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How to Train Your Goldfish: 6 Tips & Tricks

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

goldfish jumping out of the water_Mikael Damkier_shutterstock

You may have heard that it’s possible to train your goldfish to do certain tricks or even display a taught quirky behavior. However, this will take patience and time to appropriately train your goldfish. We want the goldfish to feel as stress free as possible and gain your trust through the training process.

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Is It Possible to Train Your Goldfish?

Goldfish can commonly be quite skittish and shy away from being trained, that is why it is recommended to use food or treats as a reward, this makes your goldfish associate the action with food, which we all know a healthy goldfish loves as they are quite food motivated! Unfortunately, one method of training does not work for all goldfish, so it is good to find a suitable training routine according to your goldfish’s behaviors. The longer you have had the goldfish for, the easier it could be to train them as you would have already established a bond.

Image Credit: ivosar, Shutterstock

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Do Goldfish Like Being Trained & Are There Any Potential Benefits?

It is most likely that goldfish will enjoy doing tricks and being trained, especially when there is food involved! It can become quite a rewarding experience for them when using food as bait. Keeping the training slow and simple is a great way to earn trust, as rushed and frustrated training will only lead to your goldfish becoming afraid of you and not interested in being trained. We do not want this to happen (obviously). It benefits the goldfish who will develop a closer bond to you and feel less stressed when being handled or during water and other changes.

Credit: DJ Srki, Shutterstock

What Can Goldfish Be Trained to Do?

Amazingly, goldfish can be successfully trained to do a variety of tricks or quirky behaviors. Some goldfish who have been successfully trained have been trained to swim in a circle, backflip, swim through hoops, swim in a pattern and even do a dance for food (best described as a wiggling behaviour-a display of happiness), as well as willingly swim and lay on your open and clean hand (free of lotions, soaps, and chemicals) and those are just to name a few. These trained outcomes can be quite entertaining and bring you to develop a much closer bond with your goldfish.

  • NOTE: It is important to only start training once your goldfish has settled into their new tank if recently acquired or if you have changed their environment or tank size. This greatly reduces stress for your goldfish, and they will be more comfortable being trained in an environment that they feel safe in.

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Training Tips & Tricks (Step by Step)

  • Step 1: Make sure your goldfish is familiar with you and its environment. It is ideal to train a goldfish that is already comfortable and has been in your presence for at least a week. Then you can decide what type of training or tricks you want your goldfish to do. Interested in making them swim through tunnels or even eat and lay in your hand? Positive reinforcement always seems to help.
  • Step 2: Finding a delightful treat or food to entice your goldfish into being trained and want to do the tricks to receive the reward. Foods and treats such as peas, sinking pellets, algae wafers, algae, or shrimp sinking pellets, gel-based foods and sinking flakes make a great reward and will most definitely spike your goldfish’s attention and interest into training.
  • Step 3: Choose a time of day you want to do training. Goldfish are particularly good with time and associating a certain time of day with food, which will be their reward after or during training.
  • Step 4: Approach the tank slowly with food in your hand, with gentle movements place your hand in the tank, hold the good in the tips of your fingers and see if your goldfish become curious enough to come up and nibble at it. They will then associate your hand in the water with being rewarded with food, they should become more comfortable after you do this step for a few days.
  • Step 5: You can now begin to practice the trick or behaviour you want your goldfish to accomplish. If it involves tricks such as going through a tunnel, you want to hold the tunnel Infront of your goldfish with the food at the exit, if you practice this enough your goldfish will begin to understand that if it swims through the tunnel it will then be rewarded with food. If you want to teach your goldfish to beg for food and do the popular goldfish wiggle dance when you are near, sit by the tank for a bit holding the food at the top of the water line and the drop the food into the tank, stand close to the tank and keep your hand above the water until they are done eating
  • Step 6: To get your goldfish to willingly swim into your hand and lay in it for a bit, you will need a lot of time and patience to get to this step, it can take a few weeks to even a year to train them to portray this behaviour. Once a day, hold food on the palm of your hand and place your hand in the middle of the tank. Your goldfish should swim into your hand to retrieve the food, although this will take patience. In the final training for this behavior, you should be able to place your empty hand palm up and your fish should lay in your hand waiting for food, although this will last a few seconds.

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As you can probably see by now, training your goldfish is not all too hard and is doable with time and patience. Goldfish have long been described as the ‘puppies’ of the water, their behaviour being compared to our furry land friends. Although one goldfish will not be able to do every trick or even become tame enough to be trained, it is still definitely worth a try!

Featured image credit: Mikael Damkier, Shutterstock

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