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Do your fish recognise you as their owner?

Do your fish recognise you as their owner?

  • Based on my observations, fish do/may recognise their owner

    Votes: 10 76.9%
  • Fish don’t seem to recognise their owner, or don’t care to show

    Votes: 2 15.4%
  • Believe it or not, shrimp are even smarter than fish, but tend to hide their feelings 😝

    Votes: 1 7.7%
  • Other …..please comment below

    Votes: 2 15.4%

  • Total voters
    13

Yugang

Member
Joined
13 Mar 2021
Messages
341
Location
Hong Kong
I have a weird question, but hey ... it's weekend 😊

My tank is placed in a central part of my home, with schools of tetras, rasboras and otto. Fish do notice when I get really close to their tank, many times each day, but mostly continue undisturbed with what keeps a fish busy in daily life.

Now here is my observation. When a ‘stranger’ comes over, takes a few minutes to observe my tank, it seems almost as if fish behave differently. More closely schooling and more attentive. Or is this my imagination?

I hope a quick poll will bring some clarity here, the more votes the better will be the relevance of our collective observation.

Note: I will tick the first box, they may recognise me, as I truly believe that is what I am observing. This leaves me confused, as I estimate the tiny brain of my cardinal tetra a few hundred milligram, give or take, and see no evolutionary benefit of prioritizing the development of facial recognition skills for those tiny brains. Looking forward to learn if I am alone with my confusion.
 

seedoubleyou

Member
Joined
29 Mar 2022
Messages
419
Location
Windsor
Would be interesting to know if there’s a science behind it, does it go deeper than recognition of appearance. Is it more linked with the vibration created as we approach the tank, does each person create a different a vibration when walking/moving and the fish can recognise the one that usually means food.
 

john6

Member
Joined
23 Mar 2022
Messages
178
Location
Scunthorpe
My Discus definitely recognise me, though i dont think its affection, i think its they think they are going to get some food, if i dont feed them in 2 minutes they tend to wander off and just do their thing.
Oscars also recognise their owners, but again its probably more to do with food than anything else.
 

Yugang

Member
Thread starter
Joined
13 Mar 2021
Messages
341
Location
Hong Kong
My Discus definitely recognise me, though i dont think its affection, i think its they think they are going to get some food, if i dont feed them in 2 minutes they tend to wander off and just do their thing.
Oscars also recognise their owners, but again its probably more to do with food than anything else.
Thank you. Just for my understanding, does this indeed mean that they associate you with the food, and would not show same reaction to a 'stranger'?

I feed at fixed times on the day, so at different times my fish get not too excited when they see me. When they see a 'stranger' however they seem to do, but more out of caution. Again, for my tiny fish I am still doubtfull if this can be true.
 
Last edited:

Simon Cole

Member
Joined
25 Dec 2018
Messages
677
Location
Buckingham
My bettas used to watch me as I walked around the room. I would often move them to other aquariums nearby so that they had the feeling that they were exploring the house and had a wider habitat range. An aquarium is just a submarine for fish.
They reacted very differently to different live foods, new plants, companions, and hardscape changes, and would watch what you were doing and investigate for approval. they get jealous if you do not work on their tank and they see you in a neighbours tank first. They certainly enjoy water changes. Bettas only really react to their owners. You need to spend a few hours with them each day like you would with a cat or small child. They fall in love with you and I always feel the same way back. They listen for your voice and enjoy a good discussion.
If you want the documentary Seaspiracy, the experts at the end put up good arguments for why fish feel pain and emotion, and most of them refuse to eat fish due to the suffering it causes.
Since watching that documentary I stopped angling and became increasingly vegetarian. When I saw the film Okja, I realised the benefits of lab grown meats.
 
Joined
12 Mar 2022
Messages
177
Location
England
I don't think my fish recognise me in particular, just the person who feeds them but they are aware of the time.
I'm the only one they see regularly, the tanks are in the room I work in which is virtually off-limits to everyone including the cats (apart from regular tea deliveries)!
When I was putting together the 25l at Christmas the male ram spent all day peering over my shoulder, watching as the two tanks were at 90⁰ to each other so he had an interest in what I was doing.
I'm sure goldfish all crowd into those glass towers in ponds 'to see what it's like outside'!
I'm vegetarian, the only thing I will eat with eyes are potatoes.
I'm sure fish feel fear, pain & they have curiosity about things round them that are outside the confines of the tank, sorry for going a bit off topic!
 

