May 7, 2008 -- On Tuesday, "Good Morning America" showed you an unbelievable goldfish who can play basketball, soccer and do the limbo. Today we spoke with the fish's trainer.
We tracked down Comet the goldfish's trainer, Dean Pomerleau, in Pittsburgh to find out just how he managed to teach a fish these amazing tricks.
Pomerleau said the fish training all got started because his son and daughter wanted a dog, but his wife was allergic. After they won a goldfish at a fun fair, he decided to see if he could make their new pet a little more exciting to make up for not having the dog.
By using two techniques very similar to those used to train circus animals — positive reinforcement learning and shaping (which basically means food rewards) — he has been able to teach the fish a variety of motions.
Pomerleau says the key to the success has been the feeding wand that allows one to give food to the fish at exactly the place and the time one wants to. He says Comet learned quickly that food comes from a stick that occasionally comes into the tank.
"You put the tip of the feeding wand near the ball, then on the other side of the ball. They learn that if they touch the ball, they get a food reward. Eventually they do the tricks on their own, and you don't need the wand," said Pomerleau.
The training has been such a success that Pomerleau now sells a fish school training kit on Amazon.com, including a play set and instructional DVDs so that any 1-6 inch fish can learn limbo, fetch, soccer, slalom or swimming through a hoop.