Fish Training 101

Did you know fish can be trained to do tricks? To jump through hoops, weave poles, ring a bell or do all sorts of other things that you’d expect a dog to do? Fish are actually quite trainable, given the right motivation (i.e. yummy food, and lots of it).

We’d have goldfish every once in awhile when I was a child, usually after my brother or I won several of them at some sort of fair or carnival. They never lasted long, probably because we always had too many of them and in much too small of a tank.

Anyways, after seeing some videos last semester of awesomely trained fish, I decided I needed to try my hand at fish training. I bought a 30 gallon aquarium and a R2 Fish School training kit for Christmas. I bought several fish mid-January, but they didn’t last very long for several reasons. (They were pet store fish that I believe were sickly to begin with. As well, I think I was overfeeding them and using the wrong kind of food.)

Anyways, I bought a new goldfish about a week ago, who my dad has christened Blaze. He’s settled in, is incredibly active, and seems to be doing great so far! We started fish training on Friday and I can tell already that he’s one smart fish.

The R2 fish training kit uses a feeding wand for fast and effective food delivery. The premise for fish training is positive reinforcement–getting the fish to do what you want and then rewarding it with food in order to increase the occurrence of the behavior.

However, the first trick of course is getting the fish to associate the training wand with the positive food reward. So, that’s what we started with. We’ve had six training sessions so far. He’s already learned that food comes from the training wand and that if he follows the wand around the tank he’ll get a bite of food. As well, today we started with the first real trick, swimming through a hoop!

These pictures are several that I took yesterday. Fish are strangely quite hard to photograph.


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