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Can Goldfish Hear? The Surprising Answer!

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

business man play music with goldfish_emodpk_-shutterstock

You may be wondering if your goldfish is listening to you or if goldfish even have a set of ears to hear. Interestingly, they can listen to you—just not in the way you think. You may have found goldfish responding to you tapping on the glass to get their attention. They can hear using several different sensory organs, mainly their internal ears and lateral line. Although tapping on the glass is not recommended, their quick interest in the sound shows they do indeed hear the echo through the water, as well as feel the vibration.

How Do Goldfish Hear?

In this article, we will be explaining the ranges, frequency, and tones goldfish can hear within their aquatic world and answering common questions that come up on the topic of goldfish hearing.

Goldfish generally associate a certain sound or word with an action. For example, if you were to call your goldfish by its name before feeding for a long period, they will start to associate that work with food. Goldfish can hear the food hit the water, their lateral lines pick up the noise.

Goldfish can use their internal ear and lateral line to find food and mates as well. They can pick up on other goldfish’s motions through the water and detect sudden movements that may indicate the other goldfish has sensed danger or if another goldfish has joined the aquarium.

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Credit: newphotoservice, Shutterstock

Where are goldfish ears located and how do they hear?

Goldfish hear using their primary auditory system which includes the inner ear shown by two small holes on either side of their head. Goldfish can also pick up sounds using their lateral line which runs along the side of your goldfish’s body. Cells along the lateral line pick up movement and vibrations from the sound waves moving through the water. Using their lateral line allows them to determine where the sound is coming from. The inner ear contains small bones. These bones move to vibrations. Your goldfish’s sensory cells respond and it is heard as sound to your goldfish.

The swim bladder and sound transmission

The swim bladders gas can be compressed by the sound pressure waves. After this happens, the swim bladder compresses and changes in volume. The hair cells are stimulated in the inner ear if retransmission of the sound occurs when it reaches the small bones in the ear.

Can goldfish tell where sounds are coming from?

Yes, goldfish use their lateral line to determine the source of the sound. The inner ear does not help in the sourcing of sounds. This is why it is important to avoid tapping on the glass or making loud and harsh sounds or movements near the aquarium. It can stress out your goldfish and make them more fearful around you. Keeping the aquarium in a quiet setting can help deter excessive noises from stressing out your goldfish.

Can goldfish hear music?

Believe it or not, goldfish can hear music. Not only can they hear it but they can differentiate between the different genres and composers. Countless studies have been done testing this theory. A conclusive test done by Japanese scientists showed goldfish do indeed hear music via their lateral lines picking up the vibrations through the water and their internal ears. Hence all their sensory organs can hear the different components music consists of.

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The Difference Between Goldfish and Human Hearing Ability

Goldfish do not hear sounds the way humans do. Goldfish have a different hearing range than we do. They are only able to hear low-frequency sounds and can hear in a sound range between 50Hz and 3000Hz. whereas we hear in a sound range between 20Hz to 20,000Hz. This means goldfish can hear sounds accompanied by vibrations, such as tapping on the glass but they will not be able to hear high-pitched sounds such as whistling.

Can Goldfish Hear Each Other?

Goldfish are not able to talk to each other—goldfish use body language to communicate. Goldfish do not have a voice box and cannot hear verbal communication, but rather use their eyes and sensory organs to interpret what the other fish is conveying. Loud noises can cause permanent hearing disability, leading to a goldfish having a decrease in their sensory ability.

Goldfish in an aquarium

Do Goldfish Hear Their Filters and Aerators Within the Tank?

Goldfish can hear sounds and vibrations caused by the aquarium equipment in the tank. Filters and aerators produce a noise within the water as well as vibrations that are sensed via the goldfish lateral line. Filters produce a high noise output underneath the water that is easily heard under the water. Although we may think this may distract and stress out a goldfish, we should take into count that their natural habitats are fairly noisy and they are adapted to handle these constant sounds in low noise and vibration outputs.

What Damages a Goldfish’s Hearing?

Intense low-frequency sounds can cause damage to the hair cells. It is observed after producing a white noise under the water 170 dB for two days. Hearing ability decreased both in the lateral line and internal ear.

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It is fascinating to under how goldfish hear and communicate. We are sure you are ready to have a chat with your goldfish! Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand how goldfish hear and the science behind it.

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Featured Image Credit: emodpk, Shutterstock

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