I remember the first time I noticed my betta fish staring at me. My ten-month-old betta had been in the aquarium for about two days, so I attributed it to the novelty of having a new pet. However, as time passed, I learned that there many reasons why betta fish stare at their owners.
Betta fish typically stare at their owners because they perceive them as food providers. As it anticipates food, your betta will naturally stare at you as you approach its tank. However, bettas are also nearsighted, meaning that the fish might be merely checking blurred movements outside its tank.
As we move forward, I will show you what steps you should take if you notice that your betta fish consistently stares at you. Then, I’ll discuss whether betta fish get excited to see you and whether they can actually like you.
Also Read: Facts About Bettas
Why Does My Betta Fish Stare At Me?
People keep fish because they want to observe the creatures as they explore their aquatic environment. But what happens when a betta fish flips the script? What if it starts watching you?
Betta fish are not malicious, and their staring should not frighten you, not when the behavior has so many reasonable explanations, including:
1. Your Betta Fish Is Sleeping
Every aquarist knows that fish don’t have eyelids. But they have probably never stopped to consider what the absence of eyelids means. Betta fish cannot blink or close their eyes.
Just because the betta is facing your general direction doesn’t mean the creature is staring at you. For all you know, the betta is fast asleep. Again, fish don’t have eyelids.
That doesn’t change just because they have fallen asleep. Their eyes remain open at all times. However, when they drift off to sleep, their motions become sluggish.
2. The Betta Fish Can’t See You Properly
Fish have sophisticated visual behaviors. Despite what some people think; they can see color. However, even though they can look in both directions simultaneously, fish are somewhat vulnerable in this area because they are nearsighted.
Have you ever seen a nearsighted person without glasses or contact lenses? They respond to movement like any other person. However, because their vision is impaired, they spend a lot of time staring at distant objects because they cannot discern what they are looking at.
Betta fish are the same. They use tiny holes with fibers along their bodies to track vibrations, perceiving depth in the process. But if they notice you, they may stare because you are too far for the fish to perceive clearly.
3. Your Betta Fish Recognizes You
Fish are not stupid. They are more than capable of recognizing their owners. You can even play with your bettas. In a way, they are no different from terrestrial pets.
If your relationship with the bettas in your aquarium is strong, they are more likely to stare at you when you enter the room. They want your attention. In some cases, your betta fish may even flare its gills to impress you.
4. Your Betta Perceives You As Its Food Provider
Have you ever stopped to wonder why some aquarists overfeed their fish? In many cases, it isn’t intentional. They think they have to feed their bettas whenever the creatures demand food.
They don’t realize that some fish won’t stop asking for food, no matter how much they’ve already eaten. If you continue to feed them, they will keep eating. Eventually, the bettas will learn to associate your presence with food. They will stare until you feed them.
This doesn’t happen every time. Some fish will only stare at lunchtime because that is when you add food to the tank. But if you have a reputation for feeding the fish whenever you appear, your bettas will grow to expect food when they see you, regardless of the time of day or night.
5. Bettas Are Drawn To Motion
For many fish, the activities they observe outside the tank are a source of entertainment. Because their environment doesn’t change, they are more likely to respond to the activities they detect outside the tank.
If you’re part of those activities, they will stare at you. Like many animals, betta fish are drawn to motion and changes in light. If you have a TV in the room, the bettas will stare at the screen.
Unless you have one of those ultraviolet TV displays researchers developed a while ago; the betta fish don’t understand what they see. But that won’t keep them from staring.
6. You Have Created Water Vibrations
Betta fish are nearsighted, but they can still detect motion using the lateral line, a series of cells along the skin. However, the lateral line only detects water vibrations. They can’t use this attribute to identify motion outside the tank.
That being said, they are not blind. Even with their nearsightedness, they can still detect basic motion in the room. If you enter the room, you will draw their attention.
Depending on the nature of your movements, you may generate enough vibrations to disturb the water, allowing the bettas to sense you before they even see you.
Regardless of how or why they took note of you, your movements will eventually capture their attention. They will continue to stare at you out of curiosity.
What Should I Do If My Betta Fish Stares At Me?
As was noted earlier, a staring betta fish shouldn’t frighten you. At the end of the day, this is rarely a sign of trouble. But if you want the betta to stop looking at you, try the following:
1. Consider A Larger Aquarium
As I previously discussed, bettas require at least 5 gallons. Some fish stare at their owners out of curiosity. Others stare out of the tank because their aquatic environment is too small and boring.
Buy a larger tank and decorate it with caves, driftwood, pots, and the like. Create an attractive environment that encourages the bettas to spend their days exploring instead of staring out at you.
