Are Goldfish Smart? 2 Facts You NEED TO KNOW!

image of memory of a goldfish

Perhaps upon forgetting something, you’ve uttered the phrase, “I’ve got the memory of a goldfish.” But did you know this phrase is actually not true?

In fact, contrary to common misconceptions, goldfish are actually quite smart. They have incredible memories and are capable of learning tricks like other animals.

That’s right, your goldfish can do tricks just like your dog. Neat, right?

But how do we know goldfish are smart, and exactly how smart are they? To learn the answers to these questions, read on!

How Do We Know Goldfish Are Intelligent?

We know goldfish are smart for a few different reasons. These reasons include:

  • Scientific experiments
  • Owner training
  • Natural instincts and behaviors

Thanks to the scientific community, we know a little more about just how smart goldfish are. For example, goldfish are known to have incredible memories and are able to escape nets and navigate mazes successfully.

We also know goldfish are smart thanks to training done with their owners. Some goldfish owners, which we will mention later, have successfully taught their goldfish tricks using food and other props in the water. 

Who needs a dog when you can have a fish?

Finally, we know goldfish are smart just by watching their natural instincts and behavior in both the wild and captivity. Goldfish knows how to successfully navigate difficult situations such as escaping predators or finding the best mate, which is also a testament to their intelligence.

To learn more about just how smart goldfish are, keep reading!

How Smart Are Goldfish?

Now that you know goldfish are smart, you may be wondering, just how smart are those adorable little fish? How many tricks can a goldfish learn at once, for example?

Below, we’ll talk about the two main categories of goldfish intelligence: memories and tricks. 

1. Goldfish Memories

While goldfish have a stigma around their memory, they actually have impressive memories for such a small fish. 

An experiment performed by a 15-year-old boy actually revealed this. The boy, Rory Stokes, owned a pet goldfish and decided to try an experiment to truly test the fish’s memory.

When feeding the fish, Stokes would sprinkle his food over a red Lego block. After eating, the block would be removed from the tank.

While the fish was originally afraid of the daunting giant block, it eventually learned that the block was associated with food.

A few weeks later, Stokes stopped putting the Lego block in during feeding time. After a week without the block, the boy randomly put the block back in the tank.

To Stokes’ surprise, the goldfish quickly swam over to the block in anticipation of food! This proved that goldfish are able to remember information for at least a week. 

I do wonder how long the goldfish waited for the block again after that, though. 

You may notice your own goldfish’s memory. For example, has your goldfish ever:

  • Swam to the top of the tank just before feeding?
  • Swam to the front of the tank when you approached?
  • Followed your finger as you moved it across the glass?

If you said yes to any of those, that indicates that your fish likely remembers you! At a minimum, it remembers that you’re associated with food, which is basically the same if not a little less sentimental. 

A true scientist, Culum Brown from Sydney’s Macquarie University, studied goldfish memories in a lab setting. Brown once taught goldfish to escape an artificial trawl.

Though the first time was likely horrifying for the poor fish, the goldfish learned within 5 trials just where the hole was to escape each time. Talk about a survivalist!

That isn’t the most impressive part, though. Brown says that even a year later, the goldfish remembered where the hole was. 

This means goldfish have memories that can last as long as one year, which is quite frankly longer than some of my memories. For such a small animal, goldfish are extremely impressive!

2. Goldfish Tricks

By using their impressive memories, goldfish can also learn some pretty cool tricks. The greatest example of this was a fish named Albert Einstein

Einstein was an incredible little goldfish. He initially went viral for a video in which he pushed a tiny soccer ball into an underwater goal. 

David Beckham has some flippered competition, apparently.

Beyond scoring goals, Einstein had some other fun tricks he could do according to his owner. He was able to swim through tunnels and hoops, and could also carry small balls in his mouth to the surface of the water. 

There are few things in this world as adorable as a goldfish carrying a tiny soccer ball. 

Einstein isn’t the only goldfish capable of this! In fact, you could train your own goldfish to do some of these amazing tricks. 

To teach your fish to swim through hoops, follow these easy steps:

  1. Train your goldfish to eat out of your hand
  2. Teach your goldfish to follow your hand as you feed it
  3. Start holding their food behind hoops, making them swim through the hoop to get it
  4. Start using only your hand to signal the fish to go through the hoop
  5. Give your fish a nice treat after it’s done performing!

Before you know it, your genius goldfish will be the talk of the town. Who said goldfish aren’t smart anyways?

So, are goldfish smart?

The next time you come face-to-face with a goldfish, remember just how smart they are. If you keep coming back, they may even remember you over time!

Remember that your goldfish can also learn tricks easily. The next time you want to impress a house guest, train your fish to swim through hoops or eat out of your hand and share with them just how intelligent goldfish are.

Before you know it, your friends may want goldfish instead of dogs. 

If you’ve ever taught your goldfish a trick, tell us about it below. If you have any questions about aquatic animals, leave them down below and we may answer yours next!

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