Do Puffer Fish Know Their Owners?

Pufferfish make excellent pets because of their unique features. More and more fish enthusiasts are keeping these beautiful pets and they often wonder ‘do Puffer fish know their owners?’

This is a valid question. After all; unlike cats and dogs that show recognition and signs of intelligence, fish keepers want to know if their fish can recognize them and if they are smart.

In this guide, we answer the question: do pufferfish know their owners and whether they are equipped with the intelligence for doing so.

Cute Reptiles as Pets
Cute Reptiles as Pets

Do Puffer Fish Know Their Owners?

Puffer fish is swimming in the tank
Puffer fish is swimming in the tank | Credit: Capture_the_moment_with_me / Canva.com

Yes. As surprising as it may sound, most pufferfish know and recognize their owners. Anecdotal evidence has shows that certain species of fish can spot their owners even if they are standing near their tanks in a group with other people.

Of course, like any other fish, your Pufferfish might take some time to get to know you.

If you have recently purchased your Puffer, you need to spend time feeding it and taking care of it. Only then will your puffer understand that you are its guardian.

If you have had your pufferfish for quite a while, chances are that it does recognize you. You might have even noticed your pet swimming up to the tank walls when you enter the room.

Chances are that it might even beg for food or interact with you as soon as it spots you.

Are Fish Smart?

Puffer fish is swimming and opening its mouth in the aquarium
Puffer fish is swimming and opening its mouth in the aquarium | Credit: Silk-stocking / Canva.com

Yes, fish are quite smart and we can say so for a fact since science has also proven it.

According to Animal Outlook, here are the main reasons why fish can be considered smarter than many species:

Fish have memories – Numerous experiments have shown that fish have excellent memories. They can remember which species to avoid; ones that are predators and ones that are prey.

For example, carp fish avoid fish hooks after being caught by fishermen. The same is true with Pufferfish – they know when to swim fast when they spot predators like tiger sharks.

They have a highly-developed brain – The brain of a fish is divided into the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain. An enlarged forebrain in eels is responsible for their advanced sense of smell.

Similarly, Manta fish have the largest brain in the fish world giving them advanced communication and problem-solving skills as well as the ability to recognize themselves when they look into a mirror!

Fish can use tools – Many fish species are known to use tools like rocks to eat clams and sea urchins. Pufferfish can also eat sea urchins by smartly avoiding their spikes.

They are playful – Many fish love to play with bubbles if you have an air pump or filter. They even play with decorations you have added to the tank.

This demonstrates their inherently playful nature. Some fish even love getting massages – as seen in experiments where the fish used rotating brushes to get their bodies massaged.

Close-up of puffer fish's body
Close-up of puffer fish’s body | Credit: Capture_the_moment_with_me / Canva.com

They take care of their babies – Fish teach and care for their young ones and they can recognize the danger to their babies from far away. All these are signs of advanced intelligence.

They are hyperaware of their surroundings – This is very important for survival and evolution has gifted them with various senses to help them avoid danger.

Fish have unique personalities – Some fish develop unique personality quirks that they display from time to time.

Fish are good learners – Fish like goldfish and bettas can even be taught tricks!  Here is a really cool video showing a puffer fish performing cool tricks in its tank!

How Intelligent Are Pufferfish?

Pufferfish are fairly intelligent. They are curious, alert, and aware of their surroundings.

Puffer fish is puffing up when the man holds it
Puffer fish is puffing up when the man holds it | Credit: Chalabala / Canva.com

Here are some behaviors of pufferfishes that indicate just how intelligent they are:

  1. They come up to the tank walls to greet their owners

This is one of the main signs of intelligence in Puffers. Once you have had your puffer for a few days and have been feeding and caring for it, it is likely it will come to the tank’s walls to greet you every time you walk into the room. Moreover, it will also single you out if you stand with a group of other people near the tank.

  1. They create unique decorations for attracting mates

Pufferfish’s advanced courtship mechanism is another example of their intelligence. The male pufferfish flaps its fins in the sandy sediments to create decorations having ridges and valleys. 

They even manage to add shell decorations in these “underwater crop circles” to attract mates. 

The females then lay their eggs in these circles which the males fertilize. According to experts, these unique geometric patterns are not seen in any other species.

  1. They have unique defense mechanisms

These Tetrodontiae also use a unique mechanism to defend themselves. They puff up to thrice their normal size by gulping large quantities of water when they feel threatened. This also indicates intelligence because the fish knows exactly when to puff up and also how much water to swallow.

  1. They use unique ways of hunting and eating hard-shelled foods

According to experts, Pufferfish use the front four teeth as a “beak” to break, scoop, and swallow hard foods like clams, crabs, and mollusks. 

Check out this video of a puffer fish eating a live crab. Observe how the puffer comes up to the tank and sees its owner holding the crab out.

Can or Cannot Fish Recognize Their Owners?

More studies are required to ascertain this fact whether fish can recognize their humans. The general consensus is that most fish know their owners. However, some do not. Some fish can only recognize the sound of their owner’s voice.

Larger fish like mantas have larger brains and resultantly may be smarter than fish having smaller brain sizes. Also, fish living in complex social hierarchies are seen to be smarter.

Evidence has shown that fish like manta rays are also highly self-aware but others like betta attack their own reflections in the mirrors because of a lack of self-awareness.

So, it could be that some fish cannot recognize their owners while others can.

Anecdotal evidence does suggest that most pet fish recognize and know their owners. However, we definitely need more scientific research to say so for sure. 

Having said that, fish certainly are an intelligent species; definitely more intelligent than we humans give them credit for.

close-up of Starry Blowfish's face
Close-up of Starry Blowfish’s face | Credit: User10095428_393 / Canva.com

Do Puffer Fish Have Personalities?

Yes. Pufferfish have very distinct personalities. They are not community fish and, as such, prefer being alone. They are also quite playful and many pufferfish owners describe them as the “puppy dogs of the aquatic world”.

Their bold personalities and playful antics make Pufferfish wonderful pets to own. Mostly, they recognize their owners and may swim up to the tank walls in anticipation of food or treats. They are personable fish that even interact with their owners.

Naturally, a pufferfish might take time to show its personality. Some even “change” as they grow older. A new pufferfish may be shy and might even hide. But once it acclimatizes, it is likely to show its true playful self.

Some puffers are known to be quite aggressive. They certainly prefer being the solitary inhabitants of their tanks. Mostly, they tend to attack their tankmates, so it is best to house them alone.

FAQs

Do fish know who their owner is?

Some fish know their owners and may interact with them. Others may not. We need more scientific studies to ascertain this for a fact.

Are pufferfish friendly?

Pufferfish aren’t too friendly. They are solitary fish; definitely not community fish. They prefer being housed alone. Many puffers are known to be quite aggressive.

Do puffer fish like to be pets?

There are videos showing wild pufferfish enjoying being petted by scuba divers. This may be a rare case since most puffer species are quite aggressive and defensive. Captive pufferfish could be docile and might even enjoy getting food and attention from their owners.

How do fish recognize their own kind?

According to experts, fish recognize their own kind thanks to their highly developed sense of smell. They use their chemosensory systems to sniff out their fish schools in the ocean.

Final Verdict – Do Puffer Fish Know Their Owners?

There is a high chance that pufferfish know and recognize their owners. Many videos have shown puffers swimming up to the tank walls to beg for food when their owners walk into the room.

 Some owners even describe their pufferfish as “puppy-like” since their pets interact with them.

We hope this guide gives you a better understanding of your puffer.

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