Does normal tank noise stress fish? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 5 Old 06-12-2012, 07:48 PM Thread Starter
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Does normal tank noise stress fish?

By noise I mean pumps, filters, airstones, etc? I bought a new filter and when I put my ear on the glass it is loud but with it unplugged the tank glass is nearly silent. We all know fish "hear" when someone taps on the glass or makes a sudden noise by them but does a steady drone of equipment stress them out to the point of illness or death? Is the sound I hear on the tank glass transmitted through the water, or simply around it on the glass?

When I plugged in the new pump the fish backed into a corner so tight it was head down, but came out some later after it the pump ran a few minutes.
Yes, I am serious about this question.
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post #2 of 5 Old 06-12-2012, 09:39 PM
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Does the loud old air conditioner or box fan in the middle of summer stress you out when your trying to sleep? Kinda but you get used to it pretty quickly and IMHO its the same for the fish, I'm sure there are some species that are very sound sensitive but as long as the noise levels are reasonable I dont see them getting stressed out after they adapt to it.

That would make sense. Haven't you heard? We make yogurt, not sense.

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post #3 of 5 Old 06-13-2012, 04:55 PM
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I have been wondering the same thing as I know that sometimes the filter pump drone sometimes annoys me when I'm trying to sleep, even though my filter is considered to be a quiet one! I'm only one month into my new fishkeeping hobby so I'm probably just being overly parental with my new babies

For background - I inherited my fish and tank from a neighbour who had to move out in an emergancy. The move was a disaster and traumatised the tank to the point half the population died
Since then the survivors (5 x Glass Bloodfin Tetra & 1 x Neon Tetra) have been constantly fighting and one dominant Bloodfin sits in the middle of the tank and bullies anyone that comes near it. The rest just sit each in their own corner alone and sulk. On a separate matter; I was also having trouble with the stream from the pump sinking all the flake food and driving it into the gravel before any of the fish could eat it - which was causing a large build up of rotting food.

As an experiment - I tried swiching the pump off before feeding so that they could get a decent chance of eating the food before it sinks. Instantly I noticed a change in their behaviour! The dominant Tetra stopped bullying and nipping. The loners came out of their corners. They started playing and investigating each other. They even started shoaling together for first time - even the lonley Neon was joining in!

I watched them like this for 2 hours then thought I'd better switch the filter back on - almost instantly they were all back in their designated corners with the dominant bully attacking everything nearby and the Neon sulking in a cave.

I have a 54 Litre tank and an Elite Stingray 15 in-tank filter (300 Litres/hour flow I think).
I did a water test and everything seems fine (Ammonia Nil, Nitrites Nil, Nitrates 40ppm, pH 7.9, Temp 27 oC)

Could the noise from the pump be effecting their behaviour? Maybe the water flow is too strong? Or could it just be purely down to stress from the death of half their social group? (or am I just being paranoid and reading too much into fish behaviour?).

(Sorry for the long post but I felt some background was needed)
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post #4 of 5 Old 06-13-2012, 04:58 PM
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I've no scientific data to support this, but I would tend to agree that continuous noise from filters, lights, pumps is something the fish likely get used to. No one has yet suggested we not use this equipment due to the stress they cause fish, so...

Sudden noise is another matter. The fish in your aquarium can "hear" the water running in your house pipes, when you turn on the tap or flush the toilet. But their sense of hearing is very different from what we think of as "hearing." Fish detect changes in water pressure and for this they use the lateral line system. Without getting too technical, there is a line of pores through which water enters into a small canal. Pressure changes cause the water in the canal to move, and nerve cells send impulses to the brain. This is highly sensitive and fast responding, which is how fish can chase each other at remarkable speeds without hitting objects or each other.

Pressure waves are generated by loud noises outside the tank, tapping on the glass, etc, and the fish "hears" these and reacts. Most of our fish are shoaling fish, and they have a heightened sense to noise. I have observed my fish reacting to a car door being closed across the street, when the room windows were closed. Noise from loud music, TV, etc can stress fish. These sorts of noise should be avoided.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

Last edited by Byron; 06-13-2012 at 05:01 PM.
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post #5 of 5 Old 06-13-2012, 05:22 PM
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It's not like there's no sound in the wild, so they must be able to adapt to some level. I too think it's more sudden noises.
My cories are sensitive, the lightest tap on the stand they're on sends them away, I think it's just a natural response, a prey animal wants to move away from sudden noises, yes it's some stress, but some stress is good and healthy, keeps both people and fish on their toes.
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