The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
HOME   |   ABOUT   |   FORUM   |   CONTACT   |   FACEBOOK   |   RSS
Trained Goldfish
Status: Undetermined
image Christine sent in a video of four goldfish who have apparently been trained to swim in synchronized patterns. They're definitely the best-trained goldfish I've ever seen. In fact, I didn't even know it was possible to train fish, but a quick google search reveals that I'm wrong. The Clicker Training site shows a film clip of a trained fish (it's the second movie down), and also has a discussion about training fish. Which isn't to say that the movie of the four trained goldfish is real, but I can't see how it's been faked. The clip looks like it was a segment on a Japanese news show, which actually makes it more believable. (If it looked like an advertisement, I'd dismiss it right away as a fake.) I'm listing its status as undetermined, but I'm leaning towards believing that it's real.

Related Posts:
Jan 31, 2006: Goldfish Have No Memory
Oct. 25, 2005: Do Round Bowls Make Goldfish Go Blind?
Categories: Animals, Photos
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 09, 2006
Comments (30)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
Also from the Hoax Forum (January 25, 2006):

I don't think I'd have the patience...
Posted by StarLizard  in  Quebec, Canada  on  Thu Feb 09, 2006  at  09:06 AM
CUUUUUTE!! Even if it's not real, I think the clip is fun.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Feb 09, 2006  at  12:31 PM
And it's a Chinese variety show. smile
Posted by John  on  Thu Feb 09, 2006  at  01:41 PM
It's probably real, though it may not be the hand motions that are really signalling the fish to turn. Training fish is nothing new (to the chagrin of people who'd rather believe fish have no memory!). I've seen goldfish trained to ring bells and jump through hoops. And I personally once trained my Oscar to jump in the air and take food from my fingers, swim to either end of the tank on command, or swim in circles.
Posted by Big Gary, late for feeding time  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Thu Feb 09, 2006  at  04:19 PM
It's a Japanese TV show, but apparently it has been edited by a Chinese TV channel -- there's a different voice-over at the end, that's Chinese, not Japanese.
I also didn't know fish could be trained. Adorable.
Posted by Mori  on  Fri Feb 10, 2006  at  07:46 AM
I think it's done with magnets under the table.
Posted by John Tyo  on  Fri Feb 10, 2006  at  03:11 PM
^^ You think magnets? Like they poured buckshot or something similar into the poor little things and have a magnet dragging them around in formation? Would make sense but could you put enough metallic substance in a goldfish for a magnet to affect enough to move them around... and not kill them? Maybe they're using those "Super Magnets" the neodymium AKA rare earth magnets.... hmmm
Posted by Emi  on  Sat Feb 11, 2006  at  05:58 AM
Possibly ingested or the magnet could be attached to their bellies. You don't really see beneath them and there isn't an obviouse shadow underneath. Looks like they're stuck to the bottom. The propulsion from their fins doesn't look like it would be able to move them like that. I'd expect more wiggle of the tail fin. Around second 43 they back up the two fish on the left and, to me, it looks like their movement indicates a stressful reaction rather than a fish reversing itself. If this was originally presented as a magic effect I'm sorry for exposing it.
Posted by John Tyo  on  Sat Feb 11, 2006  at  11:43 PM
You've been smoking too much of that Arkansas Polio Weed.
As I said, it's really not all that hard to train fish to do simple things. Mostly, it requires a lot of patience.
Posted by Big Gary, late for feeding time  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Mon Feb 13, 2006  at  11:58 AM
I've trained my betta to come to one corner of the tank when I tap on it.

I don't doubt someone could train four fish to swim in formation. Odd hobbies are legion.

