Do goldfish go insane?

I saw a small fish bowl and thought to myself “how could a fish stand that little space?”

That got me wondering about the brain of a goldfish (or any aquarium fish of your choice). Do they have the capacity to know they are trapped in a small, never changing space, or are their brains incapable of knowing the difference between living in a river, lake, or whatever compared to that little cube of water?

Do they have a memory, or do they swim around a circle and say “Hey! There’s another new treasure chest! And where did that fake mountain come from?” Or do they know they are trapped and kill themselves to get flushed down the toilet?

(actually, this is a serious question.)

A non-technical answer: not bloody likely. They’re pretty much little reflex machines, wired to respond to stimulii. Their tiny brains have virtually no cerebral cortex to use to consider ANYthing, let alone the size of their surroundings. Or, as Walter Von der Wogelweide would say - Yes, fish think, but not fast enough!

I once asked a tangental but not entirely - about goldfish and bowls - and tehre is some info on goldfish memory in there

They learn the place where food comes into the aquarium so they have some spatial sense.

I used to have a dictionary which defined “indole butyric acid” as (paraphrased) “a plant hormone which induces psychotic reactions in guppies.”

This definition puzzled me for two reasons: The first was, was this quality really the defining quality of the substance? The second, how the hell do you detect psychotic reactions in guppies? Do they swim around in circles muttering about the Aquarian Illuminati? :confused:

Yes, but the voices in their heads get tired of repeating themselves every three seconds.

Thanks for the link, jimmmy, but although that thread has some interesting information, it’s not conclusive.

And it also has goldfish in red, which perhaps is an inside joke… or not.

But, I do remember a neighbor of mine when I was a kid, and they had what I’m guessing was a 10 gallon tank. And that tank had one HUGE fish in it. So big, in fact, that it couldn’t even turn around. It just sort of stared in one direction. If it did turn around, I never saw it. It more or less just swam in place.

I had a roommate in college who had an oscar. That fish knew who he was and recognized him immediately. Now, that oscar connected food with my roommate, so I think they must have some capacity for remembering, or selected learning, which is the conclusion of one of those studies.

Anyway, if any aquarium fish can remember, surely that has to be a bad life. But how would we know? (“Hey! Where’d Mr. Scuba Diver come from?” Neat mountain! Bubbles! Cool! Hey! Where’d Mr. Scuba Diver come from?" Neat mountain! Bubbles! Cool! Hey! Where’d Mr. Scuba Diver come from?" Neat mountain! Bubbles! Cool! Hey! Where’d Mr. Scuba Diver come from?" Neat mountain! Bubbles! Cool!") Lather, rinse, repeat.

Where is PETA on this?

According to what I heard once on Saturday morning cartoons (no, really!) a goldfish’s memory is only about six minutes. Take that for what it’s worth.

However, insofar as insanity goes: according to a medical dictionary that I once had access to, “insanity” is a legal definition: One who either is unable or unwilling to conform to the dictates of society.

So, to answer your OP, probably not. On the other hand, it probably doesn’t matter. Do they go nuts from the monotony? Maybe, but how would you know?

Mythbusters busted that one. :slight_smile:

If one does a search for a specific term (in this case “goldfish”) results will be returned with the search term in red. If you look at the URL you’ll see “highlight=goldfish” at the end of it.

So if I do a search on herring

You might not want to follow that lead…

Well, I guess it makes it either less or more horrible that most common aquarium fish aren’t wild caught, so it’s not like they remember the Amazon or anything. They’ve always had a tank, and I figure my tank’s gotta be better than the tank at the fish store, which are always a lot crowded than they tell you to keep your own. Also it’s got plants and fake driftwood and things. Especially my betta - he went from a little cup to a 5 gallon tank with a plant. He probably thanks his lucky stars every time the magical food hand appears.

He begs for food, too - doesn’t just come up to the top, he flares and shows off when you approach the tank. Either that or he’s trying to kill me. The fish in my bigger tank don’t do that, though, they just all come up to the surface when they see me because they know that’s from whence the manna comes.

Slightly off-topic, but here’s a great article on the hazards of goldfish bowls in other ways.

On the subject of goldfish, check out The Fish School featuring Albert Einstein, a goldfish trained to fetch and play soccer.

I dont’ know if fish can go insane but I know my little bettas are super responsive (they get all excited when they see me come by) and playful. I think if one was just stuck in bowl with no stimulation from owner interactions or other fish, they wouldn’t stay very healthy.

In what way? Was it longer or shorter than 6 minutes?

Thanks for the explaination, Otto. That now makes perfect sense. I was initially wondering if I should be putting goldfish in red letters!

So the prevailing theory is that they probably do have some sort of memory/recognition, but if they did hate their little water cubicle of existence, we’d never know it.

And perhaps **Zsofia **has it right. Most fish that leave a pet store have a much roomier space than those over populated store aquariums.

I can imagine that this life is a bit tough, though. Maybe insane isn’t the right word, as Dijon Warlock points out. But I think you all get my drift. If a fish lives in a tank for any lenght of time (my roommates oscar was 2 years old) it has to do SOMETHING to it’s small cranial capacity.

I’ve often wondered the same thing about those poor little birds stuck in those small cages. But we can stick to fish in this thread.

The Mythbusters (or, rather, Jamie) successfully trained goldfish over a period of weeks to swim through a simple maze to get fed.

I regularly crumble Prozac into my goldfish’s tank and he seems to have a calm, lucid outlook on life.