Fishes are used in a wide range of scientific studies, from conservation research with potential benefits to the species used to biomedical research with potential human benefits. Fish research can take place in both laboratories and field environments and methods used represent a continuum from non‐invasive observations, handling, through to experimental manipulation. While some countries have legislation or guidance regarding the use of fish in research, many do not and there exists a diversity of scientific opinions on the sentience of fish and how we determine welfare. Nevertheless, there is a growing pressure on the scientific community to take more responsibility for the animals they work with through maximising the benefits of their research to humans or animals while minimising welfare or survival costs to their study animals. In this review, we focus primarily on the refinement of common methods used in fish research based on emerging knowledge with the aim of improving the welfare of fish used in scientific studies. We consider the use of anaesthetics and analgesics and how we mark individuals for identification purposes. We highlight the main ethical concerns facing researchers in both laboratory and field environments and identify areas that need urgent future research. We hope that this review will help inform those who wish to refine their ethical practices and stimulate thought among fish researchers for further avenues of refinement. Improved ethics and welfare of fishes will inevitably lead to increased scientific rigour and is in the best interests of both fishes and scientists.