FISH AGILITY, YES! Goldfish, Betta Fish, Oscars, and other aquarium or bowl fish, doing Agility Equipment made just for them! Fish can also learn to do tricks and play Basket Ball, Soccer, and a few other sports, again, of course, with Special Equipment made for them and safe for their water.
Training Aquarium or Bowl Fish is not new. Like Solomon said way back in the Old Testament, "Nothing new under the sun." Fish training just got fun and popular again.
How did I get "into" Fish Agility? Well, have already trained dogs, goats, pet rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs to enjoy little Agility Courses. It is fun for myself as well as the animals. They love the attention and the treats it brings them. I have trained animals since I was a little kid. The first animal I ever trained to do tricks I was about 6 years old, and it was a chicken, a Buff Colored Bantum Hen. I have been training animals ever since.
I used to have goldfish that would not only follow my finger around the tank but also follow me when I walked by. Not everyone, just me. My brother, years ago, before it was popular to train Oscars had a couple that played ball with him. He used a Ping Pong Balls. I can not remember what else they did, but I know they knew him when he came into the room. If you have ever been to a park that has fish ponds where you can feed them out of the machines that are like gumball machines but have Fish Food in them, you will remember that the fish heard the machine and came to see you. Fish are/can be intelligent.
To the best of my knowledge the most popular fish breeds to train are Oscars, Goldfish, and Bettas. Male Betta fish are usually kept alone in a bowl so they are more focused when training. They are not distracted by other fish around them.
HOW I GOT STARTED
My husband thought I would be training fish a while back. Then recently on a Yahoo Groups list I host
a new lady was talking about training her Betta Fish. My Betta died the Spring before and I had been thinking of buying a new one. Her talking about training her's just gave me that little push I needed. I bought a Pink/Lilac/Turquoise colored male Crown Tail Betta and named him King Fredrick. Training began the next day.
If you are training or would like to train your own Small Pets or Fish, we would LOVE to have you join us at the Yahoo Groups site, just click on the box above. It is a great group of people with a lot of small pet keeping and training knowledge.
Deron and I have trained all sorts of animals and not having equipment has never been a problem, actually a plus for us. We have made and sold our training aids and fun ideas for pet items for years. I have some fun ideas to make for fish equipment if this all goes well.
I took a ballpoint pen apart and used the shaft to feed King Fredrick. At first he was afraid, of course, but did come and get the food. So we begin. I figure this is all I will be doing for at least a week and will wait to see if I can get him to move to where I place it and how quickly he catches on to that. The second day with the pen shaft went very well, in fact better then expected.
I thought there would be more fish training advise on the Internet. What I found written was just "no duh" stuff and the writer bored me, aggravated me, with her "cutsie crap writing" and no real training content. Then another guy that was all sell, sell, sell his products to you so that you too can/could train your own fish. Nothing about really out there on actually training the fish. But let's face it. Training a fish or a rat or a dog, not rocket science.....even thought there are those that want you to believe it is so. And really, training any animal, even humans, pretty much the same.
This photo of King Fredrick is not great, but I still wanted to show him off. In the photo his tail is not "open" and it is a shame, his tail is really pretty. Let me add for those that jump to conclusions, this is the container he came home in. Not the bowl he lives in.
WHAT CAN A FISH LEARN?
What can a fish learn? Well, with the right trainer, actually quite a few things. Fish can indeed learn to do agility around and through little Agility Equipment such as Hoops and Tunnels, go under Poles and even Weave Poles. I have seen fish play ball with humans using a Ping Pong ball. I have seen them Ring Bells and Play Soccer, and Basket Ball. I even saw a video of a fish Fetching a Little Ring and Doing the Limbo under a little Limbo Poll. Limbo and Agility Weaving Polls, so much different then a Fishing Pole.
HOW YOU CAN GET STARTED TRAINING YOUR FISH
First you must have a fish. It is best if the fish is alone in the aquarium or with one other fish you will also be working with. You will need something go feed the fish out of. I have said above I use an empty ballpoint pen shaft to feed my Betta Fish out of.
Once your fish has learned all about the feeding tube, or call it the target stick, you can then train it to come through a hoop. Coming Through a Hoop for small animals and or fish is a real good trick to start with. It teaches the fish to learn to learn. The idea is to teach the fish it needs to preform a task, or we call it, learn a trick. Once the fish learns you want it to do something, teaching the next task or call it trick, is easier and will take less time for the fish to learn.
HOW TO TRAIN TRICKS
To train a fish you must take it slow and be patient. You must have a plan, ideas of what types of tricks you want to train, and little props that are not only safe for the fish to use, but also safe for the water it lives in. Remember the fish will need to understand what you are asking it to do. You will need to set the fish up for success with each trick, task or piece of Agility Equipment you are trying to teach it. You can not get into the tank/bowl with the fish and even if you could you would still need to be clear in what you are training the fish. Each little bitty move the fish makes in the correct direction of learning, must be rewarded.
WHAT YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO
First of all do not set the sites for your training so high that you are disappointed. Your fish is not going to learn Search and Rescue. But it can learn small tasks. You must take your time. Be patient. Little by little, call them baby steps while training your fish.
