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I've often thought about using mazes to compare the intelligence of various species of fish. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to figure out how to build a maze to test them. It would have to be able to hold water, have opaque walls and floor, be large enough to make a complex layout (16-24" square), and relatively cheap to build (less than $50). Any suggestions? I've also considered building a maze that could be placed in a body of water (so it won't have to be watertight), but I'm not sure what to build it with.

For the curious, here are some of the tests I'd like to try (feel free to suggest one):
-Schooling fish vs. solitary fish
-Wild-caught fish vs. captive-raised fish (of the same species)
-Top dwellers vs. bottom feeders
-Males vs. females (in sexually dimorphic species)
-A single schooling fish vs. a group of the same species
-Shrimp vs. fish
-Older fish (1 year or more) vs. fry (2-4 months)
-Bold, aggressive fish vs. shy, timid fish
-Bettas raised in stimulating environments (planted tank with other fish) vs. Bettas raised in unstimulating environments (bare tank with walls covered)
-Testing a fish's sense of smell
 

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I'm thinking maybe a 40g breeder b/c it has so much depth. Then use some sort of plastic sheets to create dividers/pathways. I'm not sure how you would get them to stand up though. Possibly, just stick them in the substrate. I've seen something similar done when scapers use different kinds of substrate and want to keep them separate during tank setup. To keep the fish in the maze just keep the water level lower than the top of the dividers.

Something like this can possibly be used for the dividers. You will need to cut them to size of course.

 

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You could use acrylic. I would make it so I could put it in an aquarium up against the glass, which would act as a "wall" for the maze. If you do this project, be sure to post your results! Sounds interesting.
 

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There's a Mythbusters episode where they train goldfish to navigate a series of holes to get food. Looking that up might give you some ideas.
 

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http://www.staples.com/Staples-Slide-Grip-Report-Covers/product_138289?cmArea=SEARCH

It is hard to see in this picture, but the hinge or binding of the report cover is a plastic strip that will hold acrylic sections. You can glue them to glass temporarily with silicone. I have not had silicone work really well for plastics, but it will hold for a few months, surely long enough for you to run these tests. And, you can move the acrylic around to make simpler or more complex mazes.

I also could see a 40 gallon breeder for this, but only a single layer of maze, perhaps 6" deep water, maybe 7" deep walls.

The simpler maze could also work with some pumps (Table top fountain pumps) to see if fish will swim toward odors (food) or away (carnivorous tank mate) that are carried down stream. This could be as simple as placing the pump in the maze and the source of the odor in the maze next to the pump. or use a pump and some tubing to run some water from another tank (perhaps where a predatory fish lives) into the maze.

Perhaps another test:
Set up a tank with a carnivorous fish. Pump some water from this tank into a really simple maze. Does the test fish swim away from these odors...
a) all the time?
b) only when the predatory fish is chasing prey? (fear and stress hormones from the prey)
c) only when the predatory fish is eating the prey? (dead and dying fish in the water from the predator's tank)
d) when the predatory fish is eating dead food? (frozen fish, frozen bloodworms... other)

Here is how that info may be helpful:
Can you keep a fish that is probably not potential prey in a tank with a predatory fish, if the predatory fish is kept well fed on (live) feeders?
Is the stress of the live feeders and the excitement of the predatory fish too much for the non-prey fish? Is this sort of stress something they would prefer to get away from?
Does it make a difference if the predatory fish is fed frozen foods? Less chase excitement, no fear chemicals from the dead food?

Does the species of non-prey tankmate make a difference?
Ie: Would a large Pleco (sedentary, camouflaged) make a reasonable tank mate to a predatory fish? Compared to a fish that swims in the water column? (more likely to be prey to something in the wild, even if the specific tank mate is not interested in eating this one)
 
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