Are Koi Fish Intelligent/Smart?

Koi fish aren’t usually considered the pinnacle of intelligence. Most people regard them as mindless creatures.

You may have even heard the phrase ‘the memory of a goldfish,’ used to describe a forgetful person.

But is this perception of koi fish accurate? This article will aim to explain the true nature of koi fish’s intelligence and determine how smart these creatures are.

Do Koi Fish Have Feelings?  

It has been well-documented that cats and dogs can form meaningful bonds with their owners but did you that koi fish can form similar bonds as well?

They have complex emotions that we are only just beginning to understand. Researchers Becca Franks and Isabella Cooks published their findings in The Journal of Animal Cognition.

According to the results of the study, koi fish bonded with the researchers, and over time, actively sought out physical interactions with them, not for any extrinsic reward, but for the sake of interacting.

This suggests that the koi fish were emotionally attached to the researchers, in ways one would not expect of a fish.

Can Koi Fish Recognize People?

The events of the study also help to conclude that koi fish can distinguish between people, and recognize their owners.

During the study, researchers divided the koi fish into two separate groups. One group was shown pictures of people the fish had already bonded to.

The other group was only shown pictures of random strangers.

The koi fish only reacted positively to the faces of the people they had bonded with, swimming toward them and trying to physically interact with them.

The other group of koi fish ignored the pictures of random strangers, not approaching them, or interacting with them at all.

What The Results Mean

While the results of the study do indicate that koi fish have the potential to recognize their owners and form emotional attachments with them, critics of the study were quick to point out that the study took place in a controlled, laboratory setting.

Therefore, it isn’t entirely indicative of how koi fish may respond to their owners in a natural setting.

Could all the fish in a genuine koi pond develop the ability to recognize their owners? It’s difficult to say for certain, but the evidence indicates that it’s possible.

Can Koi Fish Be Taught?

While the study by Cooks and Franks concluded that koi fish possess the intelligence to ‘learn’ on their own, future research built upon these findings to determine if koi fish could be ‘taught’.

We already know that people can teach dogs, cats, and even birds, but what about koi fish?

To test this theory, researchers showed several pictures of koi fish. One picture was their owner, and the rest were random strangers.

Each time a koi fish interacted with the picture of its owner, the researchers rewarded them with food.

Over time, the fish got better at recognizing their owners.

They began recognizing them out of larger groups of people, they recognized them faster and even recognized them when dressed differently.

What this suggests, is that not only do koi fish possess the intelligence to learn, but we can actively teach them.

Are Koi Fish Capable of Love?

Research has already determined that koi fish can be taught to recognize their owners, and even enjoy interacting with them.

But are they capable of experiencing love?

Most researchers agree that while koi fish are intelligent, there is no verifiable evidence to suggest that they ‘love’ their owners in the same way cats and dogs do.

Do Koi Fish Like To Be Pet?

Most people see fish as slimy, squirmy creatures. You wouldn’t think that they like to be petted, the way other animals do.

The research by Cooks and Franks suggests that koi fish do enjoy it when their owners pet them.

Most subjects in the study actively sought out physical interactions with the humans they had bonded with.

The most interesting part is that they sought out physical interaction simply because they enjoyed it, and not because they would get another reward for doing so, such as food.

If you’re concerned as to whether or not it’s safe to pet your koi fish, don’t worry, it is.

Their scales protect them from harmful bacteria, and they aren’t known to carry any germs that could be harmful to humans, either.

However, petting your koi fish might leave behind a lingering odor on your fingers, but it’s nothing that won’t be solved by washing your hands after you’re done playing with them.

How Do Koi Fish Show Affection?

Koi fish have been observed reacting positively toward their owners.

However, these positive reactions can be harder to track, given that koi fish don’t have legs and arms, or ears that perk up the way dogs do when they’re excited.

However, you can still learn to read your koi fish’s body language. It’s recommended that you do.

For example, if you put your hand in your koi fish’s pond, they may swim up to it and try to nuzzle your hand, and ask to be petted.

Some fish even follow their owners around as they walk around their pond.

These are both clear ways you can tell that your koi fish is happy and thriving in their pond.

Do Koi Fish Suffer Separation Anxiety?

Intelligent animals that are capable of forming bonds with their human owners often experience separation anxiety when left alone for a long period, and koi fish are no different.

If you leave your koi fish alone for too long, they may slow down and stop eating. These are clear signs of separation anxiety.

The next time you approach your koi fish, they may even be hesitant to greet you with their usual enthusiasm.

Do Koi Fish Have a Good Memory?

When judging whether or not a species can be considered intelligent, memory is an important factor.

For example, elephants have proven to have even better memories than humans, in some cases.

What about koi fish? After all, fish are usually thought to have terrible memories.

However, there is evidence to suggest that koi fish can remember and identify people’s faces up to five years after seeing them.

This suggests that koi fish possess far superior memories than previously thought.

How To Train Your Koi Fish

Now that you know how intelligent your koi fish are, it’s important to put in the time and effort to nurture this intelligence, so your koi fish can live happier, healthier lives.

If you don’t know how to train a koi fish, don’t worry, this article will tell you everything you need to know to get started.

Teaching Your Koi Fish to Swim to You

When trying to develop a strong bond with your koi fish, the first thing you should try to teach them is to swim up to you when you approach.

To do this, it’s important that you develop a routine with your koi fish. Start feeding them every day, at the same time, while standing at the same spot.

This repetition will allow them to repeat the same patterns of behavior over and over until they learn to approach you on their own.

While teaching your koi fish to approach you, you want to be careful not to scare them away.

Don’t crouch too close to the pond, you may end up casting a large shadow across the water that will scare your koi fish.

Be careful not to throw too much food into the water all at once, as the sudden intrusion might also scare them.

Teach Your Koi Fish to Eat Out of Your Hand

After your koi fish learn to swim up to you for food, the next step is to teach them to eat out of the palm of your hand.

The progress you’ve made already, and the routine you’ve established will be useful here.

Be careful to feed them the same amount of food every day, as over or underfeeding can also disrupt their established sense of routine.

When you start feeding your koi fish out of your hand, be gentle and patient.

Put small amounts of their food into your hand, and bring your hand gently toward the water.

Be careful not to make any sudden movements; keep your hand still and allow your fish to come to you instead.

You may notice some of your fish are bolder than others. Some may need more time to learn to eat out of their hand, and that’s okay.

Teach Your Koi Fish to Jump

It might come as a surprise, but koi fish are actually intelligent enough, that you can even teach them tricks.

Once your koi fish have learned to eat out of your hand, you can take their training one step further.

When they try to take the food, gently pull your hand away. This will encourage them to jump out and snatch the food.

Only give them the food when they successfully jump out of the water.

Make sure your koi fish don’t learn to jump too far out, that they can’t get back in on their own, as this could kill them.

Now That You Know

Were you surprised to learn the information in this article?

Koi fish are exceptionally smart creatures and deserve to be treated as such.

Now that you know just how intelligent koi fish are, you can begin forming bonds with your koi fish and training them today.

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