Garuf

Member
Joined
30 Oct 2007
Messages
5,562
Location
Copenhagen
It seems species dependent, gourami and pea puffers definitely can tell who is who and who to beg for.
Endlers think everyone will give them dinner.
Cpd are by observation very clever in how they hunt but I don’t think they recognise people so much.
 

kayjo

Member
Joined
3 Nov 2021
Messages
82
Location
New England, US
Would be interesting to know if there’s a science behind it, does it go deeper than recognition of appearance. Is it more linked with the vibration created as we approach the tank, does each person create a different a vibration when walking/moving and the fish can recognise the one that usually means food.
My African fish do react differently when I approach. Others, not so much. I have assumed the recognize my gate / movements. They definitely seem to know that I'm the one that feeds them. When my pair of compressiceps see me coming they swim to the same spot near the surface every time and wait for food.
 

mort

Member
Joined
15 Nov 2015
Messages
2,104
I think it depends on the fish. Predators are definitely more intelligent (as you'd expect) than your average simple schooler. Cichlids are the same and can recognise the owner. Other fish just have a really strong body clock and are used to routine. Even my simple fish recognise that my ugly mug is more likely to feed them than anyone else.
 

sparkyweasel

Member
Joined
30 Jun 2011
Messages
2,437
Any-one interested in this area should read What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe. Lots of good information, but an easy read.
 

Yugang

Member
Thread starter
Joined
13 Mar 2021
Messages
341
Location
Hong Kong
They reacted very differently to different live foods, new plants, companions, and hardscape changes, and would watch what you were doing and investigate for approval. they get jealous if you do not work on their tank and they see you in a neighbours tank first. They certainly enjoy water changes. Bettas only really react to their owners. You need to spend a few hours with them each day like you would with a cat or small child. They fall in love with you and I always feel the same way back. They listen for your voice and enjoy a good discussion.
This is really an eye opener for me, thank you. I never kept anything else than very small schooling fish, shrimps and snails, and am intrigued and inspired reading how much more other fish can bring to their keeper. Need more fish whispering 😊

Would be interesting to know if there’s a science behind it, does it go deeper than recognition of appearance.
I think it depends on the fish. Predators are definitely more intelligent (as you'd expect) than your average simple schooler

This makes me think that my school of cardinal tetras may not be capable of true facial recognition, but simply triggers on my nose and glasses 🤓
I found an article however, Fish can recognize human faces, study shows , that reports that indeed archerfish, hunters spitting water droplets at their prey, are remarkable:
The researchers found that fish, which lack the sophisticated visual cortex of primates, are nevertheless capable of discriminating one face from up to 44 new faces. The research provides evidence that fish (vertebrates lacking a major part of the brain called the neocortex) have impressive visual discrimination abilities.
 

mort

Member
Joined
15 Nov 2015
Messages
2,104
I think someone mentioned above that fish can recognise foot steps and this is definitely something I've witnessed. They seem to know the vibrations caused by the one that feeds them unless we are misinterpreting what we see. Fish can have learned behaviour as seen when they wait below auto feeders when they know they will go off soon, or when they know that they get fed when the pumps go off but I don't think your average tetra needs to recognise much (hence their, if it moves and I don't recognise it, leg it approach to life).

My pencilfish (more like a cichlid behaving tetra in my experience) are far more inquisitive than cardinals, neons etc. This might be because they have a stricter social hierarchy than other tetras that simply spend their time congregating in order not to be lunch. I don't know if you can call it intelligence but they do come to the front when I feed.

With marines lots of fish recognise their owner and come to be fed but very few have a strong interaction. I'm a lover of halichoeres wrasse and whenever I was working in the tank, they would be constantly around my fingers looking for any live food I might disturb. This behaviour has been seen in the wild where they follow larger fish but I don't know whether it's intelligence or instinct, or if there is a difference. Trigger fish like some large cichlids seem to play with their owner, I've had water squirted at me by several triggerfish and big fish can definitely have "personalities".
 
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