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Man Trains Goldfish to Go Through Hoops, Push Soccer Ball; 'Fish Can Quickly Learn Complex Tricks'

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PITTSBURGH, PA -- 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

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Reader Comments

24 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

I thought I was the only one who thought goldfish had personalities and were intelligent. My goldfish would always redecorate their tank, if I put a plant where I wanted it they used to move it to where they wanted it, always in the same place. When I walked into the room they would all swim differently as to when someone else walked in. I used to put my hand into the tank and they would come and rest in my hand. I think what you have done is awesome, now goldfish have an ambassador.
   comment# 1   - simone · cape town south africa · Jul 12, 2007 @ 5:06am

I'am extremely impressed that you taught your goldfish to do tricks and proved that fish are'nt dumb after all.
   comment# 2   - john seren · south lake tahoe · Aug 13, 2007 @ 2:23pm

Hi--I've been looking for info on goldfish personalities because I have a Calico Fantail and this little thing definitly has a personality! He lets me put my hand in the tank and pet him, he likes peas and will take them right out of my hand, and usually he stays closer to the top of the tank, but lately, he's been floating down to the bottom and/or middle like he wants to look at me or something? So I bend down and look directly at him, and then he swims back up to the top - but I think he knows me, you know what I mean? I have fallen in love with this cute little guy, and I never cared much for fish before, but he has changed the way I feel about them now!!
   comment# 3   - Patty · Sacramento, CA USA · Aug 14, 2007 @ 12:32pm

hey well im 8 but i had a goldfish it was a beta it lasted and i only won it at a fair but it was so lazy you do know how fish eat swim and sleep it was so much more lazy than that but he could do like 2 tricks they were umm well when i put my hand in the tank he'd nip it and when i told him to play dead he'd go to the bottom of the tank and lay down they may seem interesting but it so wasen't he was really lazy and did nothing all day
   comment# 4   - pari · new jersey · Oct 29, 2007 @ 3:07pm

My Goldfish and Koi start to flip out when they see me shake their bag of food. they all come to the top and swim aggressively. They dont respond til I start shaking the bag tho.. kinda cool.
   comment# 5   - Danny · California · Jan 10, 2008 @ 3:14pm

I seen this on the news. My friends at my favorite pub thought I was on drugs when I told them. Now I have printed proof. CHEERS
   comment# 6   - Ron · St. John's Canada · May 12, 2008 @ 12:22pm

can u put a few free tips online people will want more and then will buy the kit so everyone wins
   comment# 7   - mek · usa · Jun 15, 2008 @ 6:00pm

It just goes to show how many myths surround this hobby. These fish really are intelligent, my two angelfish actually recognize me and know that I normally mean food lol. Also, yesterday, I brought a black moor home from the shop I work in for my coldwater tank and it would only come up to see ME, it must've of recognized my blue work shirt and associated it with food. I think what Dean Pomerleau's done with Albert is amazing and I'm very tempted to try it myself
   comment# 8   - Chris · Gosport, England · Jul 7, 2008 @ 2:39pm

He got his idea from a book my uncle wrote and published in 1995. He was a nuclear physisist and worked for the navy studying echolocation in dolphins. The name of the book is How To Train Goldfish Using Dolphin Training Techniques. The author is C. Scott Johnson.
   comment# 9   - Rebecca · Guthrie, Ok · Sep 11, 2008 @ 5:46am

I have had fish for 7 years now. I always knew they were smart. I had tried clicker training some of my goldfish several years ago but they did not respond to the clicker. A few days ago i stumbled acrossed a vidio of comet the goldfish doing his tricks. Now I am trying to train my betta. I replaced the clicker with a small LED flashlight. Does anyone have any tips on fish training? Rebecca, do you know where I can find your uncle's book? I have been searching for it online for days now but can't find it for sail or in any librarys.
   comment# 10   - Treasure · PA · Sep 14, 2008 @ 8:25pm

i thought that gold fish could not be that smart but i was proven wrong great stuff
   comment# 11   - Sam · missiori · Oct 26, 2008 @ 5:42pm

this was a pretty cool article. I never thought goldfish had personalities and smarts. I heard somewhere that they had a memory span of three seconds. Maybe someday goldfish will rule the world!
   comment# 12   - bigman · ME · Nov 3, 2008 @ 5:30am

My Uncle wrote this book way before this guy did. C. Scott Johnson - How To Train A Goldfish using Dolphin Techniques. I have my Uncle's book and trained a goldfish to go through a hoop and several other tricks about ten years ago.
   comment# 13   - Alice · Yukon, Okla · Nov 13, 2008 @ 7:07am

I think this is aesome. I am trying to get my betta to like me so I can train it :)
   comment# 14   - Morgan · Chattanooga, Tennessee · Feb 22, 2009 @ 1:31pm

My goldfish trained me! He began to splash me with water as I walked by the aquarium when he wanted food. He could splash quite a bit of water out of the tank and get me very wet, too. He only did it when I walked by and not to anyone else and only when he wanted food. He died 5 months ago. So sad.
   comment# 15   - Sheri · SW Florida · Apr 13, 2009 @ 9:18pm

i got 2 gouramis and i just started to train them today!!! im so exited!!!
   comment# 16   - tyler · NC,USA · May 24, 2009 @ 6:25am

were training fish in shcool ap biology. its so cool to watch a fish respond to my actions. were calling the experiment the "fish olympics"
   comment# 17   - sarah · buffalo. USA · Sep 3, 2009 @ 3:15pm

To day I read and sow about trained goldfish.I am so exited about teach goldfish trick.Today I want to start train some tricks to my goldfish.
   comment# 18   - Mohammad Ashiqur rahman · Bangladesh,Dhaka. · Jun 30, 2010 @ 6:11pm

all my fish does is swim,eat, and poop! lol !p
   comment# 19   - layla · anhim,california · Aug 13, 2010 @ 4:23pm

i am so excited about training my fish but i want to do it without spending 2 much money. plz give me some ideas!!!! thanks ps i love the vidio so cute ;)
   comment# 20   - kelsey · australia · Aug 28, 2010 @ 6:54pm

   comment# 21   - JOZA · ISRAEL · Nov 4, 2011 @ 9:16am

i have a common goldfish, died 2 months ago. i never tried to train them. but they live for almost a year with me. i just notice every time i touch the bottom front of aquarium they go swim deep into bottom and when i move it on the top they follow my finger and go swim on the top of aquarium. they only do it when it was i or my mom do it. i think its my mom who incidentally trained them not me, because my mom loves to watch them, and point her finger on the front of aquarium. so amaze
   comment# 22   - rising_eagle · Philippines · Jan 4, 2012 @ 3:21am

very cool but i taught my goldfish to go through a tube to get its food it acutally worked. very cool.
   comment# 23   - kelli · revere massachusetts · Apr 14, 2012 @ 5:05pm

I had black moor for a year. He was named blacky and he used to show off his moves to the common goldfish. Blacky would swim backwards and backwards up and Goldy would just watch in envy. Blacky would do it for us to I miss him so much.
   comment# 24   - linda · arizona usa · Feb 25, 2013 @ 2:29am
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