Captive seahorses know we’re watching.
And they like to watch us back.
Many people seem surprised to learn that “seahorse watching” is a two-way street. My seahorses spend at least as much time observing me as I do staring in through the glass at them.
Possibly more, because I’m often working or writing, and every time I look up, at least one of them is watching me with interest. Other fish watch because they want food–and there’s no doubt the seahorses do that too, from time to time. (Who am I kidding…ALL the time, if it’s close to a feeding hour–and they do know.)
Much of the time, however, the seahorses don’t seem to be begging–they’re just observing, as if curious about the creatures on the opposite side of the strange, transparent wall.
Two years ago, at Christmas, I decorated a little tree and put it in my office. Every evening, my male seahorse, Cygnus, clung to the front of the tank to watch the lights.
There wasn’t anything else in that direction, and the lights didn’t flash–he simply found the steady glow intriguing. When I removed the tree, he never hung to that particular spot again–until last year, when once again I put up a tree, and once again he watched it.
Unlike many fish, seahorses won’t usually panic at rapid movements. They seem aware that the glass protects them as well as keeping them in.
They quickly learn to recognize the camera (in my case, an iPhone) and usually peek out to investigate when it draws near.
I watch them, they watch me–and I see intelligence in their eyes. They may not be as smart as a “real” horse, or a dog, or even a turkey, but they have the capacity to reason, and to feel.
They understand friendship.
They understand love.
And I like to think they find us just as fascinating as we find them.