When we hear that an animal video has started going viral and garnering millions of views, we expect it to be of a mammal: a sweet dog, a curious cat, even a concerned elephant. What we don’t expect? Fish.
Now, maybe that’s unfair of us. Fish kind of get a bad rep, after all. There’s the proverbial wisdom that says a goldfish’s memory only lasts three seconds. There’s the fact that sharks, some of the biggest fish out there, have a scary reputation worth a whole week of special television programming. There’s the fact that while fish tanks are pretty, the fish don’t really seem to do much. And, of course, there’s the fact that unlike a feline or canine companion, you can’t cuddle a fish unless you’re trying to kill it.
But in reality, fish are much cooler and more interesting than we ever expected! That three-second goldfish memory? Myth. (Dory might be cute, but she’s not accurate!) Their short-term memory is more like 9 to 12 seconds – which some studies suggest is longer than ours! – and their long-term memory lasts for at least five months. Sharks might look scary, but in reality, toilets, buckets, pails and air fresheners have all injured more Americans than sharks, and you have a higher chance of dying from the flu than you do a shark attack.
The most compelling and obvious evidence that fish are more intelligent and engaged than we give them credit for being? Feeding time! Anybody who’s ever had fish as a pet knows what we mean: their immediate presence at the top of the tank at the slightest appearance of food shows they know exactly what’s going to happen.
Heck, most of the time, they know it’s feeding time before any flakes even appear, and they even seem to recognize the person who can feed them. My husband regularly feeds our fish, and they definitely seem to recognize him. All he needs to do is approach the tank, and they immediately swim toward the surface. Me, on the other hand? (I’m more of a dog person.) When I get close to the tank, our aquatic pets couldn’t possibly care less. True story.
Studies have confirmed that fish can, indeed, recognize individual human faces. How did scientists figure out this information, considering we can’t touch or verbally interact with them? That old training standby: using food as motivation.
All of these revelations got us thinking: are these traits limited to domesticated fish? How would fish in the wild react to pet store fish food, and would they understand the motivation of a human trying to give it to them?
Turns out, another guy out there wondered the same thing— which brings us back to that viral video we mentioned earlier. This man decided he wanted to find out the answers to these questions, so he did something a little, well, crazy: he took 23 buckets of fish food and dumped them overboard into the ocean. The result? Like nothing we’ve EVER seen before. Check this out.
Have you ever seen anything like this before?! Do you think it’s cool, or is the incredible churn of fish a little scary to you? Do you have fish as pets? Tell us what you think and share our own fish “tails” with us.