While some species like Oscars are known for exhibiting dog-like behaviors, a recent study shows that many fish are capable of developing individual personalities.
When it comes to pets with personalities, you probably don’t think of aquarium fish. You might think of your neighbor’s cat who has a tendency to make a ruckus when it sees birds in the front yard. Or a dog who would rather spend the day curled up on the couch than going for a walk. You might even think of a parrot that selectively repeats the words its owner would rather not hear repeated. Aquarium fish are not known for being the most exciting pets in the world, at least not the most interactive. A recent study suggests, however, that individual fish do develop personalities in regard to behaviors and preferences. Not only is this finding interesting but it could have ramifications for aquarium hobbyists and for the hobby itself.
About the Study
The research study in question was led by Lynne Sheldon at the University of Liverpool. The details of the study may be viewed as inhumane by some but, setting those opinions aside, the results of the study are quite revealing. Throughout the study, researchers paired bold fish and shy fish together in fights and observed the outcome. In some instances, the researchers would stack the odds in a particular fish’s favor by pitting a large fish against a much smaller one. The researchers noted that the fish that won their fight became noticeably bolder, while the losing fish became more cautious and withdrawn.
Interestingly, the shy fish that lost their fights tended to become bolder when it came to new food sources. The researchers posited that, because the fish knew it couldn’t compete with larger fish in fights over food, it may have to resort to trying new food sources. It was also noted that the bold fish observing shy fish investigating new food sources were fairly shy about trying those food sources for themselves. The results of this study indicate that fish behavior can be changed and the natural behavior preferences of the fish altered by circumstance.
Applications to the Hobby
While dire circumstances and even tank conditions can change the behavioral patterns of fish, this study suggests that some fish are just naturally bolder or shyer than others of the same species. Other studies have suggested that some fish are just more likely to confront predators and to compete for mates while others tend to submit to the more dominant fish. The size of the dominant fish does come into play, of course, but some would argue that the bold personality of the fish resulted in access to better resources and thus more growth. Fish that are more proactive in seeking out food are likely to be higher in the feeding hierarchy in a tank. Similarly, those which are more aggressive in seeking a mate are more likely to achieve success and to create offspring.
But what are the applications of these findings for the average aquarium hobbyist? Many aquarium hobbyists spend a great deal of time observing their fish and getting to know their habits – through these observations, they begin to get a feel for the personalities of their fish. Nay-sayers are quick to deny the possibility that fish actually have personalities, but the results of this and other studies may suggest otherwise. These results may also serve as a sort of cautionary tale for aquarium hobbyists, warning against judging a book – or in this case, a fish – by its cover. Just because one fish displays certain behaviors and tendencies, doesn’t mean that all fish of that species will be the same. You could have one fish, for example, that is very interactive with other fish in the tank while others of the same species tend to hide.
Some of the species known to have the boldest or quirkiest personalities include:
· Betta Fish
· Clown Loaches
· Fancy Goldfish
Being successful in the aquarium hobby is not something that occurs overnight. It takes a lot of time and dedication to create a healthy, thriving tank and cultivating a compatible group of fish is an essential aspect. Not only do you need to know the basics about maintaining high water quality in your tank and proper dietary strategies, but you also have to get to know your fish. The better you know and understand your fish, the better you will be able to shape your tank to suit their needs. This, in the long run, will be the greatest contribution to your success as an aquarium hobbyist.
A recent paper published by the Conservation Research Group and the IUCN shows that more than 30 threatened species endemic to India are still being regularly exported, despite their conservation status.