myth busted!

The Odd Couple - buy at AllPosters.comGoldfish (Cassius auratus) are not my favourite fish to keep. They’re ok, but they don’t have the same levels of engagement that other species – perch (Perca fluviatilis) for example, or rockfish (Acanthoclinus littoreus – and other fine species by that Forster guy), if you’re a marine aquarium buff. Despite popular opinion, goldfish not that easy to keep, and to keep them very well so that they thrive and are fabulous is quite demanding. The more exotic (i.e. bulgy eyes, fluffy fins) the more demanding they are. I think of them as the orchids of the aquarium world. And, yeah, give me the species varieties (or even a different species entirely) any time.

The other thing about goldfish is – again, despite popular opinion (reserved for people with no knowledge or experience of goldfish) is that they have rather more than a three second memory span. To feed the goldfish in my old pond we used to walk over the bridge to get to the food supply. The noise of walking, particularly my father’s heavy work boots, would bring the fish from all corners of the pond. Day after day. At least one of the fish had a memory, and then probably txted the others. What else could it be?

According to the Australian journal, CampusReview (26.02-03.03.2008, p.20), 15 year old Rory Stokes, a South Australian school student, conducted an experiment to test the 3-second rule. Over a period of three weeks Rory trained the fish by dropping a red lego block in tank with the goldfish, waited 30 seconds, and then fed the fish. He timed how long the fish took to swim to the food. Over the three weeks the time taken dropped from more than a minute to less than five seconds. After the three week training session, Rory stopped using the lego block. Six days later he dropped the lego block in, and despite having not seen the lego block in the intervening the fish swum up to feed in 4.4 seconds. He concluded the fish remembered for more than three seconds. Apparently Rory told ABC Radio that when he repeated the experiment six months later the fish were slower, but still remembered.

Yeah, but what if he’d used a green duplo block six months later? If that’d worked, would the fish be entitled to honorary PhDs? I’m not sure if the experiment is all that sound. I bet I’m not the only person who can look back on cramming for exams and then walking out after the exam with nothing more on/in my mind than getting a feed and playing with lego. So, maybe it’s more about the food and the lego than about the memory. In fact I’m off to check on dinner right now.

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