Will Loud Noises Affect Fish in an Aquarium?
Scientists have conducted research that shows fish are indeed bothered by loud noises. In particular, fish in the studies had difficulty finding food properly. In ongoing research, scientists hope to learn if loud noises have other, long-term or more far-reaching affects on fish, and how these findings relate to fish in natural habitats.
Distracts from Feeding
Scientists at the University of Bristol in the UK put underwater speakers in an aquarium with three-spine sticklebacks. When they piped in loud noises, such as noise resembling recreational speedboats, they noticed that the fish were distracted from feeding. The fish didn't stop eating, but they made foraging mistakes such as handling debris in the tank instead of food. This occurred even when the noise lasted only 10 seconds.
Interferes with Communication
According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), biologists have found that fish have complex social relationships, including cooperating to catch food and watch for predators. They communicate through low-frequency sounds such as clicks, sobs, yelps and buzzes that humans need special tools to hear. Although the ocean is a noisy environment, biologists fear that startling, loud noise can disrupt this communication and put the fish in peril.
At the time of publication, researchers are continuing to study fish to determine the long-term results of continuous noise. They expect to see hearing loss and indications of stress, such as erratic behavior. But they are also concerned what studies like this mean for fish that are exposed to noise pollution in their natural habitats. If fish are distracted from feeding in the open water, it puts them at risk from predators and from problems that result when confused fish accidentally choose nonfood debris to eat.
Advice from Owners
Although it isn't scientific research, observations that fish owners share in forums can be helpful to consider. Several owners report having noticed their fish are startled by loud noise. One owner reported that it depended upon the type of fish, because some have better hearing and therefore are more easily startled, while other fish are known to be nearly deaf.
Scientists know that fish are bothered by vibrations, bright lights and temperature changes. In addition to keeping temperature constant, keep a thermometer in the tank and check it regularly to make sure the tank's heater is working properly. Don't put your aquarium near a door where it can be drafty, or where direct sunlight can change the water's temperature. And avoid vibrations from stereos and televisions that could startle the fish.