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Tuesday, December 13, 2005 Bookmark Now! | Email to a friend  

How long is a goldfish's memory?

Many, including the BBC Goldfish Quiz, believe goldfish have only a three-second memory. Alas, this is incorrect. Nevertheless, I was interested to learn that if you keep a goldfish in a dark room it eventually turns white, and the correct term for a pregnant goldfish is "twit."

The Mad Scientist notes that if you tap on the tank before feeding your goldfish every day, the goldfish will eventually learn to look for food immediately after the tank-tapping. This kind of "classical conditioning" indicates goldfish have some memory.

Dr. Karl seconds that emotion, citing anecdotes of goldfish responding happily to their owner's faces, while hiding in their tiny castles when confronted with strangers. And while goldfish were domesticated in China roughly a thousand years ago, they still swim in schools, and thus have some learned social behavior.

The MythBusters TV show taught some goldfish to swim through a maze, noting that their time got better on each successive run. And an interesting response to the AnswerBag Forum describes goldfish memory as "selective" -- they have a general idea of what happened on a previous occasion, they're just not sure what. I empathise.

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