But what's with that peculiar white hat?
Posted by cvirtue  on  Mon Feb 13, 2006  at  02:30 PM
"It's a Japanese TV show, but apparently it has been edited by a Chinese TV channel"
You're on the money. JET is a Taiwanese channel that regularly carry voiced over Japanese programming. I believe their redubs are also regularly sold to other TV networks. The channel is available over cable in Singapore, and some of their programming is available over another channel over here in Malaysia.
Posted by RAMChYLD  in  Malaysia  on  Fri Feb 17, 2006  at  09:26 PM
I'm going to agree with the magnet crowd here, or something along those lines. I have a goldfish almost identical to these, except it has the pop eyes, and if it was swimming at those speeds there'd need to be a lot more tail action going on.
Posted by Ponygirl  on  Sat Feb 18, 2006  at  01:57 AM
I think there's not even sufficient water in the tank for them to swim in! Near the end a goldfish looks like it's beeing dragged and touching on the bottom of the tank. Magnets here too
Posted by miko  on  Tue Mar 07, 2006  at  06:07 AM
God, I hate to say it, but is it possible that the little critters are hungry?
Perhaps they've been fed by hand & its natural to follow that hand looking for food...
Posted by catshere  in  USA  on  Sun Mar 12, 2006  at  03:13 PM
This is anything but real, take it from someone who breeds fish and has 8 tanks between 5 and 80 gallons (plus countless smaller betta tanks). Their movement is very unnatural, you'd expect fancy goldfish like these to be putting forth more effort to be moving at those speeds. Just watch in the last 3 seconds or so and you'll see the fish on the far right struggling unsuccessfully to swim out of formation. No animal, no matter how clever and well trained, is going to be capable of performing as perfectly as those goldfish did in the video. I don't know exactly how they did it, but like others mentioned, my bet is magnets.

Now if you want videos of REAL trained fish doing their thing, go here:
Posted by Synirr  in  Texas  on  Mon Mar 20, 2006  at  01:06 AM
Although magicians aren't supposed to reveal secrets, I've spent a number of years making a living through the art of illusion and I can say, that although I can't be sure of the vid clip version, I can be sure that it can be duplicated using strong pinhead sized neo magnets. A single magnet is glued (using one of the ever popular super glues) on one side of each fish just below the mouth and gill. The trick "operator" is under the table dragging two sticks embedded with magnets on each end (covered with padding to prevent noise and water ripples) in a pattern know to the "trainer".

I would bet that the vid clip being discussed is performed in exactly the same manor because:
1) Goldfish normally swim perpendicular to the ground, and not flat like flounder or stingray.
2) The amount of water used will not allow the fish to swim perpendicular to the ground, or flip over, therefore only allowing the magnetic side to always remain close to the bottom of the shallow tank. This position and the amount of water also assures that the fish can't get a full "tail-swing" to enable enough force to break free from the magnetic pull.

I suspect that the reason we don't see this much outside of Japan or Singapore (or other fish "friendly" countries), is because our animal rights laws (here in the United States) would destroy the act before anyone could turn a profit.

Most likely, animal rights activists would close down any demonstration of animal (fishes included) cruelty, much the way they have done in the past, (I.E.: "The Tap Dancing Chicken")

Hope this helps, and also hope this doesn't become the next craze for kids, like the mentos and soda experiment which has no doubt caused a few extra paint jobs here and there.

