Effects of aquarium anthropogenic noise on Astatotilapia burtoni

Adult male Astatotilapia burtoni. Photo from http://www.african-cichlid.com/.

If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you’re probably aware of my disdain for extraneous, anthropogenic (man made) noises in aquariums. Such noises occur in the natural environments (boat motors, industrial machinery) of many cichlids. Eliminating such noises is unrealistic. Reducing them is not. I used to have a sister blog called The Bio Stage (it’s coming back, btw). In that blog, I often wrote about the effects of anthropogenic noise on cetaceans (e.g., dolphins and whales).

Like in a cichlid’s natural environment, eliminating anthropogenic noise from aquaria is unrealistic but reducing it is not. Our aquariums incur numerous noises (filters, air pumps, etc.) that are exacerbated because of the small, enclosed space. Sound dissipates over distance. In a fish tank, sound has no where to go so it bounces off the glass until the signal degrades. I won’t revisit my previous posts on anthropogenic noise in aquariums but you can read them here:

Because of my significant interest in anthropogenic fish tank noise, I am a follower of Karen Maruska’s research. She’s a faculty member at Louisiana State University (LSU) where she researches noise effects on cichlid social behavior. I did an interview with her back in 2017.

She just published (along with co-author Julie Butler) a new paper titled “Underwater noise impairs social communication during aggressive and reproductive encounters,” in the journal Animal Behavior. Experimenting with Astatotilapia burtoni, Maruska and Butler introduced tonal noises of specific frequency ranges in aquaria to observe effects on certain social behaviors. They found that higher frequencies negatively affect both stress and reproductive behavior in this beautiful little haplochromine cichlid.

Unless you have access to academic journals, you might not be able to read the full paper. You can find it here – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003347220300816. It is a fascinating study, and I would encourage you to read the paper if you can get access to it.


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