At some point in their lives, a pet owner will ask themselves the question, “Does my little buddy like my music?”. While this question may be presented towards a dog, cat, or lizard, it is occasionally directed at a betta fish. Then the pet owner may think, “Well, do they even have ears to hear my music with?”.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive evidence that states whether betta fish enjoy music. Betta fish have ears and a good sense of hearing. While they do not have the phenomenal hearing, and the water limits the effectiveness of their sense of hearing, it is possible for them to listen to noises outside of their tank, whether that be music or voices. However, if they are too close to noises with strong vibrations, you may cause damage to your fish without even realizing it.
In this article, we will discuss ears, music, excess vibrations, training your fish, and recognizing their owner.
While you may not see ears when you look at a betta fish, they do, in fact, have ears. Their ears are small pits on the sides of their heads covered by a thin layer of skin. Even though the skin covers and protects their ears from the water around them, the water still has a strong impact on their hearing.
Sound moves four times faster in water than in air, but it is also more difficult to make a sound underwater. If you have ever screamed underwater in a pool, it isn’t nearly as loud as it would be if you screamed in the air. In the same manner, if you heard someone else scream near you but your head was underwater, it wouldn’t be as loud as it could be if your head was above water.
In a similar manner, while a betta fish does have a good sense of hearing, it is still difficult for them to hear everything going on outside of their tank. Despite this, it is possible for your betta to recognize certain words and phrases you say, though they are unlikely to learn to recognize their names.
They use their ears primarily to avoid predators in the wild, as they can occasionally hear them approaching before it is too late. They can also use their sense of hearing to locate prey, and hopefully, sneak up on said prey without being heard.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive evidence that states whether or not betta fish enjoy music, or if they do, whether they prefer pop, country, or rock. On the other hand, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that states bettas prefer one type of music over the other.
While we cannot tell you that they love or hate music, betta fish do react to it. Some will flare at certain types of music, others will swim more frequently, some will become more aggressive, and still, others will be more still and calm than normal.
The genre preferences seem to vary from fish to fish, as can be expected from such an intelligent and personable species. However, all bettas will hate certain types of music, especially those with high amounts of base or very loud parts.
Sudden loud noises can shock anyone, even your fish. Since they do not understand rhythm and cannot anticipate a beat drop, every loud beat will stress betta. As you may imagine, constant stress is not a good thing and should be avoided.
In addition to loud noises, some songs have far too many vibrations to be played for fish. Fish are extremely sensitive to vibrations, which is why tapping on the glass is harmful; it is not the noise of someone tapping on the glass, but rather the loud vibrations rippling through the tank that causes an issue.
Betta fish have what is called a “lateral line”, which is a line of pressure sensitive receptors going across their bodies in, well, a lateral line. These sensors are highly tuned to find any slight vibration in the water. They act as a fish’s eyes in the dark and let fish swim around and avoid decorations, and one another, as they would when they can see.
Sudden vibrations, loud vibrations, or constant vibrations can all interfere with a fish’s ability to use this sense. Without this sense, they will be left blind at night, which would cause them to run into decorations, possibly injuring themselves in the process.
Prolonged vibrations can also cause extreme stress to fish, and when it comes to bettas, it can make them jump out of tanks. While all bettas are jumpers, once they are exposed to constant vibrations, they will make it their mission to get away from those vibrations by any means necessary.
Since they can recognize noises outside of aquariums, whether that be music or their owners’ voice, this doesn’t mean they can passively listen to just anything. As previously discussed, some sounds can be downright harmful to your fish, especially loud ones or ones that cause excessive vibrations.
Training Your Fish
Betta fish are extremely intelligent for fish, which is part of the reason for their popularity. They are also one of the top choices in terms of fish that can be trained. While most trainable fish are only trained through repetitive actions, betta fish can be trained with vocal commands.
By repeating a word, or a short series of words, with an accompanying action, your betta fish will learn to associate that action with your words. While they will simply hear random noises instead of words, they will soon come to understand those noises as having some meaning.
For example, as previously mentioned, bettas cannot learn that their names are meant for them. This does not mean that it is impossible to train a betta to come when you call them. Simply call your betta’s name a few times while feeding them, and they will begin to associate the noises that make up their name with food.
This way, you can trick your betta into thinking its chow time whenever their name is called, prompting them to rush over when you call them. Bettas have long memories, lasting several months, so once they have associated their name with food, you do not have to repeatedly train and reteach them.
Recognizing Their Owner
Betta fish are also able to recognize the face of their owners, and will respond more positively to their owner’s face than other people’s faces, but does the same hold true for their owner’s voice? There is no concrete evidence supporting this theory one way or another, but there is a possibility that bettas can recognize their owners based on their voices alone.
They do show a stronger reaction to their owner’s voice than other voices, though this could be due to them simply understanding their owner’s better. Since they react based on sounds rather than full words, they may not recognize the same word when multiple different people state it.
Given their high intelligence, strong memory, and ability to recognize their owners’ face, there is a good chance that they are able to recognize their owner’s voice as well. Their sense of hearing does not have as much research as their sense of sight, but we may soon have definitive answers to this question.
In conclusion, betta fish are able to hear through their ears, even though their ears are not visible to the outside world. It is not currently possible to prove whether or not bettas like or dislike music, or if they do, which genres most bettas like. However, we do know that bettas do not like loud or sudden noises or any noises accompanied by vibrations. By limiting the amount of noise with vibrations and sudden loud noises, your betta will live a perfect life.