The Bubble Blog » If Fish Could Say Tsk Tsk!
If Fish Could Say Tsk Tsk!
Posted on July 07, 2010 by freshwater
Whack! I get a smack upside the head for letting trainer error go uncorrected for so long!

Jor Jor's Windchime

During my training sessions with Jor Jor the Musical Fish, I have been lazily pointing at the particular bell/chime string which she is meant to pull. Jor Jor knew what to do, and yet, I pointed. When she seemed confused, I pointed more.

I have finally gotten it through my thick mammalian skull that the pointing throws Jor Jor off her game. And I think I have figured out why. I also point to show Jor Jor where to look when a treat has accidentally missed her mouth and fallen to the bottom of the tank. So when I point at the string, she's thinking "What? There's a loose treat floating around somewhere? Where?" So of course, her attention is diverted away from the string!

What we needed was a better cue for "pull that string right there." Now, all of the fish I train are conditioned to target the color red. That's because the part of the feeding wand that delivers their treat is bright pink-red.

"Aha!" says I. "What I need to do is make the string turn red when I want Jor Jor to pull it. But how?"

It just so happens that I have been using the flash of a green LED penlight to "click" Jor Jor's correct behaviors. But for other fish I have used penlights of a different color, including red. So I tried aiming a red light at the white bell string. Bingo! Jor Jor pulled it immediately! I could just about see the little "Eureka!" aquabulb light up over her head. (She also looked very relieved. Maybe her sloppy trainer would finally stop pointing!)

Our next step will be: Put two windchimes side by side, each with a white string, and use the red light to tell Jor Jor which one she is meant to pull. Once she gets that concept, we will have a bona fide cue.

And then, anything is possible. Maybe Jor Jor could actually play a whole tune in real time. Operate little marionettes in a designated sequence.

Oh, the mind reels! (Whoops. Bad thing to say about fish training.) ;-)

And as for me, I've gotta stop being a sloppy trainer. I'm getting a headache.