Fish are a lot smarter and have better memories than many people give them credit for! Read on to learn how to train your fish to do tricks.
Despite the common misconception that fish aren’t smart and don’t have good memories, they can be very intelligent and even learn how to do tricks. If you’ve ever seen your fish gather around the surface when you approach at certain times of day, you know that, at the very least, they can remember feeding time. And with fish, food is the key. If you’re interested in bonding with your fish and giving them some extra stimulation, here are a few easy ways to train your fish to do tricks.
One of the benefits of keeping an aquarium at home is having a friend to bond with, but fish are very skittish and may not want to bond right away. Teaching them how to feed from your hand is a great first trick, as it will make them more comfortable with you and strengthen your overall bond.
You’ll want to start by exposing them to your hand and letting food slowly fall from your fingertips—don’t worry if the fish doesn’t eat near you immediately. Do this a few times so your fish gets used to your hand being there, and after they get comfortable, wait to release the food until they get a little closer. After a while, your fish will become confident in directly approaching you. Once they do, you can wait for them to touch your hand before releasing the food. You may need to repeat this process, which may take time, but as you practice, they’ll start happily swimming up to your hand to take food from it.
Now that your fish is a little less frightened of you, let’s move on to target following. Target following is the foundation for many tricks. Once your fish learns it, other tricks will become much easier. First, gently touch a target stick into the water near your fish, remove it, and drop the food where the stick touched the water. After some time, your fish will begin to associate the stick with food and begin to go toward it. Once they do, you can start moving the target stick a short distance, slowly but surely increasing the distance. Just don’t forget to reward them for their good behavior!
Going Through a Hoop
After they’ve mastered following the stick, they’re ready to start learning how to go through hoops; luckily, many stores sell aquarium decor with hoops attached for this purpose. First, use your target stick to slowly guide them through the hoop. After a few times, wait and see if they try to go through it on their own, and when they do, reward them with some food. After they’ve mastered this trick, you may want to remove the hoop after each session, or they may start asking you for treats by going through it.
Now that you know how to train your fish to do tricks, you can use these foundational steps to teach them other tricks too! You can teach them to go through tunnels, push a floating ball, and much more. Remember to be patient and reward them with food, as each trick will naturally take time to learn.