Tag Archives: goldfish

Scientists taught a goldfish to drive a watery tank on wheels — and it’s pretty good at it

Imagine a goldfish swimming on a tank on wheels as it moves deliberately from one side of a room to the other. No, it’s not a sci-fi movie, nor a bizarre comedy. It’s actually a serious animal behavior and cognitive ability experiment. Researchers trained several goldfish to run a robotic vehicle so to explore whether the species could navigate on land — and it turns out, they’re not too bad. 

Image credit: The researchers.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen something like this. Back in 2019, researchers at the University of Richmond wanted to see what effect the environment a rat was raised in had on its capability to learn new tasks. To do so, the team came up with something more tricky than navigating a maze. They successfully taught rats how to drive.

In a new study, researchers from Ben-Gurion University created a water tank on wheels to see whether goldfish can learn to navigate on dry land. The experiment wanted to test whether a fish’s navigation skills are universal or limited. Using navigational skills in unfamiliar settings is known as domain transfer methodology, and it’s an important cognitive ability.

“The study hints that navigational ability is universal rather than specific to the environment. Second, it shows that goldfish have the cognitive ability to learn a complex task in an environment completely unlike the one they evolved in,” says Shachar Givon, a PhD student and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. 

Is that fish driving?

The researchers used a fish-operated vehicle (FOV) with a special software and a motion-sensing camera so to monitor where the fish is swimming in the watery tank on wheels. An algorithm moves the tank based on the camera’s signaling, allowing the fish to drive the vehicle. The algorithm is powered by a program running on an open-source microcontroller called Raspberry Pi.

Before tests could begin, the researchers first had to teach the goldfish how to drive. Six fish were enrolled in a driving school and were subject to multiple 30-minute sessions. The goldfish were tasked with moving the vehicle toward a visual target – a pink-colored mark on the wall of the experiment room – visible through the clear sides of the tank.

The movement of the fish and its location was translated into instructions for the FOV, allowing it to move left, right, forward or backward. The fish had to face outside the tank in the direction it was moving towards for the vehicle to move in a specific direction. This means that if the fish was in the middle of the tank, no movement happened.

Once the driving school was completed, the researchers were ready to officially test the goldfish navigational skills. In order to check if the fish were actually navigating to the targets and not just memorizing movements, the researchers changed the starting position of the vehicle and also incorporated decoy targets in different colors. 

All the six fish that participated in the experiment drove toward the visual target, even from different angles – which suggests the fishes understand the world around them. All fish also improved as they repeated the task. This means that the fish can learn from their environment and make any necessary changes, the researchers argued. In other words, this experiment just taught us a new thing about the cognitive abilities of fish.

“The fish were tasked to “drive” the FOV towards a visual target in the terrestrial environment, which was observable through the walls of the tank, and indeed were able to operate the vehicle, explore the new environment, and reach the target regardless of the starting point, all while avoiding dead-ends and correcting location,” the researchers wrote. 

The study was published in the journal Behavioral Brain Research.

goldfish eye surgery

Doctors perform eye surgery on a goldfish

People generally love their pets, but we’d be lying to say there isn’t an inter-species discrimination. How many fish owners do you know who’ve been with their goldfish to a veterinarian? Not that many, I presume. Certainly, number-wise it pales in comparison to dogs or cats. The story of a Scottish goldfish named Star which had its cancerous eye removed by doctors thus serves as a noble example of respect and responsibility that all pet owners should bear.

goldfish eye surgery

Image: FACEBOOK/INGLIS VETERINARY HOSPITAL

 

The operation was performed at the Fife’s Inglis Veterinary Hospital by specialist Brigitte Lord under an anesthetic.  According to Discovery News, the team also included a veterinarian who kept Star under sedation and a nurse in charge of monitoring the fish’s vital signs.

“This is a highly specialist field,” Lord said on the Inglis Vets Facebook page. “Using anesthetic on a goldfish carries a very high risk, and I’m delighted for the owner that everything went okay and the owners are happy.”

Star swimming a tank before it had its tumorous eye removed by surgery. Image: FACEBOOK/INGLIS VETERINARY HOSPITAL

Star swimming a tank before it had its tumorous eye removed by surgery. Image: FACEBOOK/INGLIS VETERINARY HOSPITAL

Star  is owned by Janie Gordon, and her daughter Abby who won Star at a fair 12 years ago. In the same day, their other pet goldfish who shares a tank with Star was also under surgery to remove a lump. The two operations cost nearly 500 pounds (about US $755).

“I know it seems like a lot of money to spend on an operation for a goldfish,” Janie Gordon said. “But what was the alternative? I think we’ve a social responsibility to look after our pets and I know my daughter would have been distraught if anything had happened to the goldfish.”

Faith in humanity restored: disabled pet fish that can’t swim fitted with life jacket

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This isn’t a cyborg gold fish from a borg’s aquarium, this little amazing fellow is called Einstein. He unfortunately ended up with a disability caused by a disease that has basically made him useless in water: he can’t swim anymore. Not by itself, at least. Feeling heart broken by seeing his pet fish so helpless, his owner Leighton Naylor, a 32 year-old warehouse worker in Blackpool, UK, made him a life jacket to keep the fish from going belly-up.

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Nothing simpler actually: some recycled tubing to create a buoyancy aid that allowed Einstein to swim around the tank and stopped him from sinking to the bottom of the tank.

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At first, it didn’t really work that well for Einstein, so Naylor made sure to turn the gold-fish’s tank more disability-friendly and he was soon fine afterward.

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Einstein’s owner display of humanity didn’t end there. Like all handicapped, limitations tend to come in packs, so poor Einstein had trouble feeding the way he regularly used to. No worries, since Naylor passes him his food through a tube that he lowers into the water tank.

“People have said I’m crazy but every animal is a valued family member,” said Mr Naylor.

“I’ve tried to train all of my fish but Einstein’s my star pupil.

“He can swim through my fingers and he was getting into fish football when he fell sick.”

[story via express.co.uk]

Holy Carp! Giant goldfish invade lake tahoe

A new type of lake monster has been found, in the depths of Lake Tahoe: gigantic goldfish; and as cute as they are, their influence is just disastrous for the local ecosystem.

goldfish

The goldfish is an invasive species for that environment, adapting to the situation so well that it pretty much annihilated its competition, growing even to humongous size (for them) of half a meter.

“During these surveys, we’ve found a nice corner where there’s about 15 other goldfish,” environmental scientist Sudeep Chandra of the University of Nevada, Reno, explained. “It’s an indication that they were schooling and spawning.”

The fish were almost certainly dumped into the lake by aquarium owners not wanting to deal with them anymore. The thing is, goldfish are quite sturdy, and can quickly adapt even when dropped during their early days, showing once again the huge amount of damage that can be done when a foreign species is introduced to a new ecosystem.

Aquarium dumping has become a common practice in the United States and elsewhere, and it’s taking a toll on native wildlife. The thing is, many ecosystems are threatened due to this practice.

“We know that we have a giant goldfish, the question now becomes how long has it been there and how many others are there in the lake?” Dr Sudeep Chandra, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), explained.

Also, judging by the goldfish sizes, things just got real.

“It’s not your average-size goldfish. So, you’re like, is that real? Oh, it’s real,” she continued.

The important thing here is to realize the implications that people’s actions have. Even something as small as dumping some goldfish in a lake (there’s a metaphor there somewhere) can have devastating consequences. Aquarium owners (and not just them) should be much more careful when doing things like this, and this is a really problematic issue, considering how there’s not really a viable alternative here.

Via Redorbit