Many people like to train their pets and interact with them, to offer them exercise and keep them in good shape. It’s also a good opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your pet and have some fun, too. But what happens when you have an aquarium or a bowl full of fish? Many people think fish are only decorative and relaxing, without being interactive at all. But some species can get to know their owners, interact with them, and even recognize their owner’s steps and come to greet them, while, on the other hand, run and hide from strangers.
The Siamese Fighting fish, also known as Betta fish, can get to know its owner and even learn some tricks if given enough time. The first thing you must do before you start training your Betta is to make sure it is happy and healthy. Always give it the best quality food available and be careful not to overfeed your Betta. Keep an eye on the water parameters and, as a quick tip, bubbles on the water surface means the water is clean and your fish is doing well. In the end, check your fish is not sluggish, but rather be a quick swimmer instead.
Always have some treats handy, as this is how training always works. If a pet does well, the pet gets a treat. Bettas like tubifex worms, daphnia, mosquito larvae, and, best of all, freeze-dried blood worms, which are small and breakable.
Next, you need to get your Betta’s attention. Gently tap the aquarium wall, but not too hard or repeatedly, as this will cause stress to the fish. If the fish didn’t notice you or simply is not giving you attention, you need to attract it with a treat. After a few tries, your fish will learn a wall tap means a tasty treat and this is where training actually starts!
Follow your finger
Teach your Betta to follow your finger by moving it from side to side in front of it. If you see it is beginning to move towards it, quickly give it a treat. After he becomes familiar with following your finger from side to side, try to move it up and down. Reward your fish every time it follows. Repeat the exercise three to five minutes a day, the starting point for teaching your Betta other tricks.
Swim through a hoop
Attach a hoop to the side of the tank, perpendicular to the tank wall, then get your fish’s attention. Begin moving your finger from one side of the hoop to the other. Every time your Betta swims through the hoop, provide a treat. Repeat this trick until it becomes repetitive. Once the trick is learned, gradually decrease the hoop diameter until reaching about one inch, while also moving the hoop away from the tank wall. Continue repeating and rewarding you fish until it regularly swims through the hoop while being in the middle of the tank.
Jump for food
Take notice of your fish’s favorite snack and then attach a small piece of it to a stick or your finger. Hold the treat slightly above the water’s surface and the fish will jump to get it. After the fish gets used to this, you can gradually lift the treat higher.
Flare on command
Your Betta can be taught to flare as when it sees another Betta, but be careful not to insist for more than 5 minutes a day, as this will cause great stress to your fish. In order to make your fish flare on command, place a picture of another Betta on the side of the tank and your fish will think it is a live fish and prepare to attack it. Alternatively, you can try placing a mirror in front of the fish.
When training your Betta, it is very important to be patient, as fish are not as quick to learn as dogs, but you will surely have a lot of fun during training time. Always keep in mind training gives your fish the opportunity to exercise and keep in good shape, but be careful to keep the water clean if you want it to see anything. Do not overwork your fish either and give enough time to rest and relax. In the end, remember to always reward your Betta after performing what you want, as this influences behavior in any animal, and fish are no different.