The start of this week is marked by World Fisheries Day which is celebrated annually throughout the world. It is acknowledged by fishing communities via rallies, workshops, public meetings, and demonstrations, to highlight the importance of maintaining the world's fisheries and in response to the threat to the survival of fish and their habitats due to over-fishing, pollution and global warming. A recent United Nations study found that more than two-thirds of the world's fisheries have been overfished and more than one third are in a state of decline. Fish aren’t only a food source for humans of course as they are commonly kept as companions, and today we’ll look at the pros and cons of keeping fish as pets.
According to the Australian Veterinary Association, while dogs are the most commonly owned pet, fish are the most numerous and at the last count in 2013 there were 10.7 million. One million, or 9.3%, are estimated to be in South Australia which when compared with the representation of people at 7.2% of Australia’s total, makes South Australia a pretty fishy state.
Fish are ideal for people who don’t have the time to look after pets such as dogs and cats. They are generally lower maintenance and less expensive, and they can be a great “entry level” pet to help kids learn about the responsibility of caring for an animal. They are also popular for their tranquillity, and doctors’ waiting rooms often have aquariums in order to help patients feel calm. Research has indicated that watching fish swimming around in an aquarium can lower blood pressure and heart rates.1
Even if you don’t have high blood pressure and kids, there are a number of other reasons why fish can be good pets. They won’t throw up, or track mud through your carpet, they don’t shed fur that finds its way into every nook and cranny in your home, they don’t scratch, or chew your precious furniture. Fish can’t annoy your neighbours with their noise, they don’t get fleas, need walking or their teeth cleaned, and they don’t suffer from separation anxiety and destructive behaviour when you leave them alone or go on holidays.
While the decision to have fish as pets may be quite straight forward, choosing which type of fish may not be as simple and it is estimated there are between 20,000 and 30,000 species. There are a number of other considerations as well and if you’re an inexperienced fish owner, diving in and buying a huge aquarium straight off might not be the best approach. A bowl or small aquarium might be a more appropriate starting point and these will limit your choice of species as well. Simple and hardy species such as goldfish are ideal for fish bowls and small aquariums.
A larger and more expensive aquarium, suitable for exotic varieties for example, might become an appropriate next step after you’ve gained experience maintaining aquarium water quality and how to care for the fish. When choosing fish you need to ensure that you’ll be able to provide the right environment for them to thrive. Tropical freshwater fish will have different requirements to cold water fish and tropical salt water marine. Like all animals fish are sensitive to their environment and managing water temperature and pH is likely to be the most challenging aspect of their care.
Other things to consider include the space required for an aquarium, the necessary size of the aquarium depending on the size to which the fish will grow, and the number and type of fish to include in the aquarium. The relaxing benefits associated with watching fish in an aquarium can quickly be lost if your fish turn out to be cannibals - not all fish can cohabitate.
Also, while fish can be a relatively low cost pet, the expense associated with larger aquariums can soon add up. Filtration systems, lighting and heaters (or chillers) and the ongoing operation of them can add considerable cost.
Provided it’s well maintained, an aquarium of any size can be a nice addition to a room with the bright and vibrant colours of the fish, and their peaceful fluid environment. They can be a great choice for people with allergies who can’t have other types of pets, and some types of fish will even interact with their owners. The team Vets4Pets at Salisbury Park and Dernancourt have a keen interest in exotic pets and fish but any of the Vets4Pets hospitals can help with questions about caring for fish as pets. Drop by or call us if we can be of assistance.
1 Your Doctor's Office Aquarium Actually Has a Medical Purpose | Amanda Hutchinson |Modern Notion | 4/8/2015