The Goldfish Memory

The Goldfish Memory.jpg

Rory Strokes, an Australian student, disproved that goldfish have memory span of only 3 seconds in a simple experiment using a small fish tank.


There is a popular belief that goldfish have short memory. It is very short; in fact, it is believed that they only have 3-second memory span. Goldfish are a popular house pet, so imagine if the pets you feed countless of times every day do not remember you after you give them food.

The origin of this belief is quite unclear. It is not exactly known when and how this belief came about. However, it did not take a very complicated research to prove that it is just a myth nor did it require elaborate research. A 15-year-old.student at the Australian Science and Mathematics School in Adelaide, Australia named Rory Strokes did exactly that.

According to Rory, they were thought that a goldfish has a memory span of less than 3 seconds. So even when they are confined in small fish bowls, they don’t get tired of it. Rory does not actually approve of keeping fish in a small tank, so he wants to open people’s minds to the cruelty of keeping them there.

Rory thought that it seemed impractical for a species like fish to evolve without the capability of storing memories. For him, it doesn’t seem feasible because even animals need their memory to build up knowledge to where they can get food and so on. So he conducted a simple school experiment to disprove this belief.

Rory conducted research using only a small fish tank. He placed a red Lego piece inside. Then he would sprinkle food around the Lego piece every day. At first the goldfish were scared to come to close to it, but by the end of three weeks, they were actually almost gathering around it even before he put the food. He then removed the Lego piece. What he did after that was to leave he fish for a week.

After a week, he again continued the same routine that he did for three weeks. He put back the Lego piece and started giving food around it. Even after leaving the fish for a week, they seemed to perfectly remember. They responded to him just like the way they did during those three weeks. It showed that the fish remembered the association between the food and the Lego piece even when they had not seen it for a week.

The experiment may be simple. It is an excellent example of a fun science investigation, which shows that even school kids can prove and disprove science beliefs.



  • Goldfish can live for many years. Its average lifespan is about 10 years, but there are those that can live to 20 years.
  • The most common goldfish is orange but they can also be silver, white, blue, black, or a combination of different colors.
  • No matter what breed or color of a goldfish, they all descend from an Asian carp.













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