observer being watched - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 6 Old 11-13-2012, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
observer being watched

Last night while watching the aquarium, I felt that I was being observed there was no one in the room but me. I realized that the inhabitance of the aquarium are observing and monitoring my behavior. I wonder can tropical fish see the reflections from the aquarium glass? If they see their own reflection do they recognize themselves? What would happen if I placed a mirror in the aquarium would the fish even notice the mirror or would I witness the unconditioned response to an intruder or better yet if the fish is the shoaling type would it attempt to join the reflected image?

Any thoughts fishkeepers

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post #2 of 6 Old 11-13-2012, 04:46 PM
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Fish will not recognize themselves in the mirror. This level of cognizance is observed in very few animals such as elephants and some great apes. Shoaling fish will try to interact with their reflection when they see it. Fish that exhibit an aggressive response will try to attack their reflection. I know for a fact my bettas see their reflections as I see them display territorial behavior towards them. They will also attempt to ward off the "intruder" when I hold up a mirror to their tank.


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post #3 of 6 Old 11-15-2012, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
Hello thekoimaiden;

I had to think for awhile before attempting to reply to your post. I like the word cognizance and have been thinking about cognitive constructs since reading articles about stress and pain tropical fish experience. I can accept fish will not recognize themselves in the mirror. Can I safely place a mirror in my aquarium with angle fish ( four angles fish) as an experiment to see if they will shoal with the image and do you know how to tell if angle fish are trying to shoal with the image.
Thanks for the response


ps I like Immanual Kant especially his writings about purity, beauty and truth.
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post #4 of 6 Old 11-16-2012, 04:51 AM
Pop, it's of some comfort to know 'somebody' is watching you! lol

I don't know about the mirror experiment. I've often wondered about these shoaling fish. Just recently, after losing a few over time, I added 4 more Neon Tetras to the 4 I've had for a long time. The new ones are much smaller, but immediately joined with the others. How do they know what they look like? What bonds them together?
I can make the case that in groups, they 'know' each other, but when a new group instantly joins an old group and are accepted, it's an interesting mystery of sorts.

True also of varieties within species. I recently added a trio of Sunburst Platys that seem to hang together even with other Sunset Mickey Mouse Platys and a few Redwag Platys in the mix.

'It just gets curious-er and curious-er Alice'
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post #5 of 6 Old 11-16-2012, 01:43 PM
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I have actually used the mirror trick before to ease the stress of social fish. Goldfish are highly social to the point where I might classify them as shoaling. I had three in a tank and recently lost two to a sudden disease. The remaining fish became very shy and withdrawn, so I taped a mirror to one side of the tank. Immediately I saw an improvement in the remaining fish. He was glued to the side with the mirror and only left to feed. It wasn't until I introduced another goldfish to the tank did he leave the side with the mirror. But this was with peaceful fish. I would be very interested to see how a more aggressive fish such as angelfish.

AD, there has actually been research done with this. A lot of scientists believe shoaling fish recognize each other with pheromones. Sight plays a bit of a role, but obviously not too much as zebra danio will still shoal with glofish. A lot of really neat research is being done in this field as it's something we really don't know much about.


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post #6 of 6 Old 11-20-2012, 09:50 AM Thread Starter
results of mirror image experiment

I just finished my experiment of putting a mirror in the aquarium. Of the four angle fish two of them responded quickly to the new object, mirror. I believe I saw an attempted act to communicate with the mirrored image. I say this because the black angle fish (there is only one black) approached and touched the reflected image with its mouth and tried to push the self image backward. The black angle fish did this more than four separate times during the observation. Only the black angle fish displayed this particular behavior.

This black angle fish was joined by smallest silver angle fish and both fish swam to the opposite end of the aquarium and form a tight group with the other (2) larger angle fish. This group slowly moved to the mirror and began shoaling with the image.

I noticed as the angle fish moved toward the mirrored image they enhanced there appearance meaning the vertical bars were very black and their size looked larger, eyes very red color and they positioned themselves so they could monitor the reflected image.
This shoaling event lasted approx. 10 minutes and then the group moved away from the reflected image.

Note observation time was 30 minutes duration and ended with removal of the mirror and the experiment was conducted without aquarium light turned on.

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