Shaping behaviors in a goldfish using clicker training

Blaze is my star fish who I’ve been clicker training. (Actually, err, he’s a goldfish, but he is a star pupil!) I trained him a bit at first using the R2 fish training kit (see a video of his first few tricks HERE). He proved to be a smart fish and a fast learner for his first tricks.

Recently, I’ve began trying to teach him some new behaviors using shaping. This is good practice for me and will allow me to train him to do a wide range of behaviors. I wrote about the beginnings of my fish clicker training experiences here, including conditioning my marker signal.

We don’t train every day, but we’ve made quite a bit of progress over the past month or so. I’ve been shaping him to swim under the bridge in his tank using a penlight as my marker signal, or “click.”

Here are the successive steps I rewarded in our shaping plan:
1) Swimming all around the tank (to encourage movement, rather than him staying just on the right side).
2) Swimming only in the middle third of the tank.
3) Swimming only in the front half and bottom half of the middle third of the tank.
4) Swimming in front of the bridge.
5) Swimming in front of the middle opening of the bridge.
6) Entering the bridge.

He now readily swims towards the bridge and then under the opening in exchange for a food pellet. Here’s where we are currently:


Click HERE to watch the video on youtube

Interestingly, now that he’s swimming all the way under the bridge, I’m running into difficulties. For the “click,” I think he is orienting to both the flash of the light AND the movement of the wand. (Or, just completely ignoring the light and watching my hand movements). In any case, this discussion will be saved for another post, as I’m still trying to figure out exactly what’s going on. I might need to revisit my first two clicker training goals

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