During development, embryos perform a mesmerizing choreography, which is crucial for the correct shaping, positioning and function of all organs. The cellular properties powering animal morphogenesis have been the focus of much attention. On the other hand, much less consideration has been given to the invisible engine constituted by the intercellular fluid. Cells are immersed in fluid, of which the composition and physical properties have a considerable impact on development. In this review, we revisit recent studies from the perspective of the fluid, focusing on basolateral fluid compartments and taking the early mouse and zebrafish embryos as models. These examples illustrate how the hydration levels of tissues are spatio-temporally controlled and influence embryonic development.