Goldfish Memory Span – How Long Is It? Myth Busted!

Despite what you might have learned from animated movies or catchphrases around the world, goldfish have a much longer memory span.

Goldfish can store and recall memories for days, weeks, and even years.

We’ve known this piece of information since the 1960s, but this is still a pretty common misconception pertaining to the memory of goldfish.

However, most people still believe that goldfish have a memory span of three seconds.

Let’s take a deeper look into a goldfish’s memory and intelligence and get rid of all misconceptions once and for all!

How Long Is Goldfish’s Memory Span?

Scientists have revealed through their studies and research that goldfish can remember and recall things for approximately five months, if not more.

Despite the common misconception that fish, in general, are not intelligent creatures, goldfish possess a strong memory.

If you’ve had a goldfish for quite some time and you notice it coming to the top of the tank when you’re approaching it, or it’s time to feed them, this should be a sign that they remember their feeding time.

They are also most likely able to recall who feeds them.

Goldfish Memory Span Misconception (It’s not 3 Seconds)

People from all over the world believe that goldfish have a short memory span that lasts for a few seconds (usually people say it’s less than 3 seconds).

Most of these misconceptions are drawn from animated movies, such as Finding Nemo.

Culum Brown, a professor at the School of Natural Sciences and a champion in the subject of fish intelligence, says this misconception could be created due to human guilt.

Since goldfish are commonly kept in small, confined spaces that are considered unhealthy, humans have created this misconception surrounding goldfish’s memories to feel less guilty about the boring, dull, and unhealthy environments they are kept in.

The reality is far different than this common misconception.

According to research, goldfish are so intelligent that they are often used as a model to learn about all fish’s learning skills and cognitive capabilities.

How to Tell If Your Goldfish Has a Good Memory

There are several ways to check how good your goldfish’s memory is.

For example, you can start feeding them on one side of the tank and assess whether or not they swim to that side during their feasting time or not.

Your goldfish will also quickly swim to the surface when it’s time to feed them, and you’re approaching their tank.

In order for this to work, you will have to keep a fixed time as to when you’re feeding your pet goldfish.

Scientists have also experimented with colored paddles to find out if goldfish can remember and give preference to a particular color when rewarded for one of them.

They found that goldfish can learn to push a blue paddle when they want to receive a special treat.

Some have even gone a step further and experimented with mazes and nets to study whether or not a goldfish can learn such complex tasks.

The results found that a goldfish can not only learn to complete a maze or skip the nets, but it can also remember it months later.

It was also found that goldfish are able to remember and recognize individuals even months after separating from them.

It is pertinent to mention, however, that pinpointing the goldfish’s memory span is extremely complicated and challenging.

In humans, for example, individuals have a longer memory span for experiences that leave a greater impact on them.

It is hard to figure out which memories are easier for goldfish to store and recall.

However, one thing is for certain; the goldfish’s memory span is definitely longer than 3 seconds.

More Evidence on Goldfish’s Memory

Goldfish not only have a good memory, but they also possess a good sense of time.

To prove this theory, Plymouth University researchers conducted several experiments.

They used the same lever or paddle method as previously mentioned.

However, they turned their research up a notch by only providing the goldfish with food at certain times of day when they pushed the lever.

After a while, they noticed that the goldfish were able to remember to push the lever for food and only did so when they were supposed to be fed.

An Israeli University’s scientists also trained goldfish to come to the surface for food upon hearing a piece of classical music.

Five months after the one-month training period, the goldfish were still reacting to the musical piece the same way.

What Does This Mean for Goldfish Owners?

Now that you know that goldfish have a good memory and they can recall individuals, remember experiences, and recall their training, you should integrate some changes to ensure they are well-adjusted and kept busy in their new home.

Keeping the fish in a small bowl is far from preferable, but you should also make their tanks as interactive as possible.

Add plants or décor items, and bring in new pet goldfish to keep things interesting for your pet goldfish.

In isolation, goldfish tend to develop signs of depression, so it’s best to keep them in pairs.

However, make sure to buy a big enough tank that’s suitable to keep more than one goldfish at a time.

Also read: What Size Tank Do You Need For two Goldfish?

How Big Is a Goldfish’s Brain?

Another reason why most people think goldfish don’t have a strong memory is that the size of their brain is relatively smaller.

If compared to a human brain, the size of a goldfish’s brain is approximately 380,000 times smaller.

However, small does not mean that these creatures don’t have good cognitive abilities.

If compared to their size, the proportion of a goldfish’s brain is normal. Other smaller species, such as birds and mice, also have a relatively smaller-sized brain.

Having a small brain does not mean that it restricts goldfish from performing regular tasks or even learning new abilities and skills.

How to Help Increase Your Goldfish’s Memory Span

As mentioned earlier, in order for goldfish to develop a longer memory span, their living conditions have to be optimal.

For this, you will have to ensure that they are living in a spacious tank with interactive elements.

In addition to this, feeding them regularly on fixed timings can also help keep their diet in check, which also plays a vital role in ensuring your goldfish is as healthy as it can be.

Provide your goldfish with a healthy diet with lots of vitamins and proteins.

It will also be useful to remember that keeping your goldfish alone can cause them depression.

If you want your goldfish to have a longer, more robust memory span and live a healthier life, you should keep it with another goldfish or other aquatic creatures.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, goldfish don’t have a memory span of 2, 3, or 10 seconds.

The basis of this common misconception is not known, but it is beneficial to know that your pet goldfish can remember a lot more than you think – and do so for longer periods.

Researchers estimate that goldfish can remember things for approximately five months or more!

However, what they can or can’t remember still hasn’t been discovered. If you want to test your goldfish’s memory, there are a lot of experiments that you can conduct.

You may also notice similar behaviors in particular goldfish when you’re near the fish tank or notice that they have developed particular preferences for certain foods.

All of these things will confirm that goldfish have a longer memory span than 3 seconds.

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