Melbourne, Feb 18 : An Aussie teenager has proved wrong the long held belief that goldfish only have a 3 second memory.
Rory Stokes, who belongs to the Australian Science and Mathematics School in Adelaide, performed an experiment to test the common myth that goldfish have short memory spans.
The 15-year-old even wanted to open people's minds to the inhuman nature of keeping fish in small tanks.
"We are told that a goldfish has a memory span of less than three seconds and that no matter how small its tank is, it will always discover new places and objects. I wanted to challenge this theory as I believe it is a myth intended to make us feel less guilty about keeping fish in small tanks," The Daily Telegraph quoted Rory, as saying.
In his experiment he taught a small group of fish to swim to a beacon by setting up a memory connection between the beacon and food. For the next three weeks, he placed a beacon in the water at feeding time each day, waited 30 seconds and then sprinkled fish food around the beacon.
He noticed that the time taken for the fish to swim to the beacon drastically reduced, from more than one minute for the first few feeds to less than five seconds by the end of the three weeks.
After this initial three-week period, Rory removed the beacon from the feeding process. And after 6 days later, he once again placed the beacon in the water.
The fish, despite not seeing the beacon for almost a week, swam to it in 4.4 seconds, proving that they had remembered the link between food and the beacon for at least six days.
"My results strongly showed that goldfish can retain knowledge for at least six days. They can retain that knowledge indefinitely if they use it regularly," said Rory.
He also conducted a number of sub-experiments demonstrating that it was possible for the goldfish to be able to negotiate a simple maze, having them move onto a second beacon if they found no food at the previous one.
"My experiments showed that goldfish have the mental capabilities to learn and remember fairly complex concepts and they can retain that knowledge for at least a number of days," he said.
According to Australian Science and Mathematics School principal Jim Davies, the series of experiments were an excellent example of science investigation made fun.