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Betta fish are some of the most beautiful creatures to keep in a home aquascape. How their fins flow when they swim around along with tendency to frolic and play are indicators of how intelligent this species is. Once they establish in the tank, some aquarists notice that their betta seemingly acknowledges them speaking.
Which brings up an interesting question, “Can betta fish hear?” Yes, they can. They have a set of tiny holes that allows them to sense noise. Hearing is a part of that. However, it’s not acute and they can’t make out specific words. So, it’s a little more complicated than it would be for a person, cat or dog.
The way a betta hears is not crystal clear. This is because of how water dampers sound. But bettas must be able to hear, it’s part of what protects them in the wild from potential predators.
How Are Betta Fish Able to Hear?
Betta fish are able to hear via the holes, which sit on either side of their head in a similar way as people’s ear. But these are tiny holes consisting of a single channel covered by layer of a very thin skin. Ergo, they aren’t immediately visible to the naked eye.
Another component to their hearing, however, is their swim bladder. It interacts with the sensory parts within the ear by way of vibration. These vibrations are what occur around the fish as well as what travels through the water.
What Do Betta Fish Actually Hear?
While there aren’t any scientific studies to verify what betta fish actually hear, there are some things we can surmise based on educated guesses. They more than likely hear vibration and/or muffled noise. This is probably due to how they’re in the water.
It’s entirely possible that the volume level of the noise or vibration a betta fish hears will indicate distance. Something like this would make sense, since it would allow them to evaluate how close a potential predator might be.
Do Betta Fish Have a Large Auditory Range?
Because there aren’t many available studies on the subject, it’s difficult to say with certainty that betta fish have a large auditory range. Some aquarists claim they do, as indicated by the way the fish behaves at even the smallest amount of noise outside of the tank.
However, some scientists and fish keepers question this due to how the water provides a natural buffer to sound clarity. Having said all that, it is true that vibration passes through water much faster than air. So, it is entirely possible the betta will have a certain sensitivity to even the lightest sounds.
Can Betta Fish Hear; Enjoy Music?
While betta fish can hear music, it’s not the same way as we hear it. It’s probable that they interpret it as ambient noise from outside their environment. Indeed, bettas will even pick up on rhythms that come from the water filter or any other equipment within its environment.
When they hear something, they convert the sound in their brains to decode it. However, they do not have the mental ability or acuity to identify or distinguish the song or rhythm. So, they cannot actually enjoy music.
However, if you peruse some online forums, a few individual bettas seem to swim happily about during certain songs. Well, at least that’s what their keepers claim. There really is no video or other documented evidence to trust such a phenomenon.
Will Loud Music Bother Betta Fish?
Never play any kind of music loudly outside of a betta fish’s aquarium. Also, don’t yell, use noisy equipment or any other activity that will affect the peace of the tank. Any amount of loud noises, especially sudden ones, will cause them massive amounts of stress.
Stress is a major killer for betta fish because it has the capacity to lower their immunity. This is especially true if left stressed out for too long. Lowered immunity can result in a host of health issues including diseases, bacterial infections and parasites.
Can Noise from Aquarium Equipment be too Loud for Betta Fish?
Unfortunately, sometimes aquarium equipment can be too loud for a betta fish. Just like any noise from outside the tank, these can cause your fish to stress out. And, because it’s a continuous noise, will likely create a lowered immunity issue for the betta.
Things like water pumps, filters, agitators and motor-activated décor has the potential to be too loud. If you know you keep the environment around the tank tranquil and peaceful, check the equipment you’re using to see if it’s too noisy for your betta.
Simply observe your fish, briefly turn them off for about 10 minutes and then turn them back on. If you notice an improvement or change in behavior, you may have to get new equipment. It might seem tedious and expensive, but it’s the only way to ensure the betta will be happy and stress-free.
If They Only Hear Noise, Should You Give a Name ; Say It to a Betta Fish?
Even though bettas only hear noise, it’s definitely worth giving them a name and saying it. However, because they only interpret sound as noise, it’s a good idea to give them a name with one syllable but no more than two.
For instance, it’s much better to name your fish Sam, Sally, Lily or Mike. Avoid names like Archibald, Veronica, Jennifer or Ulysses. Also, when you do say their name, say it in the same tone with inflection. This is a good way to help them recognize you.
Will a Betta Fish Recognize Their Owner by Voice?
Yes, a betta fish will recognize their owner by the sound of voice. This can happen by saying their name every time you feed them. However, there is a limit to how cognizant they are to recognize an owner’s voice on its own merit.
This will come from a combined effort in using the voice along with associated behaviors and bonding. Understand, however, this will take several months to achieve. The more familiar a betta fish becomes with their owner, the likelihood increases that they’ll be able to recognize their voice.
Saying their name while feeding them at the same time every day will help them recognize their owner. So, this is more about association than voice recognition. Spending 10 to 20 minutes per day near the tank and being consistent with feeding are the only surefire ways to encourage their acknowledgment.
What Is the Best Way to Capture a Betta’s Attention with Sound?
The best way to capture a betta’s attention with sound, aside from using voice, is to either clap or snap your fingers immediately outside the aquarium. Do not, under any circumstances, tap, knock or shake the tank to get a betta’s attention. Doing any of these will not glean the desired results.
Banging on the tank will only make the betta, and any other inhabitants, nervous and stressed. It will force the fish to be afraid of you and associate the pounding as a reason to be shy, complete with hiding.
Is There a Way to Train Betta Fish to Do Tricks?
If your betta is receptive to your voice and it noticeably recognizes you, there’s a chance you can train it to do certain tricks. However, this will take a lot of time, dedication, patience, repetition and persistence. Even then, you may not be entirely successful but it might be fun to try.
You can train your betta to follow your finger, swim through hoops, puff itself up or even jump. However, you will need some treats like freeze-dried bloodworms. They will associate certain interactions knowing there’s a reward at the end. For complex tricks, investing in a training ring will be ideal.
- Follow Your Finger: Begin by snapping your fingers or clapping outside the tank (pick one for this particular trick, do not change it) while simultaneously saying the fish’s name. Once it gets their attention, move your finger in front of the glass until the fish follows.
- Swim through Hoops: Ensure the hoop is clean and aquarium-safe before placing it inside. Using their ability to follow your finger, put the hoop against the glass and get the betta to follow your finger through the hoop.
- Puff Itself Up: This one is specific to male bettas. Because they’re territorial, they puff themselves up to intimidate their opposition. So, you can use a mirror for this trick and get the betta to see its own reflection. However, you should have a marker or a pen so when the betta puffs, you can switch out the mirror for the pen.
- Jump: For this, do it when the fish is hungry and not when full of food. Hold a bit of food about an inch from the tank’s surface, but start close to the surface until the betta understands what you have. Ensure the environment is quiet and that you don’t make any jerky moves.