Listen carefully, is that your goldfish telling you its time to feed her? Pet owners have been verbally bossed around by their dogs and cats for centuries, but did you know that your goldfish might also be chirping in? Actually, research into the question of fish communicating has been ongoing for years and the findings are now loud and clear, fish talk and we’re listening.

goldfish bowl fish talk and we're listening In, conservation marineShahriman Ghazali of the University of Auckland reported back in 2010 that: “All fish can hear, but not all can make sound — pops and other sounds made by vibrating their swim bladder, a muscle they can contract.” Fish appear to do this for a variety of reasons; for example damselfish make sounds to scare off predators, other fish might use sounds to attract a mate.

Not all fish use sound to communicate. Cod are pretty silent, and you’re out of luck if trying to strike up a conversation with your goldfish. They are silent on the subject.


Recent Research is Telling

fish burt jones fish talk and we're listening in schooling fish marine life conservation

All of this piped up in the news with a report that Ana Sirovic, an oceanographer at Scripps and her team, have been recording fish sounds off La Jolla, California for several years. Sirovic reaffirmed that fish do make sounds by oscillating their swim bladder, and like crickets rubbing their legs together, some fish noisily rub together the bones in their fins.  That was the easy part, what was more difficult was to determine which fish were making which noises. (photo – Burt Jones)

So, they set out to build some new equipment that would answer exactly that question. By using a combination of underwater cameras and microphones, Sirovic “can localize each sound…determine the location, where it is, and then…look at the camera picture…to see what was in that area.”

To narrow down the variety of fish in a location, they recently moved their equipment into the kelp tank of the Birch Aquarium. This allowed them to record the sounds coming from a limited number of species.


These results have great implications for marine conservation

If a particular species of fish is known to make certain sounds during spawning, researchers can use that data to determine when and where breeding is occurring. They can then alert fisheries as to what precautions they need to take and can help determine where marine protected areas are needed to protect those spawning areas.

By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network


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