Does Loud Music Stress Fish?

One of the most common concerns for aquarium owners is that of music playing. Because fish don’t have any visible ears, owners often wonder how they react to noise.

You will discover sudden noises like children tapping on the glass, or your aquarium is placed by a door that continually slams closed. Such instances can startle your fish, yet it often leads to a question by music lovers or people who watch lots of movies or TV.

Does loud music stress fish? Music on its own doesn’t stress fish for one simple reason. Sound doesn’t travel from the air through water very well. However, if you have deep bass, this causes vibrations, and thus it can stress fish when these vibrations are too strong.

Do Fish Hear Music?

It can be useful to understand how your fish understand music and how it can affect them. Since most of the sound will be converted to vibrations in your tank’s sides, fish can determine different types of music that are playing.

You can find some sounds appealing to them, while heavy bass can force them to run off and hide or even become stressed.

How Does My Fish Hear?

Many people are not aware of fish can hear. Just because they have no ears doesn’t mean they can’t. Based on the fish species, specific organs can help fish feel vibrations, thus making them capable of hearing.

You can find some use cilia to hear, which are sensitive nerve hairs. When diagnosed, these have a structure similar to the inner ear in humans that lines the cochlea. Others use accelerometers, bladders, or otoliths, or a combination of such organs.

How Does Music Travel in Water?

It is here that leads to a lot of confusion and the question of fish being stressed with loud music. Sound doesn’t travel in water the same as it travels in the air. Any sound generated underwater travels more efficiently, and it is the airborne sound that is muted and harder to hear.

Water is denser than air, and as a result, the intensity of the sound will be reduced as it bounces off the surface.

Humans can detect sounds underwater as muffled, yet with little chance of understanding the sound source. On the other hand, fish will have their sound organs to hear, and the degree of this can appeal or repel them.

Deep bass is one tone that passes through the surface of the water. With this, you have a similar effect to knocking on the tank glass. Humans can feel something similar when standing in front of a bass speaker, and we feel the sound through our body and hear it.

How Can I Tell the Sound is Too Loud?

If you tapped on your aquarium, you would see a ripple on the water’s surface. With music, each ripple could be caused by the bass, and it is these that the fish can hear, and thus cause them to feel stressed.

A couple of things worth noting are that you could have angry neighbors depending on where you live because of the music before it hurts your fish.

Second, you would need to make sure your filter isn’t running to determine if you have ripples or not. You could also find here that music isn’t as much of an issue as you thought.

Hang on Back (HOB) filters create ripples in the water’s surface via the small waterfall they make. With this, there is quite a considerable amount of noise produced under the water.

Should you have above-average loudness of music, this could be drowned out by the sound of your aquarium filter. One thing many tank owners are unaware of, if the sound from the music is constant, then it may not bother the fish too much.

What bothers them is the sudden sounds they hear or feel. Hence, a tap on the glass startles them.

Noisy Places for Aquariums

To reduce chances of fish stress, you can keep your aquarium from areas in your home that could create too much noise and stress your fish.

Here is a rundown of places to make sure your aquarium isn’t situated if possible.

TVs and Speakers

Nowadays, there is more emphasis on TVs producing significant sound effects via a sound-bar or through speakers. You may think a stereo is the larger device for creating the base, yet TV shows and movies can have varying music levels based on the action on the screen.

You can go from a high-pitched sound that does not harm your fish to deep base music that can startle them when any action kicks in. Ensure your aquarium is away from these areas. At the very least, make sure your tank is out of a direct line to the sound source, as it can still face exposure to sound waves from across a room.


A doorway has nothing to do with loud music, yet if your doors are prone to slamming, this gives a sudden shock wave that can stress your fish more than your music.


Flooring can be substantial; however, you could live in a home with wooden flooring, or there are the chances of vibrations on your floors, such as if you live near to roads.

While such vibrations may not feel much to you, if your aquarium is positioned on a floor, there is nothing to cushion your tank’s base from the vibrations and thus create noise to stress your fish.

What Affects Sounds in Aquariums?

While you have seen that fish can indeed here via different means, and loud sounds can stress them out. However, there are a couple more factors that affect how such sounds can affect your aquarium.

Fish Size

While aquariums may not be a massive size, the size of your fish can differ. Larger fish feel the vibrations and water pressure differently from smaller fish.

In response, smaller fish will run and hide, and larger fish could find the noise as a threat and become aggressive. In each instance, it could stress them out and harm them. Besides this, larger fish have thicker skins, and it may take a considerably louder noise to shock them.

Aquarium Size

Finally, you need to consider the size of your aquarium. Smaller or shallower tanks amplify sound far easier than larger and deeper aquariums. Although, should you have speakers facing your aquarium, the sound waves will hit the glass head-on and create vibrations.

How to Tell Fish Are Stressed?

You can find many symptoms of stress in fish coming from things such as water condition, etc. You may not see your fish has lost their appetite because of your loud music, although you can find them hiding more than usual or frantically swimming around the tank.

You can also find fish gasping at the surface or extreme cases trying to jump from your tank.


If you have your aquarium in an area that is exposed to loud music all the time, you can either move it or consider turning the music down.

It has a simple solution, and should you carry on exposing your fish to loud music or leave your aquarium in an improper location. It may not be too long before you see more severe symptoms from stress emerging in your fish.