Acoustic signals are produced in many fish species during agonistic or courtship interactions. A way to test the biological role of these sounds is the use of acoustic playback experiments. However, sounds are usually associated with visual displays and playback experiments performed in fish so far, often failed to match acoustic and visual stimuli. To avoid this mismatch issue, we experimentally separated or coupled visual and acoustic channels to test the role of sounds produced during male–male aggressive interactions in a cichlid fish, Metriaclima zebra. Results show that aggressive behaviour is based on visual stimuli and that acoustic signals alone never trigger aggression. Furthermore, the association between visual and acoustic channels lowers the level of aggressiveness found when fish can only interact visually. This suggests that acoustic signals used during a dispute may complement visual displays to modulate males’ behaviour by reducing their aggressiveness and the risk of escalated fights.