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Do Goldfish Really Have Short Memory Spans? Surprising Answer!

If someone mentioned that you have the memory of a goldfish, it is likely that they are insulting you by implying that you can't recall anything for longer than three seconds, which is a widespread view among goldfish.

Yet, the truth may be very different, and you may be astonished to discover evidence that we have been incorrect about this ubiquitous pet.

Continue reading "Do Goldfish Really Have Short Memory Spans? Surprising Answer!" by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) while we sift through the evidence in search of hints about the strength of a goldfish's memory.

Is It True That Goldfish Have A 3 Second Memory Span?

Many studies indicate that goldfish, along with other fish species, can have a memory that lasts at least several months.

Technion Institute of Technology

According to a study conducted by Israeli scientists on goldfish, goldfish have a significantly longer memory than was previously assumed. In their experiment, the scientists fed the fish every day for roughly a month while playing a sound.

After one month, the researchers returned the fish to their natural diet for many weeks. Once some time had elapsed, they played the sound again, demonstrating that the fish possessed a memory considerably longer than a few seconds.

This study shown that the fish returned even four and five months later, and this training strategy can help eliminate the need for fish hatcheries because breeders allow the fish to mature in their natural habitat and recall them with a sound when they are adults.

Plymouth University

In a separate study conducted by Plymouth University, fish were needed to press a lever to obtain food, which was only available at specific times each day. The fish could eventually learn when to press the lever and stop pressing it at other times.

This study may not have the same industry-changing potential as the Israeli study, but it demonstrates that goldfish not only have a memory long enough to remember to press the lever, but also have a sense of time and can be trained. Fish with a three-second memory could not be trained.

What Else Can a Goldfish Do?

In addition to recalling sounds and pressing levers, numerous people have experienced goldfish performing further amazing stunts.

Push a Ball

In addition to levers, your goldfish can also move a ball across the aquarium. Pushing the ball over a considerable distance demands significantly more work and resolve than moving a lever.

Observe Color

Your goldfish can also distinguish between hues. To perceive color, your fish’s eye must contain coned receptors.

The goldfish have the cones for red, green, blue, and ultraviolet, which implies they can perceive ultraviolet light; therefore, their color spectrum is broader than ours.

Solving Mazes

Some research indicates that your goldfish can identify landmarks and use them to navigate their environment. Additionally, they may build mental representations of their journey and use them to navigate intricate mazes.

Swim Through Hoops

In addition, many owners have reported that their goldfish would swim through numerous hoops if placed in an aquarium. There are also countless online videos of goldfish swimming through hoops while having fun.


Clearly, goldfish have a far greater memory than we previously believed, and they are also substantially more intelligent than we initially believed. 

The ability to remember a sound after not hearing it for several months demonstrates the goldfish’s long memory, and it may provide a better method for breeding fish, enabling them to live out their natural lives before being recalled by a sound.

We hope you liked reading “Do Goldfish Really Have Short Memory Spans? Surprising Answer!” by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) and that it was helpful in answering your questions.

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Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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