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Fascinating fact: fish have good memories!

8 April 2014 by Alyster

Blue fish with a yellow tail

A Regal Tang

The Regal Tang (Paracanthurus Hepatus) is a stunning fish and arguably the best character in the wildy popular film, ‘Finding Nemo’. This probably explains why the sequel called ‘Finding Dory’ will be focused on her.

Dory in the film has short term memory loss, perhaps a nod to the urban legend that fish only have three second memories. I’m often asked if this is true. It’s not! I’m not sure where this has come from, it’s a bit of a myth. Fish have pretty good memories and can be taught a variety of things, using light and colours, or levers or sounds; studies show fish can associate certain cues with food. The fish in our Aquarium know when it’s feeding time, they can hear us approaching the tanks, they can see us, and they’ll remember it’s feeding time and swim up to get a good spot to nab the food.

Dory’s a great character, she’s funny, loyal and compassionate. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Regal Tangs in general! They are pretty aggressive fish and can’t be kept in groups with the same species or else they will fight and end up doing major damage to each other. They are part of the Acanthuridae family, which includes other tangs, Surgeonfish and Unicornfish – who Regal Tangs also do not get on well with.

Fish coming up to the surface of the water

Feeding the fish at the Aquarium

It’s very important to do research about fish and who they can live with before going out and buying them. There are plenty of good hobbyist websites and a decent fish supplier will be able to give you good thorough detailed instructions and advice. So if you find yourself getting excited about getting a Regal Tang of your own after watching ‘Finding Dory’, please do your research and get lots of advice before taking one home.  Make sure you are prepared to give your new fish everything they will need so that they will be well cared for.

Regal Tangs are a type of Surgeonfish. There are 80 different species of Surgeonfish and they live amongst the reefs in the Indo-Pacific Oceans. When they’re younger they live in groups but are more sparse when they’re older. They feed on zooplankton and algae. These fish are characterised by their sharp ‘scalpel-like’ spines (hence the name, ‘Surgeonfish’).

The Regal Tang also have these razor sharp spines on each side, by the base of their tails. If you look closely at pictures of Dory you can see them – they look like a little bump. They are retracted usually, but the spines can come out and when they do you have to be careful if you are a human as they could injure you.

Based on this, I think Dory is probably the friendliest Regal Tang out there! Come along to the Aquarium at World Museum and take a look at our Regal Tangs, to see if you can spot their spines – we’re open daily from 10am-5pm.

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