Happy cichlids? Based on what?

Cartoon drawing of a smiling fish. Image from https://wdrfree.com/.

What does it mean when someone says their fish are “happy” and how do they know?

Some hobbyists insist on anthropomorphizing, which is what is being done when someone assigns a human characteristic to a non-human. I see so many posts in FB groups where someone makes a statement about their fish, such as “everyone is happy and healthy.” I have no idea what a happy fish looks like. 

If you know what a “happy” fish looks like, let me know. Furthermore, what behaviors do your fish exhibit which indicate they’re “happy”? I do know when a fish exhibits behavior that suggests it is stressed or sick, but not when it is presumably happy or sad. We can gladly go into the science of sentience and non-humans, if you want. There are lots of studies about this, yet there is no conclusive way to know what “happy” is to a fish, how it expresses it, nor if a single “happy” behavior is shared among species. 

Not to pile on, but I also read regularly about cichlid keepers segregating a fish and calling it a “timeout.” I’ve posted about that before too, which you can read here

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