We first met Blondie, the New England Aquarium’s adorable and talented young lumpfish, when we were casting for our first Freaky Fish Friday. We fell in love with her right away, and had to know more when we saw a video of Lindsay, one of the aquarium’s marine mammal trainers, teaching her to swim through a hoop.
Alexa refused to put Blondie into the ‘Freaky’ club, but she did have lots of questions for Lindsay.
First, watch Lindsay teach Blondie how to swim through a hoop, then check out Alexa’s interview with her for some tips on fish training at home!
Alexa: Why did you choose Blondie to train?
Lindsay: Blondie picked me!
When we first decided to work with the lumpfish, they didn’t have names. She was staring intently at me and I thought, “You are so pretty and light in color; I will call you, Blondie.” We became fast friends.
A: Are lumpfish smarter than other kinds of fish?
L: I wouldn’t say lumpfish are smarter than any other fish, but they are visual and that helps with focus during training sessions. You have their attention as soon as you walk up to their tank!
A: Did you know it would be this easy, or were you surprised?
L: I was a little surprised, as my training experience is with marine mammals. I was impressed at how fast she caught on to the different behaviors.
A: How long have you been training fish?
L: Since October 2008; I’ve been training seals for a couple of years, though.
A: Can people train their fish at home? If so, is it choosing the right fish, or can anyone try?
L: People can definitely train at home! All animals are trainable if you learn about their habitat and behavior. For example, some fish aren’t as visual as lumpfish so you might have to splash the water or move something in the tank to get their attention.
A: If training at home is not difficult, can you give some tips?
L: I would suggest checking out the R2 Fish Training School. This is a wonderfully informative kit that has really neat training tools. They do a great job of explaining how to use the kit and the best method of training (positive reinforcement).
A: Can you tell us a little about lumpfish?
L: They are benthic, cold water fish that are not your “typical” looking fish. Their pectoral fins have modified over the years to a suction “cup” and they use this to stick on to hard surfaces of rocks and other flat underwater surfaces. They don’t have scales, but have a rigid lumpy body instead.
They are also wicked cute.
Our thoughts, exactly!
You can check out more of Lindsay teaching Blondie other amazing behaviors on the aquarium’s Marine Mammal Trainer’s Blog.