A Trick My Fish is Teaching Me
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I bought Data the Betta because I miss having a fish. I grew up with aquariums, and I haven't had a fish in a very long time. I'm becoming obsessed with the idea of creating an aquarium with a mini self sustaining ecosystem, but I'm doing more research about what I need to do. For now, Data the Betta and Spot the Snail are happy enough in their bowl.
When I got the fish, the girl at the checkout counter told me that she taught her betta tricks. That gave me the idea that I wanted to teach my fish tricks! I'm sure it is doable. I had goldfish and bettas as a kid. I can say quite definitively that bettas are more intelligent than goldfish. Goldfish are like pekingese of the fish world (cute, but not bright), and bettas are like a tiger (when you look at him, he looks right back at you).
Ever seen a betta chase and stalk live food? Last night I caught a small insect that was crawling on my desk, and I put it in the betta's bowl. He was keen, and lightning fast. It's incredible.
You can teach almost any animal to respond to stimuli with food rewards. I taught my cat to sit and beg. Maybe I can teach my betta to sit on a leaf on command, too.
He is already recognizing that when the purple ring goes in the bowl, it means food is coming. This morning I put the purple ring in the bowl, and he immediately came up near the water surface, awaiting the menu. I dropped in some pellets, dried shrimp, and flakes, to see what he would like.
He took a nibble of this, a nibble of that, then swam off. He didn't "clean off his plate". He ate what he needed, then stopped eating.
I got my super high tech fish bowl cleaner - an old turkey baster - and removed the uneaten morsels so it wouldn't dirty the bowl. As I was doing so, I was thinking Data the Betta had something to teach me. About the lesson of not overeating, or eating when not hungry.