How Long is A Goldfish’s Memory: Myths & Studies | Aquascape Addiction

How Long is A Goldfish’s Memory: Myths & Studies

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The myths are wrong, here is the real answer to a goldfish's memory span based on actual study's and real facts to answer this commonly asked question.

How Long is A Goldfish’s Memory: Myths & Studies

There is this notion floating around, nothing more than a bogus myth that the memory span of a goldfish is no more than 3 seconds. Yeah, that’s not very long, but is it even true? How long is a goldfish’s memory?

Well, it is now quite clear that the memory span of a goldfish is much longer than 3 seconds. This has been proven through actual research and experiments. In fact, it is now believed that the memory span of a goldfish may very well be over 5 months.

What Is The Memory Span of A Goldfish?

goldfish memory span

So, do Goldfish really have a memory of 3 seconds? The simple answer here is no, Goldfish do not have a memory of only three seconds, not at all.

In fact, goldfish are now shown to be able to remember events as far back as 5 months. Yes, that is right, months, not seconds, minutes, or days, but months.

Now, it is not believed that goldfish can remember events as far as a full year in the past. However, this is something else that still requires more research.

As you might be able to tell, researching and conducting experiments to figure out the memory span of a goldfish is not exactly straightforward.

However, for all intents and purposes, we can say that a goldfish remembers events far longer in the past than just 3 seconds back. This is a total myth and it has been debunked.

Further below in today’s article we will look at some comprehensive research which proved this myth to be, well just a myth, and beyond any reasonable doubt too.

Goldfish Memory Myth Origin

Something you might be interested to know is where this myth actually comes from. Why do so many people believe that the memory span of a goldfish is only 3 seconds long?

Well, the fact of the matter is that it is actually quite unclear as to what the origins of this myth are. People have been saying this more or less ever since people have had goldfish in their homes.

It is unclear what the origins of this 3 second memory myth are, but that said, it is a widely held belief and it has been this way for well over 100 years. Now, if we really think about it, it’s quite clear where this myth came from.

What many people note is that this 3 second memory myth is nothing more than a total invention, an excuse really. This is an excuse to house Goldfish in poor living conditions. This is what is believed to be the reason behind this myth.

People claim that because goldfish can’t remember more than a few seconds, they therefore don’t need to be kept in good conditions because heck, they won’t remember anyway.

Simply put, this 3 second memory myth surrounding Goldfish appears to be nothing more than a cheap excuse made by lazy people, an excuse to not treat goldfish properly.

Goldfish Memory Study

There have been a few studies conducted to test the memory span of a Goldfish. However, what is interesting here is that one of the most recent and most conclusive studies was performed by none other than a 15 year old schoolboy.

Now, this was back in 2008, but that said, it still holds true today. The boy who conducted this so called study is named Rory Stokes, who hails from Adelaide Australia. One day he decided to find out how good goldfish memory is.

We do have to say that Rory sounds extremely smart for a young man of his age. Here is a little excerpt of what he had to say on the matter. Just listen to how smart this kid sounds, and yeah, he makes total sense too.

"I mean it never really seemed feasible to me, that they had a three, five, 10 second memory because animals need their memory, so they build up over time a knowledge of where the food is,"

"It seemed pretty impractical for a species to evolve without these capabilities."

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Rory’s Goldfish Memory Study

So, based on this, how did Rory Stokes manage to prove that goldfish memories are much further reaching than the world assumed?

Well, he performed a couple of big experiments to prove that goldfish aren’t as dumb as once thought.

The Red Lego

The first study Rory conducted was to place a red Lego in the fish tank. Rory would then place food beside the Lego. Yeah, food is always a good way to get anything done.

Anyway, what Rory saw here was that eventually, the Goldfish would recognize the red Lego and then wait for food by the Lego.

This proved that not only could the Goldfish remember the Lego from one day to the next, but it could also remember the association between the Lego and receiving food.

The Fish Net Escape

The other experiment which Rory did was to make a special fish net with a specific escape route cut into it. Rory would place his Goldfish inside of the net and see how long it took the Goldfish to escape.

According to Rory, within 5 tries the Goldfish had memorized the exact escape route. This therefore shows that Goldfish do have decent brain power, processing abilities, and memory.

Goldfish Memory Myth Debunked by THE MYTHBUSTERS!!

Mythbusters was always a super popular show, and although Adam and Jamie are no longer the main Mythbusters, back in their day, they also did an experiment to show that Goldfish memories are not as bad as once thought.

Jamie actually managed to train his goldfish to maneuver a pretty difficult underwater obstacle course.

It took a bit of time, but it was shown that from one day to another, the Goldfish did in fact remember the various obstacles set before it.

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Do Goldfish Recognize Their Owners?

Based on everything we have said here today, it is 100% fair to assume that Goldfish can indeed recognize their owners. If they can remember red Legos, fish net escape routes, and obstacle courses too, there is no reason to think that Goldfish cannot recognize their owners.

It has been shown that Goldfish recognize their owners, which is why a Goldfish over time may actually start to eat out of your hand. It proves that Goldfish can not only remember people, but actually form bonds with them.

Goldfish over time can begin to trust their owners to the point where they feel comfortable eating out of their hands. If nothing else, this shows that Goldfish can in fact remember way more than just 3 seconds back into the past.


The bottom line is that the myth of goldfish memories only being a few seconds is totally bogus and it has been officially busted.

Although your pet Goldfish may not be as smart as Einstein, the fact of the matter is that their memories and cognitive abilities are far greater than once thought.