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smart fish, dumb fish, pink fish...um, what rhymes with dumb?

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smart fish, dumb fish, pink fish...um, what rhymes with dumb? Empty smart fish, dumb fish, pink fish...um, what rhymes with dumb?

Post by jjohnwm on Sun Sep 20, 2020 9:34 am

How "smart" are fish?  Aquarists are always writing about how intelligent and personable their Oscars or other cichlids are; these fish are actual pets, rather than merely aquarium specimens.  They are often compared to dogs, although I think the folks making that comparison don't actually have a dog, so...

But I'm not talking about friendly fish, or fish who come to recognize their owners, or fish that come forward eagerly to be fed.  Is that really a measure of intelligence, or just the natural softening of survival instincts that tends to develop in any life form which suddenly finds itself with no predation to worry about?  Our fish don't need to remain terrified of us; indeed, the "smart" thing for them to do is simply shed their fearful responses and charge to the front of the tank so that they can get their share of the food we offer, before their tankmates get it all.

Nope, I'm referring to the diabolical genius that allows a tiny fish controlled by a brain the size of a grain of sand, to elude all attempts at capture...despite the fact that it is confined in a 4x2x2-foot box of water.  Some species practically swim into the net; are they the smart ones, knowing that the aquarist is working in their eventual best interest?  Or...is it the rebels, the elusive ones, the cautious and suspicious fish who just don't think you can be trusted; are they actually the intelligent ones?  It's been said that the successful criminal mind is, by definition, superior.  There are fish that seem to prove that hypothesis.    

Yesterday, I had a bunch of aquarium work to complete.  I am home from work in the north country for one week; I needed to bring in a bunch of fish from their outdoor summer homes, and several tanks needed to have their inhabitants moved around, and it all needed to happen right now.  I netted about 45 Golden Skiffias out of their tank; despite their home being a fairly dense jungle of wood, rock and plants, this took about 10 minutes, tops.  Excellent.  A trio of cichlids in an outdoor stock tank...a round tank, to boot...promised to be more difficult, but with two nets I had them corralled in a matter of minutes; again, an auspicious start to the day's frolics.

Emboldened by my success, I decided that the school of Rosy Red Fatheads in my 360-gallon tank needed to go.  They were the tank "starters", used to prove the tank was livable, and had grown fat and happy in there over the summer...but in the meanwhile, the tank's planned permanent livestock had been gradually moved in, along with a ton of driftwood, rock and potted plants.  This is a nightmare scenario that had me thinking I would need a fishtrap to gradually capture them...but, no!  Within a few minutes, I had all of them netted with no commotion whatsoever.  Amazing!

I breezed through my water changes, filter cleanings and other chores, cracked open a beer, settled into my ratty old recliner...and gazed at the tank from which the Skiffias had been removed.  It had once housed my Ameca splendens colony, which had moved into the 360 this summer...but one male Ameca had eluded my notice and been left behind.  He has matured into a 3.5-inch hump-backed brute, terrorizing his small Skiffia cousins, the undisputed boss of the tank.  I sat, sipped...and determined that he needed to re-join his buddies, who would quickly put him in his place.  

A half-hour later I realized my descent into horror had well and truly begun.  The plants were all in a bucket on the floor.  Chunks of driftwood sat in a couple of plastic bins, with snails and Bristlenose fry dropping off them in a steady stream.  Rocks were piled nearby.  The tank water was murky with disturbed debris.  The remaining Skiffias were in a panic.  I was drenched in a mixture of sweat, aquarium water, spittle and tears.

The Ameca remained uncaught, looming into view from the cloudy water first here, then there, always a step ahead of...or worse, behind!...the nets.

He's still in there.  All the plants and decor have been restored, the water level raised to full (did I mention that all this happened in a tank that was already half empty?), the snails and other fish calm, the water clear.  I just gave up.

I have three weeks up north to plot my next attack.  I will prevail, no matter what it takes.  I hope that explosives will not be necessary, but right now nothing is off the table.  It's bad enough that my phone, my TV, my truck and my laptop are not only "smart" devices, but actually much smarter than me.

But...I am not yet ready to admit that a fish falls into that category.
Angel Fish
Angel Fish

Posts : 153
Join date : 2015-09-08
Location : Interlake region of Manitoba

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