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Why Does My Betta Fish Stare at Me?

Have you just noticed that your betta fish has been staring at you the moment you came home? You walked around the house, poured water, and realized that your betta’s eyes were still on you?

Betta fish are sensitive to movement and will be aware of any activity going on outside of their tank. Over time they build a connection with their owner and begin to associate your presence with food. 

Fish behaviors can be confusing to understand, and more often than not, the answer is quite simple. Read on to learn the possible causes and understand the reason why your betta stares at you. 

Betta Fish Are Near-Sighted

Have you ever seen an old man with nearsightedness, squinting his eyes, staring at something for a long time, trying to figure out what is in front of him? That could be why you think your betta fish is staring at you!

The betta fish’s eyes are located on either side of their head, allowing them to see in two different directions at once. This is called monocular vision.

Due to this, they have no depth perception, which makes them near-sighted. They cannot see objects that are far away the same way that we do as humans.

Betta fish have multiple tiny holes from head to tail that contain fibers that pick up on vibrations, called the “lateral line”. This allows them to perceive depth by sensing the vibrations in the tank to approach an object that is further away.

This is the reason you shouldn’t tap on the tank. To fish, this feels like their entire body is vibrating. Similar to when you’re at a concert, and the music vibrates through your body. It becomes uncomfortable and causes the fish to stress. 

Do Betta Fish Recognize Their Owner?

Does your betta only stare at you? Or does he simply stare at anyone?

Betta fish have a small brain capacity, contributing to the idea that they are not intelligent. However, through experiments, scientists were able to determine that betta fish are capable of recognizing and remembering other fish and humans. Fish also use this skill to remember the placement of objects in their tank.

Using this skill, they can connect the faces they see to an action that follows. With more interaction comes more recognition, so spending more time with your fish allows them to build a stronger bond with you over time. 

Building a positive relationship with your betta is essential because they are smart enough to remember your face and recognize your presence. Although their connection with you is different from other pet-owner relationships, betta fish have their own unique way of communicating affection to their owner. 

Four Reasons Why Your Betta Fish Stares at You

They Think It’s Feeding Time

feeding time

Fish are intelligent creatures and can build associations with the stimuli around them. Classical conditioning is an unconscious process that occurs when a relevant stimulus is paired with a neutral stimulus.

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For example, the neutral stimulus is the owner approaching the tank, and the relevant stimulus is the fish being fed. Over time, the fish will develop the association between you approaching the tank and them getting fed, causing them to assume that they will be fed every time you come close to the tank.

The simple explanation to this question is that they think they are being fed! They are staring at you because they are anticipating a meal. Spending more time with your betta will allow you to understand their behavior better and determine whether they are hungry or just bored and want attention.

You Are Their Source of Entertainment 

Living in a confined environment, fish only have so much to observe before they become bored. They are drawn to any sudden changes, as the world they live in remains the same every day. The activity outside the tank is very interesting to them because it creates something new for your fish to observe. 

Bettas can still recognize changes in light and movement and spend a lot of time observing what’s going on outside the tank because that’s where they see the most stimulation.  They’re probably just focused on the activity, causing them to stare.

Some betta owners have even noticed that their fish watches their TV. We know that they can’t actually see or understand what’s happening on the TV, but it sure looks like they do! 

They Are Sensing Your Movements 

Betta fish are sensitive to movement, and your betta might just be sensing you walking around its tank. They lack depth perception due to their monocular vision. But thanks to their lateral line, they can feel the vibrations from the movement and are drawn to it. 

Being close to the tank will allow them to recognize your face, but if you are far away but still notice them staring, they are sensing your movements. Since they are very curious about their surroundings, they are just observing the changes happening outside their world. 

They Don’t Have Eyelids

They don’t close their eyes, so you think they’re staring at you! Ha!

Living in water, fish do not have to blink to add moisture to their eyes like us humans, and therefore, they do not have eyelids. It is also a fish’s instinct to always pay attention to what is going on in their environment for survival purposes.

Since their eyes are always open, they’re always aware of their surroundings and the things moving around them. All the fish knows is that something is moving, and they recognize it. Your fish may appear to be staring because they simply have no other option since they cannot close their eyes.

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What To Do When Your Betta is Staring at You

Given the information above, it is not uncommon to find your fish staring at you. Fish are very observant creatures and are drawn to any changes in stimuli in their day-to-day routine. You can do a few things to get them to stop staring, but it is essential to understand that staring doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with your fish. 

Feed Him

The simple fix is to feed your betta some fish flakes, as he is probably hungry or is anticipating getting fed. Approaching the tank indicates to the fish that there will be a meal due to the classical conditioning of the two stimuli, causing the association between you approaching the tank and being fed. 

If he continues to stare after feeding him, he’s just interested in what’s going on in your life. He may be bored and wants to interact with you for entertainment. Given the fish’s static environment, their entertainment lies in the changes that occur outside of the tank.

Keep Him Entertained

Fish live in a very simple environment with minimal stimulation, causing them to get bored quickly. You can teach your fish tricks like following your finger or jumping out of the water. Spending time in front of his tank giving him stimulation will help their boredom and prevent depression.

Keep him entertained

From personal experience of owning a betta fish, I placed a lava lamp close enough to his tank for him to see but far enough where it wouldn’t increase the water temperature. This gave him a constant source of ever-changing stimuli that cater to his ability to sense lighting and movement changes.

There are also enrichment toys you can purchase to keep your fish entertained. Floating logs and a floating exercise mirror are just a few of the toys you can buy for your betta, giving him a chance to experience something new.

The floating exercise mirror is an enrichment toy that exercises your fish by causing him to flare his fins. The fish will look in the mirror and flare his fins to protect his territory. This reduces boredom but should be used sparingly as prolonged use can stress out the fish and think it is in danger.

Redecorate The Tank

Since bettas are great at observing, they notice the layout of their home, memorizing where each decoration stands and recognizing when it changes. Switching up the decorations in the tank will give your betta something new to look at since their day-to-day routine remains relatively the same. 

Bettas have the ability to see in color, so adding more colorful aquarium plants and decorations will give them something pretty to look at. You can also purchase a leaf rest that suctions to the tank’s side, which can give your fish a different perspective and a new spot to relax where it’s easy to see what’s going on outside of the tank.