PS: Love your site!
Posted by Scott  in  New York  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  03:22 PM
Animal rights laws here in the US actually don't protect fish, nor reptiles I don't think... A big fuss would be made about this sort of happening in this country, but legally there's nothing that can be done without putting new laws on the books or changing up the current ones to include fish.
Posted by Synirr  in  Texas  on  Tue Jul 04, 2006  at  12:52 AM
Thanks for the comment on animal rights laws in the US. (Perhaps I should have used the word "activists" instead of "laws".) I did use the words "I suspect that" and "Most likely" so I wasn't sure if it was a law or not.
I do know that the exploitation of any living species seems to always have some sort of group waiting in the wings, ready to slam down some sort of "morality" issue. I could easily see how "modifying a goldfish with glue and magnets for personal gain" could end up on the evening news here in New York.
Posted by Scott  in  New York  on  Tue Jul 04, 2006  at  05:20 AM
Oh absolutely, no argument there -- the ASPCA will sometimes step in in such situations, but legally speaking there's nothing they can do. In pet shop situations, usually the threat of their presence is enough to make a shop clean up its act... most places aren't too happy about having an animal welfare group show up in front of customers ya know raspberry
Posted by Synirr  in  Texas  on  Tue Jul 04, 2006  at  05:52 AM
Oh you dis-believers you! I had a Sturgeon (normally a bottom only feeder) that I had trained to come to the surface and take food from my hand (his nose would stick out from the water). He would also swim across the top of the water either upright or on his back (a bit like a trained dolphin). It would take the sound of food for him to come to the surface but once he was there he would do his tricks. Chances are these goldfish have been trained the same way. They are following the trainers hands waiting/expecting to find food.
Posted by Geezer  in  UK  on  Tue Nov 28, 2006  at  04:24 PM
I quote myself:
"Now if you want videos of REAL trained fish doing their thing, go here:"
I am a fishkeeper. I now have 12 aquariums, and many species that are surprisingly intelligent. I have no doubt that fish can be trained, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid enough to believe these fish are the gold-medal synchronized swimming team they appear to be. Food will make them follow, it won't make them swim in well-formed patterns. I've been around fish long enough to know how they are supposed to swim, and this is not normal.
Posted by Synirr  in  Texas  on  Thu Nov 30, 2006  at  08:37 PM
I have been in to the fish-keeping hobby for about 2 years, and I had goldfish when I was little, and the video is definately not real.... If you look at the fish while they turn, it is almost as if they are pivoting, and it is far too perfect for four goldfish to be doing w/o any assistance.and like everyone else has said above, they aren't moving naturally, they struggle at times, and ALL of the fins are moving way too slow for a fish to be moving that quickly.
Posted by B-Rob  in  New York  on  Mon Apr 16, 2007  at  12:28 AM
no way this is tailed goldfish cannot swim that fast and when they do swim they are so fat they waddle a lot...these fish look like theyre being dragged through that tank somehow =[
Posted by vic  on  Sat Apr 28, 2007  at  10:27 AM
I commented on this for the first time in July 06...

I still think that: yes, I'm sure fish can be trained. BUT, the syncronization and attention span demonstrated in the video, FAR exceeds that which has been done before, Now that's not proof that this is fake, but it does suggest that outside of this example, I've yet to see another demonstration on video, or documentation of this in any magazine, book, or records.

I also think it can be duplicated with the use of magnets as I mentioned in an earlier post.

Still fun to watch.
Posted by Scott  in  new york  on  Sat Apr 28, 2007  at  11:10 AM
i think its magnets...
by the way, i've had all kinds of success with training fish, but cant get any of my goldfish to jump out of the water.. they'll just about break the surface. big Gary, how did ya do that?
Posted by mattco  in  Bristol, England  on  Tue Jun 26, 2007  at  02:21 PM
All the people who think that synchronized swimming is a simple task to teach fish clearly have about as much brains as the goldfish.
Posted by tashimojo  in  arizona  on  Tue Jul 10, 2007  at  11:13 AM
I agree that magnets are the probable "trick" here:

1. The fish movements do not seem natural either while swimming, or while turning.

2. It would be extremely difficult to train fish to be so well controlled, over multiple instructions, but even more so for a GROUP of fish to maintain synchrosity in such disciplined and controlled movements.

3. The outlandish mannerisms by the "Fish Trainer" gives the appearance more of a practical joke, than a refined and anxious performance.

Definitely magnets...
Posted by Mike  in  Melbourne, Australia  on  Wed Apr 02, 2008  at  07:10 AM
Yes fish can be trained, I have done it myself with my oscar. But I am sorry to say that these guys look like it is done by magnets. You can tell for sure in a few spots where they swim in an unnatural way. RIP poor lil' metal fed goldfish.
Posted by Some Fish Dude  on  Fri Nov 06, 2009  at  03:48 PM
All you people that think they are trained are brain dead. they were fed ferrite flakes, and there are moving magnets under the table, the fish survive for 3 days after being fed the ferrite. this is cruel, but typical for cruelty like this in Japan and China for that matter. All of you that though it was cute...they died a slow death, cute now?
Posted by Dennis  in  Australia  on  Sat Feb 05, 2011  at  06:53 AM
All of you that don't understand that this is done with magnets are not much smarter than those poor damned goldfish being yanked around.
Posted by Hank  in  Hong Kong  on  Wed Feb 16, 2011  at  09:05 PM
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.