Underwatertimes.com News Service - December 16, 2005 00:00 EST
goldfish trained

Trained goldfish Albert Einstein plays soccer during recess from Fish School.

Even Albert Einstein would have been impressed by his counterpart in the fish world. A goldfish of the same name is learning to do tricks usually reserved for other animals. Albert Einstein - the fish - can swim through hoops and tunnels, push an underwater soccer ball into a goal, and fetch a ball from the bottom of the aquarium to the surface.

"It all began when my kids won a fish," says trainer Dean Pomerleau in an interview on Pet Fish Talk, a weekly Internet radio program for fish hobbyists. Explaining that he wanted to make fish more fun for his kids, Dean used animal and dolphin training techniques to see if the fish would respond.

Dean was delighted when the calico fantail goldfish started to respond to a "feeding wand" he used as his primary training tool. "Initially you reward basic behaviors like approaching the ball," says Dean. "With the encouragement of the food reward, fish can quickly learn complex tricks - like pushing the miniature soccer ball."

Working with his nine year-old son, Kyle, who trains Albert when Dad is out of town, the Pomerleaus have discovered that fish are smarter than most people imagine. Dean has applied to the Guinness Book of World Records to have his top pupil, Albert Einstein, recognized as the smartest fish in the world.

"At first my friends didn't believe me," says assistant tropical fish trainer, Kyle. "But when I sent them to our website where we had posted video, they all said it was cool!" Some of Kyle's friends now want to get their own pet fish to train.

The training works on other species of fish too. "Besides goldfish," reports Dean, "we've trained bettas, oscars and parrot cichlids. They all are capable of learning these tricks."

The Pomerleau's betta fish, Isaac Newton, learned to swim through hoops in two weeks. "The key is to reward them at the precise moment of the appropriate behavior," says Dean.

At the urging of friends fascinated by these discoveries, Dean has created a training manual and kit which includes instructions, training equipment and a Fish School diploma to award fish that complete the training course. So far, no plans for a cap and gown.

The interview with fish trainers Dean and Kyle may be heard on http://www.PetFishTalk.com/training.htm