I’ll drive! This goldfish is able to ‘steer’ its tank toward a target

Inventive study by Ben Gurion University in Israel tests the fish's sense of navigation
goldfish Alright everyone, don't forget your seatbelts! (ID 2215003 © Ian Francis | Dreamstime.com)


Would you let a fish drive you to school?

Hmmm. Maybe not a good idea. Fish don't have hands or feet to operate a vehicle. Plus, they're not exactly famous for their ability to thrive out of water.

But, under the right conditions, we know a certain goldfish that might be able to perform the task. Just make sure to give it a food reward after you've arrived (it's only fair!).

Confused? We're actually talking about a real goldfish that was used in a recent experiment conducted by researchers at Ben Gurion University in Israel. In the study, scientists used the fish's natural sense of navigation (getting around) to allow it to pilot its tank to a specific destination to collect food. In test after test, the fish was even able to avoid obstacles and steer its unique vehicle where it wanted to go!

Special tank

Examples of the goldfish's unique driveable tank. (Givon et al., Behavioural Brain Research, 2021)

Let's start with its tank vehicle. The goldfish was in a rectangular tank that was mounted on a series of motorized wheels. Attached to the vehicle was a mast that held a camera above the tank, tracking the goldfish's movements. A computer processed these movements and moved the vehicle in the direction that the fish was swimming.

In other words, the fish could 'steer' the tank by swimming toward the appropriate wall of the tank. In this way, it was able to drive around!

You've earned it!

To encourage the goldfish to test out its sweet new wheels, researchers set up study where the fish would be rewarded with food if it reached a specific target destination. This was usually a colourful marking on the wall that the fish could easily see through the tank.

Eventually, the fish became so good at this task that it was able to navigate around walls, as well as identify and avoid false targets (ones that did not provide a food reward). Incredible!

So as long as you're willing to hitch a ride on this magic goldfish tank, have food at the ready, and can mark your school clearly with a bright, distinct colour, we see no reason why Goldie can't drive you to class next week. Just remember to leave a little early—it drives a bit slowly!

Watch this fish in action in the video below! (Most of the motion has been sped up by two or three times normal speed.)


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