Can Catfish Make Noise?

Have you ever thought:

  • Can Catfish Make Noise?
  • Why Do Catfish Make Noise?

Short: Catfish do not have vocal cords, so they are unable to make any noise.

Can Catfish Make Noise?

Catfish are silent creatures and do not make noise. They move their bodies and feel with special parts to find their way in dark water.

Types of catfish have cool ways of making sounds:

  • Rubbing Noises: Some catfish make noise by rubbing their bony face and head plates together. It’s like they’re making a sound like crickets.
  • Squeaky Upside-Down Catfish: Upside-down catfish have a cool way of making a “squeaking” noise. They rub the smooth side of their fin against a rough surface.
  • Drumming Armored Catfish: Male suckermouth armored catfish are interesting. They use special muscles to make a loud drumming sound by vibrating their swim bladder. They do this to attract mates and keep rivals away.
  • Catfish Choir: Some catfish have special muscles that vibrate against the swim bladder, creating different sounds like hums, clicks, or purring cat sounds.

Why Do Catfish Make Noise?

Catfish make noise as a form of communication. Catfish use their swim bladder to make sounds for talking, protecting territory, finding mates, and scaring off threats.

Few Reasons:

  • Talking to Each Other: Catfish communicate using sounds like grunts, clicks, and squeaks. They do this to show affection, warn about dangers, or claim their space.
  • In Trouble: When catfish struggle or are caught, they might make noise unintentionally. This happens as air moves quickly over their gills and body parts. It’s a sign of distress, like when they’re attacked by predators or caught by fishermen.

  • Mealtime: Some catfish make chattering or clicking sounds while eating. This might help stir up sediment to find food, locate prey using echolocation, or coordinate group feeding.
  • Love Sounds: Male catfish create drumming or vibrating sounds when it’s time to mate. This helps attract females and fertilize eggs. The sounds are unique to each species.

How do Catfish Make Noise?

Catfish do not possess vocal cords, so they are unable to make traditional types of noise. But they can create sounds by bubble emission, body parts vibration, and teeth chattering.

Ways to make noise:

  • Stridulation: Some catfish rub their bony plates or fin spines together, creating squeaky or grinding noises. It’s like they have their version of rubbing two sticks together.
  • Drumming Swim Bladders: Certain catfish shake their swim bladders rapidly, acting like a drum. This resonant drumming sound is often part of their mating rituals and comes from specialized vibrating muscles.
  • Bubble Emission: Catfish can suck in air and quickly blow out bubbles, creating popping and squeaking sounds. They even make bubble rings and trails using this method, showcasing their bubble-blowing skills.
  • Body Parts Vibration: Quick movements of fins, tails, mouths, and gills create water movement that produces clicks, squeaks, and buzzes. Distressed catfish often use this method to make noise.

What Sound Does a Catfish Make?

Catfish make different sounds such as grunting, drumming, and teeth grinding.

Common sounds include:

  • Grunting: Catfish can produce low grunting sounds, similar to a pig, especially when caught or distressed. These grunts come from their gills and other body mechanisms.
  • Drumming: Bullhead and channel catfish make rapid drumming or vibrating sounds during spawning. They use special muscles to vibrate their swim bladder, creating a drumroll, like an engine rumbling.
  • Stridulation: Some catfish create squeaking, creaking, or rattling noises by rubbing parts of their skeleton together, like pectoral spines and skull plates. This is often used to communicate territorial boundaries.
  • Bubble Emission: Catfish can suck in air and blow bubbles, creating popping squeaks. They use bubble streams and rings during courtship displays.
  • Teeth Grinding: While feeding, catfish grind and rattle their pharyngeal teeth together, producing crackling and clicking sounds as they process and crush food along the bottom.
  • Thrashing: When caught by fishermen or fleeing from predators, catfish make loud splashing, whooshing, and distress sounds using their tails, and fins, and by gulping water.

Do Catfish Make Noise at Night?

Yes, catfish can make noise at night. 

Reasons for their noises:

  • Spawning Rituals: Male catfish often create loud drumming or humming sounds with their swim bladders when attracting females during spawning rituals. These mating-related noises can occur year-round or during specific breeding seasons.
  • Feeding: Catfish produce various clicking, grinding, and gulping sounds as they forage along the dark bottoms of lakes and rivers for prey at night. Some catfish even jump out of the water, gulping air and making splashes during their feeding activities.
  • Distress Calls: When threatened or caught by predators or fishermen, catfish emit grunts, squeaks, and distress calls at night. These reactions can be quite noisy.

What Fish is Noisy?

Noisy fishes are grunting catfish, drumming catfish, triggerfish, and singing fish.

  • Grunting Catfish: Certain catfish species, like the brown bullhead, make pig-like grunting noises, especially when distressed. This sound comes from gulping air through their gills.
  • Drumming Catfish: Channel catfish and others produce a deep throbbing sound by rapidly vibrating muscles that affect their swim bladder, creating a drumroll effect.
  • Triggerfish: These fish make loud popping and clicking sounds by locking their jaws and vibrating a tooth-like spine against their skull. This behavior is often used to fend off competitors.
  • Singing Fish: The Siamese fighting fish or betta produces bubbly chirping noises underwater by expelling air from its mouth and body. Males sing during aggressive displays by flaring their gills.
  • Grunting Toadfish: Emitting loud foghorn or machine-like grunting noises, the grunting toadfish contracts specialized swim bladder muscles. This serves to attract mates and defend territories.
  • Atlantic Croaker: This fish earned its name from the loud croaking and popping noises it generates, particularly during spawning seasons as a part of courtship displays.
  • Whistling Catfish: The Amazonian catfish can whistle underwater using its swim bladder.

Read More: 

  1. Do Catfish Have Teeth?
  2. What Do Catfish Eat?
  3. Why Are Blue Catfish a Problem?
  4. When Blue Catfish Become Blue?
  5. Can Catfish Live Without an Air Pump?

Sources: science direct


Why is my fish making noises?

Fish can make noises for various reasons, such as when they are stressed, sick, or breeding. Some fish species also produce sounds to communicate or establish territory. 

Does noise attract catfish?

Noise does not typically attract catfish as they are more sensitive to vibration and movement in the water.

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