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How Smart Are Fish?

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Chad

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Right. This is how we use language. The letters, spoken or written, that make up the word "Dog" become associated with, not the letters or the sound, but the animal they represent. The bell, in essence, is the dog's understanding of language. Not complex to be sure but like words the bell was a symbolic representation of something other than the bell.
 

eaglesaquarium

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TwoTankAmin said:
We know fish have some degree of memory. How else can plecos males find their caves, or altum angels find the roots in which they shelter over night?
 
Classical conditioning deal with the association of something unrelated becoming associate with something else. The dog was made to salivate by hearing a bell. He was conditioned to think that the sound of a bell means food is coming. Amano tapping on the tank is the bell for the fish.
 
Exactly my point... the pleco and angel being able to find their shelter could be called 'instinct'... responding to a completely foreign stimulus to their 'nature' as a sign that food is coming is 'nurture'.  These videos are indications of training from foreign stimulus.
 

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How can it be called instinct? The pleco claims territory and defends it. Each pleco territory is unique, each cave is unique. The fish are remembering specific geographic placement. How can one have an instinct to find the same cave? it is not that simple.
 
The principle behind classical conditioning is a lot different. Fish naturally seek out food. They do not have to be trained to want food. They may have to imitate behavior to obtain the food. But one can condition a fish to associate tapping with the arrival of food, even when the tapping is no longer followed by food, the fish still responds this way for some time. Part of an Experimental Psychology course involves this process. We first condition the rat to press the bar to get the food. The second part of the experiment is to condition the rat not to press the bar. This is done simply by no longer dispensing food when the bar is pressed.
 
For the pleco to find the same cave requires remembering the lay of the land in its territory. It knows from any point how to get back to the cave. And if the pleco is displaced by a bigger stronger male, the displaced fish will find a new cave and claim new territory. The need to cave is an instinct, the ability to locate that cave repeatedly is a learned behavior.
 
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I would say that the desire to find a cave is instinct but the behavior of finding the same cave is a learned behavior. If not then I believe that any old cave that fit the bill would do. To find the same cave requires learning.
 

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I had an adult, male frontosa who would pick up pebbles and knock on the aquarium glass at feeding time. Sadly he died from an eye tumour but the same tank now has my female oscar in it. She waggles up and down the tank at feeding time. If I ignore her she drops to the bottom of the tank and looks sad. I believe that fish have feelings as well as intelligence.
 
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Interesting notion...feelings. Those who keep dogs certainly know they have feelings as well as intelligence. I think, my theory, that it's our inability to communicate with the fish that makes us think they are just dumb. Dogs have lived with humans since we lived in caves together but keeping fish is relatively new. Romans (wealthy ones) did it but in terms of the non-wealthy that's only been going on for 40 years or so if that. Prior to that a good tank was for the upper middle class to wealthy.
 

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Yes, very interesting. I don't think animals have lost their intuitive senses as much as humans either. Our dogs will quite often turn to walk in the same direction that we have been thinking of walking. I wonder if fish can read our minds?
 
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Dogs have been shown to be intuitive to human body language perhaps so are fish that have been around humans a lot. One of my favorite things to do is play with puffer fish. They will follow you from one side of the tank to the other and start off in the other direction if you pretend to go that way then realize you aren't going and turn back.
 

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Yes, Twinkle my oscar will do that and she is often at the nearest end of the tank as I walk into the room. Funny but I feel she knows when I am about to appear. Spooky!
 

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Perhaps she can feel your footsteps? Vibrations travel very well in water.
 

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glolite said:
 I wonder if fish can read our minds?
Kinda doubtful, but I truly believe body language plays a huge part in this.
 
It is surprising in cases of dogs for example can seemingly know exactly what you want without you actually saying anything at all.
 
I used to train my dog to sit with the smallest of head nods, sideway nods meant he rolls over, nod up meant to stand from sitting position. These really were the smallest of head movements, also believe he looked at my eyes too as i would involuntarily move my eyes in same direction as my head movement 

 
I have heard of a horse trainer who had trained her horse to paw at the ground and snort with the tiniest of certain body movement! 
 
I have no doubt whatsoever that our fish watches us sometimes when we are not looking and when I stand up and start walking to the tank at feeding time, my threadfins are already swimming with excitement (well I think its excitement as they swim furiously and waggle a lot!) at the top corner of the tank where I usually feed them!
 
Body language and sound both play a huge part in our animal's and fishes behaviour whether its consciously or unconsciously and soon becomes a learned behaviour. Obviously food is also a great motivator! 

 
Do not underestimate the intelligence of our animals and with fish of course.
 

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I will add that while not technically a fish, octopus are some of the smartest animals in the wild.  The things they have been recorded doing is quite remarkable.
 

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Although I am new to fish keeping I have noticed playing music while doing water changes certainly seems to affect my fish behaviour.
I only really noticed when instead of calm music I was listening to heavy metal. Instead of them being content, (in particular my fearless danios one ended up in my test tube two days ago) they showed signs of stress all cowering in a corner! Last water change and chilled music and the fish were back to normal water change behaviour, male platy rounding up his harem and danios playing chicken with the gravel vac!
 

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Wow, love how this post has developed, even including classical conditioning.

I suppose part of the reason we're so surprised when a fish, or any other animal, displays the slightest bit of intelligence, is their inability to use language. Humans have developed a means of communicating using words, and our species has developed in such a way that it is reliant on verbal language. Furthermore, an individual's intelligence is often inferred by their ability to communicate effectively with language. So, a by-product of this is that non-human animals, who clearly lack the ability to form language, are deemed as less intelligent. Thus, when they do anything that remotely resembles human conceptions of intelligence, we're shocked because we have mistakenly linked their lack of language skills to a lack of intelligence.
 

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malfunction said:
 Humans have developed a means of communicating using words, and our species has developed in such a way that it is reliant on verbal language. Furthermore, an individual's intelligence is often inferred by their ability to communicate effectively with language. 
 
How about deaf people?
 
We lack verbal language and therefore rely on body language, facial expressions, lip reading and sign language.
 
malfunction said:
So, a by-product of this is that non-human animals, who clearly lack the ability to form language, are deemed as less intelligent. Thus, when they do anything that remotely resembles human conceptions of intelligence, we're shocked because we have mistakenly linked their lack of language skills to a lack of intelligence.
 
In actual fact, i know of some dog trainers who have managed to train their dogs to obey commands using just sign language alone.
 
The same can be said of horses too, again, I know of a few trainers who can make their horses do things without uttering a single spoken word.
 
Dolphins and whales are reliant on hand signals when trainers want them to do certain commands too.
 
Chimps have been trained to use sign language too, in fact this is the closest we'll probably come to actual communication with an animal.
 
So its not a total unknown that animals can communicate or understand humans in one form or another, usually for rewards/treats though!
 
 lol
 
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