Never, ever, try to punish your fish. That would be abuse. Your fish has no idea what you want until you take the time to break down each little bitty step for it to learn. Think of teaching someone that does not speak your language. How quickly would you yourself learn? Absolutely depends on the teacher and how well they communicate with you. Smacking you is not going to help you learn.
Do not leave training aids in the bowl or tank with the fish. Remove them after each training session. You want the fish to notice the item, to expect something to happen with these items arrive. If left in the tank bad habits around them could also occur. If you want your fish to swim Through a Hoop, you will have it go through the same direction each time. If you leave the Hoop in the tank the hoop becomes part of the decor, not a training aid. The fish may also start swimming through the hoop, either direction, and be confused when it does not receive a treat.
Some metals are ok to use for training aids, others can change the PH balance of your tank. But to be honest. I am not sure the few minutes per day you work with your fish with a metal item in the tank would hurt. But please check on that before using most metal.
GET PHOTOS AND VIDEOS
Be sure to take photos and videos of your fish. Not only will people not believe you when you tell them that your fish does Tricks and or Agility, you will want those photos and videos in the future to smile back at.
MY FISH TRAINING DIARY
This is a place for me to keep notes (yes, I also keep them in a notebook, you never know what might happen to a webpage when you least expect it) I will try to be very clear and detailed so that it might help others in training their own fish. One thing for sure. Not only is every breed of fish different, and much the same, each individual is different, and yet much the same. That goes for trainers too. Staying consistent in your training, being kind to the fish, not expecting too much or expecting anything to come quickly will help keep fish training in perspective. One warning: Do not overfeed your fish trying to train too often or too many times a day. Not only can fish get fat, you can soil their living space and make the fish very sick. Just keep at it as you feed and be very very patient.
If you have questions about your fish training you might join the list above and get answers not only from myself but others that are training or have trained fish as well.
NOT NEW TO FISH KEEPING
We are not new to Fish Keeping. I have had fish on and off, more on, in my lifetime since I was a child. I also had "Sea Monkeys" and followed the instructions that came with them for Training Them to do Tricks. I had them as well as my first, that was mine and mine alone, aquarium. When I won the goldfish from the Ping Pong tosses as School Fairs and Carnivals, mine lived. I had them in bowls and they lived quite some time.
My husband has had fish since he was a young child too. Fish were the only animals he was allowed to keep as a young boy. He remembers his first coming from the Central Hardware Store. Their Pet Dept. was no longer but that day they had a child's swimming pool full of bags of goldfish for sale. Since then he has had fresh water aquarium in his room growing up for many years. He has also owned and maintained (some of you will know what all this takes) a salt water aquarium that included not only salt water fish, but also Sea Horses, Shrimp, Crabs, Anemones, Corral and more.
So neither of us are new to keep fish, but neither of us really trained fish more then just to have them follow us or our hands around the tank.
HOW I PICKED OUT MY FISH TO TRAIN
Did I research the breeds and pick the smartest? No. Did I stand and watch all the little containers of Bettas to see if any looked like they were little Einstein's? No. Did I try to get any of the fish in the little containers to see if they would follow my finger? No. I looked them over to make sure they looked healthy and alert, then..... I picked out the one that I thought was the prettiest. May not be the best way to pick out an animal, one you want to train, but that is how I did it.
WHAT MY HUSBAND SAID WHEN I TOLD HIM I WAS GOING TO TRAIN THE FISH
You would have to know my husband and I to understand. He actually thought I would have trained one sooner. When it became the rage again when the guy taught his fish and started selling Agility and Trick Equipment with Instructions. When Deron saw it all, he offered to buy me a set.
Deron and I have taught ALL SORTS of animals tricks and tasks and agility. Deron has been very supportive. When I wanted to train Pet Rats to do Agility there was very little information "out there". Deron had built several pieces of Dog Agility Equipment, as well as Rabbit Agility for me, so he took out a pencil and did the math to bring the sizes down for a Rat.
When I walked over to him in the store with two fish I was trying to decide between and showed them to Deron, he said, "Get both." I chose one.
WHAT I AM DOING DIFFERENT WITH KING FREDRICK
Since Bettas can and more are kept in smaller bowls rather then aquariums I am able to move the container that King Fredrick is in when I work with him. I move him to the same area, on the table, and then open the lid to the container. This, I believe, cues him to what is coming. Food.
I also an not adding much to the container his is in. I will not have any of the cute caves or other aquarium "pretties" so that he is focused on me and what I put into his living space. When I work him I also remove the plants that are normally in the tank with him. I place them on a clean dinner plate and replace them when I am finished.
NO CLICKER TRAINING FOR US
I do not use clickers when I train. I don't care for them, I never have thought about using one. I won't go on and on about it, I will say, that if you need a clicker to train, use it. If you can train without one, you will have more hands to work with and in a group of trained animals the one trained without the clicker will not become confused.
COME SEE THE FISH WE ARE WORKING WITH
I have a few different breeds of fish I am working with. I invite you to come to our new website and read about their training and see their photos. I hope soon to have videos.
TRAINING JOURNAL OR BLOG
WE HAVE OUR TRAINING BLOG AND MORE INFORMATION ON TRAINING FISH ON OUR WEBSITE AT