Monday 22 July 2013

What is the Average IQ of a Fish?

Fishing the other day, I happened to pass a couple of carp anglers deep in conversation about their latest captures.   And one was saying to the other something like:
"It took me three days to catch him, only 14 pounds or so but one hell of a challenge. But after a lot of deep  thought I finally outwitted him, and the fish was mine, in the net."
How often have you read something like that? Or heard it on the bank or in a fishing meeting?  A fair few times I should think. Outwitted?

Oh My God, it's a fish!  Just a thick, stupid, slimy, wet fish.   It was hardly you versus Carol Vorderman in an advanced mathematics challenge.  The fish was extremely unlikely to have been discussing the evolution of the Cosmos before you trundled up to interrupt its thought processes by sticking your hook in its lip. Nope: fish are pretty damn stupid creatures, and to claim to have outwitted one, and to have taken three days to do so, is hardly a claim likely to get you into your local pub quiz team.
No, that fish you "outwitted" has probably only got an IQ of about 20...

or has it

My quest for useless facts got the better of me, and so I searched the internet, and googled:
"What is the average IQ of a fish?"  The first answer was from Wikipedia and I quote it here:

Since there are still many species of fish for which no IQ has been measured, the answer to this question is still unknown. However, we do know that IQ depends heavily on the species of fish. For instance, goldfish tend to be very unintelligent, with IQ's measured in the 30-40 range, while some fish (such as freshwater salmon) have had IQ's measured to be as high as 130. To put this in context, President Obama has an IQ of 125. Generally, there is a tendency for fish which live in warmer climates to have higher IQ's. Theories on why this is tend to vary, but there seems to be an emerging consensus that warmer climates are more hospitable to marine life. This leads to increased interspecies competition, and ultimately more evolutionary pressure selecting for intelligence.

So, a salmon is closer to a Mensa membership than is President Obama!   More intelligent than President Reagan, or Ed Milliband maybe,  but I had thought a little better of Obama.

I was of course astonished by this Wiki answer, and looked elsewhere.  These two are probably  more considered views:

Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of 'higher' vertebrates, including nonhuman primates.
a scientific review presented to the Australian Veterinary Association completely disproved the myth that goldfish have three-second memories; instead, the veterinarians found that goldfish have impressive memories and problem-solving abilities.

So, even measured in human terms, fish have certain qualities that can be considered as intellect. I can only assume that, the first article must have in some way evaluated how well fish deal with their usual daily environment, applied an IQ average of 100 to their results, and thence concluded that salmon were 30 points above average. I wonder how they measured these fishy IQs?  They could hardly use a Cattell, or Binet type test.   That goldfish could never grip the pen properly.

So back to our carp angler:  I guess that to outwit a carp, probably a rather more intelligent fish than a goldfish, an IQ of 110+ might have been needed.  So maybe your "outwitting" claim is justified,   but don't apply to Mensa until you have that salmon safely on the bank.

Unlike all others, these two photographs were not taken by me.

Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

And finally:   can your fish play soccer?

Go train your carp.


  1. I like that quotation of Einstein's thought.

    Because, I have a tree climbing dog!

    Oscar, our one year old springer, recently climbed a willow for no reason other than it could be done, and so he did. There was nothing up there!

    He went up a trunk at a leaning angle of less than 30 degrees away from vertical, got to the splitting branches 12 feet above ground level, looked about a bit, decided that his venture was fruitless, came down the trunk the way he'd got up.

    Then he went back up!

    And fell into the river...

    Now was that stupid, or not?

  2. Stupid, but great entertainment value. I fell out of a willow once. Largely due to the very good carp I had just hooked. I was worried about how I was going to land it until the fish decided the issue. Only time I have landed a fish whilst being wetter than it was.
    Shall I tell Einstein about climbing perch, or shall you?