Goldfish Intelligence: Video

If you wanna avoid feeling horribly guilty about the solitary, pet gold fish you kept as a childhood pet, for years, in a depressingly stark and undersized bowl, kidding yourself it’s attention span was too short to know, look away now.



Yes, given sufficient investment in labour, goldfish can be trained to perform synchronised swimming routines. The implications of this finding extend well beyond Japanese comedy entertainment:

  1. While this act fails to demonstrate consciousness, it certainly goes a long way towards proving  fish have a sufficient memory span for reinforcement training.
  2. Cued by the trainer’s specific hand commands, rather than just herding, the goldfish appear capable of processing gestural semantics.
  3. Lone goldfish, encarcerated in small plastic bowls, without any other underwater flora or  fauna, are probably as mentally unwell as their caged bird counterparts.  Time to invest some energy in enviromental enrichment, or at least get her some mates.
  4. While using ‘lack of intelligence’ as justification for eating a particular species of animal has always been a difficult argument to sustain, Japanese whale consumption now seems even more barbaric. If goldfish can grasp synchronised swimming, surely a whale could master the 10-metre platform.

There is, of course, the other possible interpretation of this phenomenon: human synchronised swimmers have the mental capacity of goldfish.

Their fixed, unemotional faces, and lack of vocal expression, have conveniently deceived humanity into believing fish non-sentient, unconscious of even pain.   Cognitive sciences are proving this to be bullshit.  Longitudinal studies are even beginning to suggest fish have personalities and social cultures, the work of Dr Culum Brown at Macquarie University.

We should fully acknowledge: denial of fish sentience is just a strategy to ease our own discomfort during bludgeoning, or blunt-knife decapitation, at the end of a successful fishing trip.  Killing fish remains the most widely practiced act of recreational animal slaughter, worldwide.  It’s hard enough already, without imagining the inner dialogue of one’s prey during their final moments.

For more on our moral troubles, in our dealings with animals, see Internal Conflicts, How we Discriminate.



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2 Responses to “Goldfish Intelligence: Video”

  1. gabagooligonk says:

    Dr Matt
    U R fabulous
    How lucky we are in Byron Shire to have you
    And all those lucky animals you help look after.
    Monkeys grip

  2. Isak says:

    Totally professional article, I loved reading it. It had quite a few amazing details. I will be bookmarking this web site.

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