, it is highly unlikely fish would have just 'carried on'. More likely, the Biblical narrative of Noah's flood reflects an ancestral memory in Jewish tradition of a large, localized flood, or perhaps a global flood that was highly disruptive to human civilization but didn't actually submerge all of the land.

Addendum: if you want an answer sympathetic to Biblical 'literalism', this site attempts to answer the question from that perspective. I believe it understates the problems aquatic life would face from this sort of event, but they conclude that

"Many aquatic creatures were killed in the Flood because of the turbidity of the water and changes in salinities and temperatures. Indeed, the geologic record testifies to the massive destruction of marine life, with shallow-water marine invertebrates alone accounting for an estimated 95 percent by number of the fossil record."

  • interesting answer. I am not so sure that the salinity of the water (ie from fresh to salt) was necessarily a result of the flood. If God created a bio system which functions largely due to recycling, then why would he not also create a sea that is salt and acts as a self cleaning system (which is what the salt does) I am not stating as a matter of fact that i believe one way or the other, however, it is a point worth considering i think.
    – Adam
    Mar 12, 2021 at 20:54
  • +1 this answer from me. I think the statement to fossil records provides quite the evidence trail in supporting the argument that at least some of the aquatic life perished. I wonder if you should further improve the answer by adding some references that can be used for further reading on the fossil records? In any case, i like this answer and tend mostly to agree with it. I am a believer in global flood, however that perhaps is a different question.
    – Adam
    Mar 12, 2021 at 21:14

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