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Goldfish Have Great Memories and Are Even Used as a Model Species of Fish Cognition



Quick, what animal has a terrible memory? Goldfish of course, everybody knows that.

Sticking to the nautical theme, this is actually as big a myth as the Lost City of Atlantis, and researchers have been proving for decades that goldfish not only have good memories, but are even among the smarter fish in the ocean.

Recently, Oxford University trained a school of goldfish to measure distances. Releasing a goldfish into a long thin thank with black and white vertical stripes, the fish learned and remembered how far to swim down the tank before turning around to the start point for a treat.

The first time the fish swam down the tank, a researcher immersed their hand in the water at a certain point, a point of distance that was remembered accurately by 8 of 9 fish on the second swim down the tank.

“We’ve known about the reasonably good memories of goldfish since the ’50s and ’60s,” Culum Brown, an expert in fish cognition at Macquarie University in Australia, told Live Science last year. “Despite what everybody thinks, they’re actually really intelligent.”

He says the perception of goldfish as dullards stems from pet owners putting them in empty glass bowls with nothing to interact with, hence the appearance of a short memory.

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“What is baffling is that it’s pretty much the same wherever you go in the world. In some places, it’s 2 seconds, and in others, it’s 10—but it’s always short.”

In reality, goldfish have such impressive memories, they’re often used as a common model for studying memory and learning in fish, Brown said.

Live Science details that goldfish can navigate mazes, escape nets, and can be prompted to complete tasks with a variety of stimuli, including non-hazards like bubbles, or music. Brown says goldfish can complete these tasks after months of not doing them.

SIMILAR: 5 Experiments Proving Invertebrates Are Much More Aware than We Think

Some pet owners report their goldfish recognizing them from other people, something that is also supported by the science of fish-on-fish interactions.

It’s time for society to change its tune. The goldfish is a pretty smart cookie, and deserves a little more respect around here.

WATCH the goldfish test here from the BBC…

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