We’ve been working with and keeping fish pretty much all of our lives, and many of you have long, personal histories with diverse groups of fish. As aquarists we are familiar with the different ways our fish can demonstrate a range of intelligence but we’re so close to the question, it’s hard to really know how ‘smart’ fish really are.
Being cold-blooded and scaly we kind of assume that warm blooded vertebrates are probably, generally smarter than fish but a body of work has been growing that shows that’s not always the case. Many fish have complex social structure and interactions, we know that groupers will hunt with moray eels & octopus, and Tusk fish are well known to use tools to open up prey items.
It turns out that these behaviors, along with tests of cognition and learning in various species has not only shown that some species are quite intelligent, but in many cases they seem to perform better than birds, mammals and even some primate at some of the tests. We’ve always known that fish are smarter than most people give them credit for, but it’s actually quite a pleasant surprise to discover that are cold-blooded aquarium friends actually are smarter than even we gave them credit for.