Take a look at your fish swimming around his tank happily. Ever wonder if he was always like that, or if he behaved differently before he lived in your tank? Well before we answer this, we must look at how a fish's brain works. Many think they have tiny brains, meaning that they are simply not smart, but that is not the case. In fact, a study found that some fish can learn faster than dogs. Want to learn more? Read on to look into how your fish thinks, how they behaved in the wild or would have behaved in the wild, what their natural habitat has to offer, what tanks have to offer, and more.
First off, we'll look at a fish's brain. After all, it is the root of their behaviour. So to understand their actions we must understand their thoughts. A fish learns using its memory. For example, after a carp is captured by an angler, it later becomes harder to catch. This shows how a fish can use its memory in the wild to survive, but what about in the tank? They can use memory for a lot, for example, they will learn about how you give them food and some can even use memory to recognize their owner. So memory is important to a fish in a tank and in their natural habitat which affects how they act. Which brings us to the next topic in fish brains: behaviour. Fish do act different in different places, even in a new tank from an old tank. In the wild, fish use their memory to get away from predators and to find where there is food. This affects their behaviour, so In a tank with no predators or hiding spots for prey or food, they must change their behaviour and adapt to their new tank and get used to how things are, meaning realizing they are not under constant pursuit by predators, so they can lower their stress levels and relax and rest easy. Also, they must learn that they can get food handed to them at certain times and sometimes they have to wait for food. This can make it easy to teach fish tricks because they can learn that doing that trick can get them extra food or a treat. This is only one example, there are many more differences in behaviour.
Watch and Learn
Fish are intelligent creatures. In fact, they can learn something by just seeing another fish doing it. This has a huge impact on how a fish acts, for example, a fish with good navigational skills on specific routes can make other fish that is with them also good at navigating that route after a few times of observing. This incredible skill is called observational learning and almost every fish does it. Now what about in a tank? Well, fish in a community tank that see other fish doing tricks and getting treats may make them do the trick as well in order to get the treat or simply to follow the crowd. This makes teaching tricks much easier since you do not have to teach it to each individual fish. Now you learned how fish use observational learning in the wild and in their tanks but how about fish kept in a tank alone? Well with no other fish, your pet must rely on its own abilities, however, if there is one spot in the tank you want reserved for feeding, can you trick a fish into eating his food there? Well yes, if you want one spot for feeding, put realistic fish decor there that look as though they were eating. Most fish will eat in a spot where they see more fish eating over a one with less fish, so tricking your fish into thinking more fish are eating there, your fish will probably also eat in that spot. All this ties to observational learning and natural behaviour.
Fun and Games
Playful behaviour is how fish like to play around. This behaviour is one that does not usually change. For example, in the wild fish can kick around rocks or shells or play "hide and seek" in the coral, and in the tank they can play with toys, like moss balls for bettas and other fish. It is a good thing this does not change because it amuses the fish and it is fun for us to watch.
Now it's time to compare what a tank has to offer and what their natural habitat has to offer. Lets start off with the wild, fish have plenty of space to just keep swimming, they are with their families and friends, they can use observational learning to see what other fish do, fish that they may not see in their tanks, and lastly, it's their natural home and where they come from. Now, for tanks, they provide safe homes, they get food handed to them, they can be treated by their owners if they're sick, and can live a longer life if treated right.
Now that you understand your fishes behaviour, you can take great care of your aquatic friends.