I remember hearing as a kid that goldfish have a memory capable of remembering only a few seconds. Scientists have debunked that myth, proving that goldfish are much smarter than we think.
A study conducted by researchers at the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel has proved Dory to not be as forgetful as we think her to be. These researchers became fish masters as they trained fish to “associate a sound played through a loudspeaker with feeding time” (article). After using this feeding routine for a month, the fish were placed into the wild. A few months later (without the aforementioned feeding routine, of course), the fish returned when they heard the sound, proving that their memories are much more capable than we give them credit for.
A similar study at Plymouth University suggests that goldfish can pack three months of memory into their little minds. Using food as a reward, the fish in this study learned to press a lever that would release food – but only at certain times. Eventually, the fish made the connection between timing and food distribution and picked up on what time lunch could be expected.
I wouldn’t have thought anything of this discovery, but that’s why I’m not the one doing the research. The researchers responsible for this myth-busting noted how this could affect fish farming. Instead of forcing fish to grow in cages and wreak havoc on the environment, fish farmers could utilize a fish’s memory to train it, let it grow naturally in open water, and recall it using sound when the fish has fully matured.
For an interesting example of young minds at work, read this article about a boy who used similar sound-food association to figure this whole thing out – potentially before researchers caught on and led their own studies.