Photo by: GK Hart/Vikki Hart

GK Hart/Vikki Hart

Can You Teach a Goldfish to Drive?

A new experiment suggests these household fish actually make good drivers.

February 23, 2022

While it may seem like fish will drive cars when pigs fly, in a new experiment scientists put goldfish’s sense of direction to the test.

Scientists at Ben-Gurion University in Israel taught several goldfish to drive a robotic “car”–essentially the opposite of a submarine, a tank of water on wheels–around a room. Teaching goldfish to navigate such unfamiliar terrain may seem like a fish-out-of-water idea, but they took to it like naturals.

The motorized fish tank was equipped with a camera to track the fish’s position. When the goldfish swam towards one of the walls, the fishmobile drove in that direction.

The researchers trained the fish over a dozen 30-minute sessions to drive to the center of a small room towards a pink board by giving the fish a treat whenever it arrived at its destination. In the first session, the goldfish averaged between 2-3 successful trips. By the end of the experiment, the fish were averaging between 17-18 successful trips per session.

As with humans, some of the fish took their driver’s ed quicker than others– taking faster and more direct paths to their target.

Throughout the experiment, researchers changed up the starting position of the fishmobiles. Even in different locations, the goldfish were still able to reach the pink board. This finding ruled out the possibility that the fish were just memorizing the pattern of movements to get to their reward. These marine animals were actually planning new routes to get to their destination.

goldfish in a plastic bag


From fish out of water to accomplished motorists.

Photo by: dageldog


From fish out of water to accomplished motorists.

“That was pretty conclusive that the fish actually navigate,” said Ohad Ben-Shahar, coauthor of the study. The animals’ sense of direction and orientation isn’t limited to the water.

After a successful bout of driving school, the team let one of the goldfish take a joyride throughout the entire building. “And it actually started to explore. It went down one of the corridors and started to sneak away,” said Ben-Shahar.

Maybe next they’ll teach a fish how to ride a bicycle.

Next Up

244 Million-Year-Old Fossils Discovered in China

These are the oldest fossils of the extinct bony fish, Peltoperleidus, ever to be found, and the first time Peltoperleidus fossils have been found outside of Europe.

Insect Feed Can Transform the Farming Industry

Feeding insects to farm animals could be the environmental revolution that the livestock industry has been waiting for. Insects, a rich source of protein and part of the natural diet for pigs, poultry, and fish, use a fraction of the land and water needed to raise soybeans for feed and produce lower carbon emissions.

‘Bird Brain’ May Have Helped Birds Survive the Dinosaur Extinction

Recently, a fossil of an ancient bird skull was discovered, shedding light on how birds’ large brains may have helped them survive the dinosaur-killing asteroid.

How a Lizard Loses Its Tail (and More Importantly, Keeps it Attached)

Thanks to a complex internal structure, lizards can shed a tail in a pinch… yet keep their tails attached when they need them.

Storm Dennis, When 2 Become 1 Menacing Bomb Cyclone

What is a bomb cyclone? And what’s up with Storm Dennis being such a menace in the UK?

The Ocean Cleanup Successfully Catches Plastic in Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Humankind’s disgraceful rubbish footprint swirling between California and Hawaii may have just met its match.

Scientists Have Decoded the Universal Language of Honey Bees

Scientists just made a real-life breakthrough in understanding how bees talk to each other. Learn more about decoding the honey bee waggle dance.

Volcanology: The Study of Volcanic Activity and Predicting Eruptions

The study of volcanoes and collecting data such as seismic activity, temperature, and chemical changes can help predict eruptions and save lives in the process.

Meet Dogor, Your 18,000-Year-Old Best "Friend"

Dogor may have died 18,000 years ago, but his body has remained perfectly preserved — all-the-way down to the whiskers.

Frozen Ice Sculptures Could Save a Himalayan Cold Desert

Ladakh, a Himalayan cold desert with stunning mountains and blue waters is no stranger to the impact of a changing climate. But could manmade glaciers save this landscape and its people?

Related To: