Do fish like music?

In this post, we will answer the question “Do fish like music?”. We will also discuss how the hearing process and the travelling sound work in the water.

Do fish like music?

All fish respond to sound, despite the fact that few people are aware of this. In fact, numerous recent studies have proven that fish can discern between musical genres and between different composers.

Bach is recognized by goldfish 

Scientists recently trained goldfish to eat from a food ball while listening to Bach’s classical music in the background. The goldfish didn’t touch their food ball after they replaced Bach with the more modern Stravinsky. This shows that they were able to distinguish between the two composers’ music and had grown to identify Bach with the food ball’s reward. 

What kind of hearing do fish have? 

Some people believe that fish can’t hear since they don’t have ears, however, fish have a variety of sound-processing organs. Different fish species employ a variety of organs to hear, including cilia (thin nerve hairs), bladders, otoliths, accelerometers, or a combination of those organs. In recent study, it was discovered that the cilia that line the sides of certain fish are startlingly similar to those of the cochlea, which lines the inner ear of humans and other land-based creatures. 

In water, how does sound travel? 

Another common misunderstanding is that sound does not travel well across water. You’ve probably noticed that water muffles sound if you’ve ever put your head underwater and had someone call out to you. Sound waves, on the other hand, travel through water, in the same manner, they do in the air. The sole reason humans experience sound as muffled beneath the water is that water is heavier than air, and the medium’s density diminishes the sound’s strength. Fish, on the other hand, do not have the same difficulties hearing underwater as humans do because they have sound perception organs that are specifically specialized for underwater hearing. 

Why do fish respond to music? 

Fish require the ability to hear underwater to survive. Because the gap between light rays beneath water limits their vision, most fish can only see close distances. As a result, being able to hear may assist them in avoiding danger before predators get too close. The goldfish were behaviorally conditioned to recognize Bach in the experiment described above because they were rewarded when this music was played.

When humans and animals learn to associate specific behaviours with rewards, they will adopt them. As a result, the fish’s capacity to distinguish between noises enables it to survive while also receiving positive reinforcement. 

The ability of fish to hear 

Fishermen have discovered that even when they are submerged in water, fish can sense both live music and sound waves that ripple across the water. When it comes to sound, it’s worth noting that: Fish are drawn to some sounds and vibrations but not to others. 

Certain sounds and music repel fish, while others pique their attention. 

According to some theories, the way fish behave in the water, particularly their eating and swimming patterns, may be influenced by music and other stimuli. If you’re not familiar with fishing, you could assume that fish are deaf because they don’t appear to have ears. 

Fish auditory organs are specially designed to hear sound in water, whether it’s waterborne or airborne. A number of sound-perception organs are used by fish, depending on the species: tiny nerve hairs (cilia), bladders, accelerometers, and otoliths are just a few of the options.

Fish use sounds to learn about their surroundings. Because sound travels more quickly and over longer distances in water than in air, fish can pick up information about their predators, food supplies, and even the functioning of the species’ reproductive system by listening to the noises around them. Fish employ auditory cues to detect where the noises are coming from as well as what they are.

All of this means that anything that interferes with the fish’s capacity to sense sound can have a negative influence on their lives. While fish can perceive sound because of their “underwater eats,” there are other elements that influence how sound affects fish behaviour and mood. 

The volume of the sound 

Low-frequency sounds are easier for fish to perceive since they move faster and over longer distances. In water, however, harsh, abrupt noises are amplified and transmitted faster than in the air. Fish will be scared and their eating pattern will be disrupted if a boat fisherman drops his fishing net with a thud at the bottom of the boat. 

A study of Zebrafish found that loud noises shocked the fish, causing them to swim to the bottom of the tank as if seeking refuge. This, however, only lasted a short time. Even though the noise could still be heard, the fish quickly resumed their normal habit and movement. It’s unclear why they seem to ‘forget’ about the startling sound so quickly. 

Fish size

Smaller fish may be startled by a loud noise, whilst larger fish may appear unconcerned. Because fish sense water pressure vibrations and fluctuations through their skin, this is the case. 

Small fish may react to the pressure of loud sounds by fleeing. Larger fishes, on the other hand, may perceive a loud sound as a possible threat and attack. They may also dismiss it as a non-threatening situation. 

According to research on Zebrafish, despite the fact that sensory air cells expand with age, fish size rather than age was a stronger predictor of sensory development, implying that larger fish have a more prominent hearing system than their smaller counterparts.

Water depth

In shallow water, sound waves are magnified more than in deep water. Despite the fact that deep-water fishes are supposed to have excellent hearing capacities, examinations of fish species in both deep and shallow marine regions have indicated that deep-water fishes are not sensitive to loud sounds coming from the surface of the water, as previously thought. Fish in shallow waters, on the other hand, are better at hearing the sound. 

The species of fish and whether the water is dark or clear have also been suggested as factors that influence how fish sense and react to sound. However, scientific investigations have yet to back up these claims.


In this post, we answered the question “Do fish like music?”. We also discussed how the hearing process and the travelling sound work in the water.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know in the comments section below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Do fish like music?

Do fish appreciate songs?

Certain sounds and vibrations attract fish, whereas others do not. Certain sounds and music repel fish, while others pique their attention. According to some theories, the way fish behave in the water, particularly their eating and swimming patterns, may be influenced by music and other stimuli.

Can fish listen to a conversation?

Yes and no. Because sound does not transfer well between air and water, fish will barely hear loud conversation or screaming underwater. They will not be alarmed or afraid. The sound that occurs underwater, on the other hand, is powerful and travels quickly. 

Is it possible for fish to get disinterested in their surroundings?

While they won’t chew up your shoes, they will have a healthier life if you keep them occupied. Bettas enjoy moving them around the tank, but any fish will be intrigued enough to investigate. 

Do fish enjoy listening to soothing music? 

Many people don’t understand that all fish respond to sound, and recent research have shown that fish can differentiate between musical genres and composer.

 Is it possible for fish to love their owners? 

By connecting something they like with the person who feeds them, fish might create a link with the one who gives it to them. It has been shown that fish can identify the faces of their owners even while they are standing near the tank with other people, which is surprising.


Fish & Music: Does Noise Scare Them?

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Wilkie, M. P., & Wood, C. M. (1996). The adaptations of fish to extremely alkaline environments. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 113(4), 665-673.

Locket, N. A. (1977). Adaptations to the deep-sea environment. In The visual system in vertebrates (pp. 67-192). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Poulson, T. L. (2001). Adaptations of cave fishes with some comparisons to deep-sea fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 62(1), 345-364.