Musical Goldfish Makes Her Own Melodies

Thanks to a combination of natural talent and steady training, Jor Jor, a 6-in., 2-year-old goldfish, can play wind chimes, hand bells and even the bulky glockenspiel, says her owner Diane Rains.”I bought her especially to train her to play music,” Rains, 54, a puppeteer from Hudson, Wis.,”After a week, she began to play single notes and chords, now she can play four-part harmonies. She is brilliant at it!”

From her 55-gallon water tank, the talented gold and green Ryukin, an exotic goldfish species from Japan, pulls on a string attached to an instrument in the tank. She plucks in time to melodies played on the concertina, a small accordion. Jor Jor listens to the music until a particular sound arouses her passion.

“She knows exactly when to ring the hand bell on the beat, then bows out after two or three notes,” says Rains. “I could tell she was smarter than other fish when I bought her a year and a half ago ago from an importer. But she really has it for music.”Rains taught Jor Jor how to play instruments by using Operant Conditioning, a method by which an animal learns a specific behavior through positive reinforcement. When Jor Jor plays her bells or chimes at the right time, Rains will use the visual click of a penlight to let her know she did it right.”Then I give her a treat with a special feeding wand,” Rains explains. “She loves to get a sample of her healthy gel food I prepare, or smashed peas, or sometimesOperant Conditioning,. These are her favorite foods.”

Rains owns Freshwater Pearls Puppetry, a puppet theater company, with her husband Stu Janis, a musician. She says training a goldfish to play a musical instrument is like teaching a dog to jump through a hoop. The method is similar in that you use training tools and repetition. All Jor Jor, or any other fish, needs to do is be able to pull a string with force.”Now Jor Jor can play anything with a string,” says Rains. “She loves to jam with Stu when he plays his concertina. She loves music, especially the notes F and D.”

When Rains recently played Barbra Streisand’s rendition of “Moon River” for Jor Jor, she was amazed that her 350-gram pet picked the right moment to make melodies with a bell. Moreover, when Rains tested her to see if this musical moment was an accident, she found the goldfish did it correctly seven more times.

“It gave me goose bumps,” says Rains, who also owns other goldfish and two dogs, a papillon and a golden retriever. Both dogs perform in her puppet act, but musical prodigy Jor Jor, who lives alone in her tank, is in a class all by herself.

(source)
“We are so proud of her that we are preparing an aquatic CD of her music,” Rains says. “She is very special.”

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