Q: My coworkers say that my Betta is not as active when I'm out. When I'm in the office, he swims, eats, and works on his bubble nest. Do bettas really learn to recognize their owners over other people?

Question submitted by Veronica, San Antonio - Texas

A: Yes bettas do pay attention to what is going on outside their jars/tanks. Movement will stimulate them. They are inquisitive and curious. Another betta next to them is a sure perker. I also experimented with a lava lamp and found my betta was fascinated by it and watched it ALL DAY LONG. Moving the lava lamp to the side of his jar proved that he was in deed watching it: He immediately moved to the other side as well and then stood guard again in front of the lamp. :) Moved it back to the other side, same result :). 

Your proximity to his jar must be entertaining and stimulating to him. Your movements, voice etc... When you leave, I assume your desk is not used by someone else? You did not mention, but more than likely it is vacant and your betta gets bored. A bored betta will "snooze", perhaps not literally but I mean it will not be active. That behavior is what your co-workers have observed. That leaves us with one last question: Is your betta able to differentiate between you (his owner) and any other John Doe? Perhaps you should make the experiment and have another person work at your desk for a day and observe your betta. Does he react the same? Is he then active? 

As for me, of course all my bettas know me well. If I dip my hand inside their tanks, they will swim between my fingers and let me lift them up above water surface! Some even let me pet them. Others are more shy and will dart away. Add food to the equation and shyness is no longer an issue for any of my finned friends. All rush towards me, pressing their little heads against the glass as if trying to push through it! That could make for a nice horror movie shot. Picture the bettas breaking through the glass and latching onto my face with their sharp teeth! AGGGGGHHHHH... Alfred Hitchcock missed the boat when he filmed "Birds", he should have tried "Bettas" instead LOL. 

So do my bettas know ME?