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Home > General > Do Goldfish Really Have Short Memory Spans? What Science Tells Us

Do Goldfish Really Have Short Memory Spans? What Science Tells Us


If someone said that you have the memory of a goldfish, there is a good chance they are insulting you and suggesting that you can’t remember something more than three seconds, which is a common belief of goldfish. However, the truth is that they may have memories that span months. While this might be quite different from what you’ve believed, we discuss evidence that proves we have been wrong about this common pet. Keep reading while we dig in and see if we can find some clues that tell us how strong the memory of a goldfish is.divider-fish

Is It True That Goldfish Have a Three-Second Memory Span?

As it turns out, a few studies suggest that a goldfish, along with other fish species, can have a memory that lasts for several months at least.

goldfish plant
Image Credit: gunungkawi, Shutterstock

Technion Institute of Technology

Scientists from Israel conduct a study on goldfish that suggests the goldfish memory is much longer than originally believed. In their study, the scientists feed the fish when playing a sound every day for about a month. Once the month ended, the scientists let the fish go back to their natural diet for several weeks. After some time had passed, they played the sound again, and the fish can for the food showing that they had a much longer memory than a few seconds. This study showed that the fish would return even four and five months later, and this method of training can help reduce the need for fish hatcheries because breeders allow the fish to grow in their natural habitat and recall them with the sound when they are adults.

goldfish in freshwater
Image Credit: luckypic, Shutterstock

Plymouth University

Another study by Plymouth University required the fish to press a lever to get the food, but the food was only available at certain times each day. After a while, the fish could learn what time to press the lever and wouldn’t bother with it at other times. This study might not have the ability to change an industry like the Israeli study, but it shows that goldfish not only have memory long enough to remember to press the lever, but they also have a sense of time, and maybe more amazingly, you can train them. You could not train a fish with a three-second memory.


Top 4 Amazing Things Goldfish Can Do

Besides sound recall and lever pressing, many people have reported goldfish performing other fascinating tricks.

1. Push a Ball

Besides levers, your goldfish can push a ball from one area of the tank to another. Moving the ball over a distance requires much more effort and determination than pushing a lever.

2. See In Color

Your goldfish can also recognize colors. To see in color, your fish needs special receptors in the eye called coned. Different cones allow you to see different colors, and the goldfish have the cones for red, green, blue, and ultraviolet, which means they can see ultraviolet light, so they have a broader color spectrum than we do.

3. Solve Mazes

Some studies show that your goldfish can recognize landmarks and use them to navigate the environment. They can also create mental images of their pathway and uses them to find their way through complex mazes.

4. Swim Through Hoops

Many owners have also reported that their goldfish will swim through several hoops if they set them up in the aquarium. There are even several videos online of goldfish swimming through hoops and enjoying themselves.

Image Credit: hineck_Pixabay



As you can see, goldfish have a much better memory than we thought, and they are also considerably more intelligent than we suspected. The ability to recognize a sound several months after not hearing it proves the long memory of the goldfish, and it might allow for a better way to breed fish, allowing them to live out their natural lives before being recalled by the sound.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide and it helped answer your questions. If you are surprised by the abilities of this common pet, please share our look into if goldfish have a three-second memory with your friends.

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Featured Image Credit: dien, Shutterstock

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