2. Ensure The Water Conditions Are Suitable
Some people believe that their fish stare when the conditions in the aquarium deteriorate. They are convinced that a betta’s stare is a means of communication, a way of letting you know that their aquarium is a miserable place.
You won’t find much in the way of evidence to prove this claim. The idea comes from various aquarists’ testimonials about fish that started staring at them to communicate their misery.
If this applies to you, the solution is to improve the betta’s conditions. You can do that by installing a heater to maintain the correct temperature, adding a filter, changing the water regularly to combat ammonia spikes, vacuuming the substrate, etc.
As I discussed in this article, sometimes the alarming sign is actually a betta fish that stays in one spot. If your betta fish stares at you and doesn’t move, it could be that the water conditions aren’t suitable. In this case, the lack of movement is the key problem.
These are the ideal water parameters for betta fish:
- Temperature: 75°-81°F (23.8°-27.2°C)
- pH: 6.5-7.5
- GH: 3-4 dGH (50-66.7 ppm)
- KH: 3-5 dKH (53.6- 89.4 ppm)
- Ammonia: 0 ppm
- Nitrites: 0 ppm.
- Nitrates: <20 ppm
To measure the pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites, I highly recommend the API Water Test Kit (link to Amazon). That is probably the most accurate bundle out there. It also lasts for eight hundred measures, making it highly cost-effective.
Also Read: Can I Use Blue Light In My Betta Fish Tank?
3. Feed Your Betta Fish Twice A Day
If the betta is staring at you because it wants food, you can’t solve this problem by giving the fish more food. You should feed the betta twice a day, at the most. If the fish has already eaten twice, don’t give it more food regardless of how much it stares.
Try to maintain a regular schedule that allows you to feed the betta at the same time each day. If you don’t have a regular feeding schedule and the betta hasn’t eaten in a long time, add food to the tank.
You shouldn’t rely on the betta to tell you when it is hungry. But beginners with irregular feeding schedules do not always remember when they last fed their fish. In such situations, you have no choice but to feed a betta staring at you.
If you feel unsure about how to feed your betta fish properly, make sure to check this article that I’ve written. I primarily discussed flakes as a food source, although I also listed the best betta fish food from best to worst. Then, I answered how much you should betta fish each day.
4. Play With Your Betta Occasionally
I highly suggest that you give the betta fish your attention. You can do this by tracing your finger across the glass walls while the betta follows, holding a piece of food above the water to encourage the fish to jump out of the water, drawing on the walls of the tank, etc.
If you’re one of those aquarists that work all day, and you’re too tired to play with your bettas when you get home at night, you can still entertain the fish. Do that by sitting close enough for the betta to see you as you read, watch TV, etc. For some fish, watching you is entertaining enough.
5. Introduce Decorations To Your Betta Fish
Decorate your tank. If you have plenty of decorations in the aquarium, but the betta is still bored, rearrange the tank. If the betta has grown accustomed to the tank, you can rejuvenate the creature’s interest in its aquatic environment by rearranging the decorations.
How Do You Know If Your Betta Fish Likes You?
Betta fish cannot talk, but their response will reveal their opinion of you. Bettas that have a strong relationship with you will react when you enter the room by either rising to the surface or looking at you through the glass walls.
Admittedly, those actions do not necessarily prove that the bettas like you. Hungry bettas will respond the same way, especially if they have grown to associate your presence with food.
You can confirm your suspicions by petting the fish. Some fish will let you pet them. But you must do so gently. Think of it as a caress rather than conventional petting.
Your motions should be slow. Don’t apply any pressure. Also, make sure you wash your hands before you proceed. You don’t want to add pollutants to the water.
Do Betta Fish Get Excited To See You?
If your betta fish is excited to see you, it is because you have given them a reason to get excited. If you play with them whenever you appear, they will respond to your presence with excitement. In other words, it depends on your relationship with the betta.
If you feed them every day, they will associate your presence with food, and since they like food, they will like you as well. You will see their excitement in the way they stare or swim.
If the aquarium doesn’t have a lid, they may occasionally jump out of the tank to express excitement. They will fall back into the water because they are not trying to escape.
Though, if your betta accidentally falls out of the tank, you should put it back immediately. Bettas have labyrinth organs that enable them to breathe outside the water. But that doesn’t mean they can survive permanently outside a tank.
Also Read: Can Betta Fish Live In A Pond?
Betta fish usually stare at their owners when they want food. However, betta fish are always hungry, meaning you shouldn’t feed them every time they look at you. Feed them up to twice a day, no more than that.
If you are worried that something is wrong with your betta, check the water parameters. Using a testing kit, you’ll be able to tell whether the pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites are within the desired range. If they are, a staring betta probably requires no actionable steps from your side.