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Can Goldfish Hear? The Answer Explained

common goldfish inside the aquarium

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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Even though goldfish do not have visible ears, they can still hear quite well. Goldfish are capable of hearing low-frequency sounds through their internal ear. They do not have the same hearing range as humans, but they can differentiate between sounds that they hear in their aquarium.

You may have observed your goldfish responding to different sounds and vibrations when exploring their surroundings, but how well can goldfish hear? This article will give you all the answers you need!

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How Do Goldfish Hear?

Instead of external ears, goldfish have two internal ears that are located inside of their head. They are also capable of interoperating sounds and being able to differentiate from where the sounds are coming from.

This inner ear consists of small bones that move when they encounter sound waves and vibrations from their environment. The movement of these bones from the inner ear displaces the sensory cells which are eventually how the goldfish interprets sounds. Interestingly, different species of fish can hear using fine nerve hairs called cilia (which can be compared similarly to the cilia that line the cochlea in humans), swim bladders, otoliths, and in some cases, a combination of these organs.

Goldfish can understand where the sounds are coming from thanks to the complex mechanism in their inner ear that helps them to decipher water currents and other sources of vibrations from the aquarium.

Aside from the inner ear, goldfish also have a lateral line along the sides of their bodies that give them the ability to sense vibrations that pass through the aquarium. This also helps to explain how goldfish react to vibrations that occur externally from the aquarium. For example, if you tap the glass, your goldfish will show a reaction.

lionhead goldfish
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

What Is The Difference Between a Goldfish’s and a Human’s Hearing Range?

Goldfishes’ and humans’ hearing range is quite different, mainly because humans have adapted to hearing in a dry, on-land environment, whereas goldfish have adapted to hearing in an aquatic environment. Goldfish are only able to hear a range of low-frequency sounds that range from 50Hz to 4,000Hz.

Humans can hear sounds between approximately 20Hz to 20,000Hz which is drastically different than goldfishes. This allows goldfish to hear the vibrations within the aquarium, but also loud sounds that produce a vibration near the aquarium such as loud banging.

Can Goldfish Hear Each Other?

Goldfish primarily communicate with each other and other fish through body language because they cannot verbally communicate with each other the same way humans do.

A marine scientist, Shariman Ghazali, discovered that some fish can hear but not all species of fish can produce any sounds that are necessary for verbal communication. According to this marine scientist, goldfish have very good hearing abilities, however, they are unable to produce any sounds themselves. This also implies that goldfish cannot hear each other through verbal communication.

Can Goldfish Hear The Filter and Air Stones?

The loud vibrations and sounds produced by an aquarium filter, air stone, or heaters are detectable to the goldfish’s inner ears and lateral line so they can hear these aquarium devices. Filters and heaters generally come with a motor that filters when it is plugged in and running which produces sound and loud vibrations. These vibrations may scare fish at first, but over time they will start to get used to the sound because it is constantly running in their environment.

However, some filters can be too loud (especially if the impeller has been damaged), so if the filter can be heard by you when it is running in the aquarium and you deem the sound to be loud and annoying, then it is likely that these sounds and vibrations are bothering your goldfish too.

Understanding the intricacies of water filtration can be tricky, so if you're a new or even experienced goldfish owner who wants a bit more detailed information on it, we recommend that you check out Amazon for the best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish. 

The Truth About Goldfish New Edition

It covers all you need to know about creating the most ideal tank setup, goldfish care, and more!

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Final Thoughts

Now that you have discovered that goldfish can hear, you might start to pay more attention to how they behave. You might notice that goldfish can detect when the aquarium lid has been removed or if something such as a net or food enters the water without having to look at it first. This is because they can hear and feel the vibrations in their environment.

We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of how goldfish hear!


Featured Image Credit: JuanCarlosPalauDiaz, Shutterstock

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