How to Teach a Fish to Follow a Target

Following a target stick is easy to teach to all types of fish, and it’s also a great foundational trick for many other behaviors. Following a target stick is an essential skill for your fish to learn in order to teach them to go through hoops, tunnels, and many other obstacles.

You will need an appropriately sized fish target stick for this trick, which you can learn to make on the How to Make a Target Stick for Fish page on this site.

How to Teach a Fish to Follow a Target Stick (Video Tutorial)

For this trick, you will need…

  • Your fish
  • Bite-sized fish food that your fish will eat readily (flakes, pellets, freeze-dried blood worms, etc.)
  • A mini target stick for your fish

How to Teach Your Fish to Touch and Follow a Target Stick – Step by Step

Step 1

Touch the tip of the target stick to the water and immediately drop food in (regardless of whether the fish approaches or not.)

Repeat a few times until the fish starts to approach the target stick as soon as it touches the water.

Step 2

Wait to drop the food in until the fish actually touches the target stick.

Repeat a few times until the fish is consistently touching the target stick every time.

Step 3

Once the fish is confidently touching the target stick every time you put it in the water, you can start waiting for two touches before rewarding.

Wait until the fish touches it the first time as usual, then move the stick a short distance away and reward when the fish touches it a second time.

From there, you can continue to gradually increase the distance that the fish follows the target stick.

Additional Tips For Teaching This Trick

  • If your fish seems hesitant to approach or touch the target stick, just be patient and keep the target stick as still as possible. It may take a few days for the fish to feel confident enough to swim closer to the target stick.
  • Even after the fish is following the target stick all around the tank, be sure to also reward sometimes for following shorter distances, just to mix it up a bit. This keeps the fish interested in chasing the target stick because they never know when to expect the food.