Do Angelfish Recognize Their Owners? (Scientific Facts)

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Each time I approach the aquarium to feed my angelfish, I notice they get excited. Those of you who grow fish have probably already seen that phenomenon.

That brought a question to my mind. I started wondering whether or not angelfish recognize their owners. Do they actually see me as their grower? Or maybe they just remember the pattern which indicates they are about to be fed?

Yes, angelfish do recognize their owners. That is due to their optic lobes, which allow them to see their environment physiologically. Studies have proven that some fish are capable of recognizing their tank mates, as is the case with the Damselfish. Angelfish are similar, and can probably comprehend their owner patterns, and react respectively. 

Generally, there is considerable debate surrounding that topic. As we move forward, I will present a few scientific facts that might surprise you and demonstrate how developed angelfish are. I will also show you a few techniques to help you bond with your angels and possibly make them like you even more.

Also Read: Facts About Angelfish

Can Angelfish Recognize Their Owners?

This is a question that plagues many fish owners. They spend a lot of time feeding their angels, cleaning their tanks, and maintaining the conditions of their water. And the fish react positively to these actions. Clearly, they are happy. 

But are the angelfish happy because of the company their owners give them? Or are they merely responding to the pleasure they receive from being fed and living in a clean, planted tank? Can a bond exist between angelfish and their owners? Do angelfish even recognize their owners? 

Most people would give a resounding ‘No’ in response to these questions. They are sure that fish are inferior creatures that cannot possibly understand the world outside their tank. However, that is not entirely true:

  • First of all, it is worth noting that fish have small brains. However, their bodies are equally tiny. So this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
  • Fish can smell. They have olfactory lobes that are responsible for this very function. The lobes are small, but they are no less efficient. 
  • If you are aware of the cerebrum of vertebrates, fish have telencephalon, which is similar. It can be found behind the olfactory lobes. 
  • Fish have specially developed optic lobes that allow them to see the world. The optic lobes are essential to fish because they enable the creatures to see the prey they are hunting
  • Balance and movement in fish are the work of the cerebellum in the hindbrain. Fish need it to swim appropriately. 

As you can see, fish brains are not as simplistic as you might assume. Naturally, their intelligence isn’t as developed as that of humans. But there is more to fish than meets the eye. For instance:

  • There are blind fish that can see their environment using a sense similar to that of bats. It allows them to create and commit a mental map of their surroundings to memory.[1]

Studies found that the Ambon Damselfish was intelligent enough to identify fish it had swam with on previous occasions. The studies tested this theory by compelling the test subjects to identify the fish in question from a picture. This told the scientists that an ambon damselfish would know if one of its tank mates died and you replaced it with another fish. 

Another study found that Archerfish could recognize human faces.[2] The test subject was shown images of human faces. The creature can fire jets of water from its mouth. This is an offensive tool that it uses against insects.

The fish were trained to make selections using their water jets. Once this mission was accomplished, the fish was able to accurately select the human faces it had seen from the series of images it was shown. This was concrete proof that fish can recognize human faces. 

  • Even without doing face-related experiments, the fact that fish have enough awareness to swim near the top of the tank whenever feeding time approaches shows that they have intelligence. It is a sign that they can actually tell time to an extent. 

All these points are designed to show you that fish are not the silly creatures everyone makes them out to be. The fact that they can recognize faces is monumental. This is not an easy task, not for animals of any kind. 

Human beings have too many similar facial features. They all have a pair of eyes and ears, a mouth, and a nose in the same place, a chin, cheeks, and hair. The fact that all these features are positioned in practically the same location in most people means that animals are going to have a difficult time differentiating between people. 

This is why primates are often lauded for their intelligence. Their brains are not only large but quite complex. As such, they have the mental capacity required to pick out the subtle differences between human faces. 

The fact that fish can also recognize human faces despite having such small brains says volumes about their intelligence. It is also a comforting discovery to fish owners who worry that their fish don’t know who they are. 

Can angelfish recognize their owners? The layman will probably tell you ‘No’. But the scientist says ‘Yes’. Their peripheral nervous system, which coordinates with the central nervous system, allows them to process the structures and features of faces. 

Your angelfish knows the person who has been caring for it. It knows the human face that washes its tank and gives it food. They will recognize that person as their owner. This answers fish owners who wonder whether their angelfish can bond with them.

Every animal will react positively towards the person that feeds and cares for it. But the affection that fish owners have for their angels isn’t as one-sided as they think. Even if that isn’t true, and your fish are not that attached to you, the fact that they are intelligent creatures means that you can train them to recognize you.

How to Make Your Angelfish Recognize & Like You

So it is possible to assume angelfish can recognize their owners. Their relatively complicated nervous system and previous studies support that point. However, is it possible to make them like you? 

