Do Loud Noises Scare Aquarium Fish?

schooling fish

You’ve probably noticed that a banging door startles your fish. Thus, you worry if noises scare aquarium fish as you don’t want your pet to experience any stress.

Well, you have reasons to worry, as noises could scare your pet and affect its health and lifespan.

The Hearing Ability of Fish

Fish also use hearing to survive, like other vertebrates like mammals. It helps them find food, avoid predators, communicate, and find mates. 

However, these sea critters have hearing organs unique from other animals.  

They have otoliths which are almost the same as human ears. However, it detects sound waves from the water and not the air. Moreover, they can sense sound waves that pass their body through their lateral line system. 

So, your swimming friends rely on sound vibrations they detect in the water. Also, they might not hear sounds that don’t affect the water’s movements.

What Happens when fish scared by loud noises

Loud noise may scare water creatures and cause adverse effects like:

  • Stressed Fish

Many fish think noises are signs of danger. So, they may become frightened and stressed when they hear loud sounds. 

For example, a loud bang could startle a goldfish and force its body to release stress hormones. It brings their body into panic mode, helping them to become alert and move quickly to escape the stressor. 

This response is helpful to escape dangers in their natural habitat.

The problem? The critter would have difficulty reverting its body to a non-stressed state. They could thus remain stressed for a few hours or days, even if the disturbance only lasted for a moment. 

They get adverse health effects, especially when exposed to constant stressors.

Moreover, a study proves noise exposure can increase the cortisol levels of milkfish. This hormone is vital for some body functions like growth and reproduction, and however, too much can cause serious health effects like immunity problems.

How to Tell Fish Are Stressed?

Stressed marine creatures may also show visible symptoms, like:

  • Darting to and fro in the aquarium
  • Frequently hiding for an extended period
  • Crashing at the bottom of the aquarium
  • Scraping against rocks and other surfaces in the tank
  • Poor appetite
  • Skin discoloration
  • Fin reddening

The thing is that these signs could also indicate other health problems. So, consult a vet immediately if your pet shows any of these symptoms. 

  • Fish Hearing Problem

As mentioned above, the sense of hearing is vital for fish to survive.  And identical to other animals, they may also experience hearing loss due to loud noises. 

Professor Arthur N. Popper and his team have proved loud sounds can cause permanent fish ear damage. The research team has found injuries in the hearing organs of fish exposed to seismic air guns. 

Seismic air guns survey the ocean floor to find oil deposits by releasing sonar waves. The sound waves travel through the water until it reaches the rock layers where they can find oil. It then bounces back to the machine to record the underwater findings. 

Sea critters may swim away from these noisy machines. However, the sound could make them disoriented and unable to escape.

This problem also applies to the fish in your tank. A study proves prolonged loud noise exposure may cause hearing loss in goldfish, and another study also proves loud audio may affect fish ‘ immunity and cause early death.

You may thus notice your aquarium pet exhibiting unusual behaviors after noise exposure.

Threats of Noise Pollution to Fish

You want to keep your pet fish from any auditory disturbance. However, do you know that noise pollution affects marine life worldwide?

Humans keep on producing a lot of noise that disturbs marine life.

Loud sounds negatively affect their physical traits and survivability from birth. Moreover, it affects the fish’s ability to do vital tasks. For example, it keeps them from finding food or swimming in schools.

As a result, they tend to avoid noisy areas by rerouting their migration. That’s why certain species seem to disappear from some areas. In turn, it affects the availability of fish for human consumption. 

What Affects Sounds in Aquariums?

Some factors can affect the sounds in your aquarium. Consider these points to make sure your marine pets are alright in their tank:

  • Fish Size

Small fish use vibration in the water to detect and avoid predators. That’s why they get scared by loud noises as they think it signals danger.

So, be careful with loud noises, like a dog bark,  if you have small marine pets.

Large marine creatures may tolerate usual household sounds. However, keep powerful sounds away, like blasting speakers.

  • Sound Intensity

Water affects sound in unusual ways. For example, it muffles the sound as it can filter out higher frequencies.

However, audio energy can still travel underwater faster than in the air. And sound with higher intensity causes more vibrations that can disturb your aquarium pet.

So, be careful with audio signals that cause a lot of vibration. Examples are metal music with loud bass or frequent rumbling trucks on the road.

  • Water Depth and Aquarium Size

Sound travels faster in the water than in the air and can reach longer distances. So, your aquarium size and depth may not matter if the noise is too loud. 

However, audio waves lose energy as it travels and has less energy through water, but the sound may not reach the bottom of a big deep tank.

  • Type of sound or music

Fish show unique responses to various auditory signals they hear.

While loud noises scare your aquarium friends, the right music can improve their mood. A study even proves that classical music enhances the mood of zebrafish. 


Now, it’s clear! Noises scare aquarium fish and may even cause adverse effects.

So, always remember the points in this article to keep your pet from audio disturbances.

Don’t forget to drop a comment if you have questions, and share this post to inform other marine pet lovers like you.


Fish exposed to noise pollution likely to die early: study (

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