Fish Behavior Modification for Science Fair Projects


Need an idea for a science fair project? You can become a Jr. Pavlov with these simple goldfish behavior modification steps.

Goldfish playing soccerFish science fair projects are very popular with students interested in zoology and ichthyology. This is because gold fish are inexpensive, easy to care for and a lot of fun to interact with on a regular basis. In order to create a winning fish science fair project, however, you need to follow these steps.

Step #1 – Understand Normal Fish Behavior

Before you can design a science fair project around the modification of fish behavior, you first need to understand how your gold fish normally behaves. To achieve this all you have to do is to observe your goldfish as it swims in its bowl and as it interacts with its environment. Do not just make superficial observations, such as the gold fish swims X minutes and rests X minutes each hour. You need to really take a scientific interest in your test subject so make observations about how it reacts to varying water temperatures, pH levels and other variables in its tank.

Step #2 – Determine What Behavior You Want to Modify

Now you are ready to develop your science fair project. If you want to create a winning project you need to significantly alter the goldfish’s normal behavior. In essence you need to train it to do something out of the ordinary, such as swim through a hoop lowered in the water. If this is your first science fair project with behavior modification then start with something simple, such as the hoop trick. Next year you can work your way up to a more complex behavior modification, such as teaching the goldfish multiple tricks or a sequence of tricks.

Step #3 – Acclimate Your Goldfish to the Experiment Apparatus

Goldfish are great for science fair projects because they respond well to the introduction of new items in their environment, and they are less skittish when observed by humans. However, to reduce stress on your goldfish you need to make sure that you acclimate or desensitize your goldfish to the apparatus that you will be experimenting with, i.e. the swim hoop. To do this position the hoop in the tank and let your fish get used to it for a few days before you start trying to modify its behavior.

Step #4 – Let the Modification Begin

The modification of goldfish behavior is simple to accomplish. You will utilize a food treat to first entice your fish to engage in a specific behavior, and then you will utilize the same treat to reinforce the behavior. Soon your fish will be swimming through the hoop on command.

Madeline Binder knows the work that goes into creating winning science fair experiments.

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