Apparently, you can nurture the bond with your angelfish. You may achieve the relationship you desire even though you cannot pet or cuddle with them like a land animal:

  • Make sure you get a healthy angelfish. This has to be your starting point. Local shops are quick to foist low-quality angels onto unsuspecting customers. You don’t want fish that have diseases and parasites. Neither you want angels with deformities.

Pay close attention to their fins. Make sure they are straight and healthy. You should also watch the way they act. If they are slow and sluggish, you probably have some terrible angels on your hands. 

  • Once you have a healthy angelfish, place it in an appropriate environment. Give it a large tank. If the fish is young, take its eventual growth into account. Small and cramped tanks won’t encourage your angel to think kindly of you.

Don’t forget to add plants and decorations. Angelfish can’t be happy unless they have vegetation to swim through and hide behind. Get a decent filter and friendly tank mates. The health and happiness of your angel are going to depend on the conditions of its tank. The healthier and happier the angel, the easier it will be to nurture a bond with the owner. 

  • Because angels are social creatures, you must keep them within active places. Don’t stick them in a quiet room that people never visit. Find a location that is frequented by people, such as the living room. 

Better yet, place the tank in the one place where you spend most of your time. The goal is to allow the fish to see and hear as much of you as possible. This will make recognizing you a much simpler task.

The emotional energy of the room in question also matters. Your angelfish should spend its days witnessing happy interactions, not angry exchanges. 

  • Once you have given your fish a suitable home and you have found the right location for their tank, you must endeavor to feed them. Automatic feeders are convenient, especially in situations where you are not at home. However, you are encouraged to feed your fish personally.

Use your hands. Take the food out of its container, hold it in your fingers, and bring it near the water. Wait for the fish to take notice and then swim up to you. The strongest bonds are created during the feeding process. Make sure you feed your angels to their satisfaction. You should also feed them on time. 

  • Feeding is such a powerful tool because it reminds the fish that they are entirely dependent on you. However, you can strengthen your bond with your angelfish even further by talking to it. This sounds silly, but dedicated fish owners do it all the time.

Your fish won’t know what you’re saying. But they will know that you are talking to them. They will learn to recognize your voice. So, sit beside your tank and start talking. At the very least, your words will distract them.

If you only have a small number of angelfish in the tank, your talking will prevent them from getting bored. Some people will go so far as to play with them. This also sounds silly. After all, fish are in the water, how can you possibly play with them?

Obviously, you can’t take them out of the water, and neither can you enter their tank. But you can play music that is loud enough for them to hear. You can also play by yourself or with others in front of the tank. Whatever you do, you can trust your angels to watch you. And as they watch you, their memory of you will grow in strength. 

  • If you are fond of tapping the glass of the tank, you don’t have to stop. But you can’t touch too much. Otherwise, you will make them anxious. Anxious angelfish are not happy angelfish. An alternative to tapping is placing your finger on the glass and moving it around. Your angels will still take note of this. 

As you can see, the easiest way to bond with your angelfish and to get them to recognize you is to care for them. The techniques mentioned above are undoubtedly worth trying, especially if your relationship with your angels is crucial to you.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Bite?

Do Angelfish Have Personality?

Yes, angelfish do have personality, and from my experience, they are pretty smart. I usually feed my fish in the evening, after sunset. There is no particular reason for that. It is merely the time I often get home after work.

When I approach the tank, I first turn on its lights. After that, I take a small portion of food and serve my beloved fish. One time I noticed that my angelfish get excited when I turned on the lights, regardless of whether or not I fed them afterward. 

It seemed like they were able to associate lights with my feeding schedule. That came as a surprise to me since my guppies and mollies have never done so before. Generally speaking, I would say that angelfish are pretty smart. The more you pay attention to their behavior, the more you are starting to comprehend that fact. 

Also Read: Do Angelfish Sleep?


Angelfish appear as primitive creatures. To the average observer, it may seem they randomly swim back and forth without real purpose. Nevertheless, their brain is more developed than you may think.

In-depth research has found that angelfish can see and smell. They also have a unique area in their brain, which allows them to balance their movements. Previous studies have shown that some fish are even able to recognize their own tank mates. These have reacted accordingly when their companions have been removed from the tank. 

While research investigating angles, in particular, is still missing, it is not hard to believe that angelfish as well are capable of recognizing their owners. The fact they react positively to your feeding schedule indicates they can see you as a possible owner. 

Either way, I hope my article has shed some light on your questions and assumptions. If you are still in doubt, try implementing the tips I mentioned earlier. Possibly, you will start seeing some positive signals from your dear fish.