Selecting a pet fish

What’s special about fish and what choices do you have?

More and more people are discovering that having a home aquarium brings color and amusement into their lives. Studies have shown that people watching fish tanks have lower stress levels. Fish are often ideal pets for people with space limitations or allergies to other common pets. Fish come in all shapes, sizes and colors and many fish seem to have individual personalities. Depending on the number and type of fish, people can choose from a variety of tanks of varying shapes and dimensions. Some fish are even kept outside in ponds.

Unlike the situation with dogs and cats, where one selects from among different breeds, the choices among fish species are much more extensive. When planning an aquarium, first determine your space and time limitations and then become familiar with the characteristics fish that interest you and can thrive within that environment. This will allow for the design of an aquatic community where both your desires and the needs of your new pet fish can be met. What one type of fish requires may be unnecessary or even harmful to another. Some fish thrive in communities with other schooling fish, while other species are known to be aggressive or semi-aggressive and will harass or injure less confrontational species.

What are the special needs of fish?

When considering a home aquarium, be aware that the health of a fish is directly related to the health of its watery environment. Maintaining good water quality is extremely important, whether you are taking care of your first goldfish or balancing a saltwater aquarium with fish and invertebrates. Beyond the importance of establishing filtration to remove waste products, many fish require a water heater to assure appropriate water temperature or are sensitive to sudden water temperature changes. Even common household fumes and cleaners can impact their water quality. If fish are kept outside in ponds, it is important to make sure they are protected from predators and environment extremes that can put their health at risk.

Fish need a balanced diet, clean water, appropriate light, and a suitable environment. Some fish require frozen or live food to remain healthy and happy. Good husbandry is the key to pet health. Seahorses, for example, are beautiful and intriguing fish, but their dietary needs (typically live food) and exacting water quality needs make them an unwise selection for the novice. Pet fish can also become ill and may benefit from veterinary care.

The average adult size of each fish should be considered when stocking an aquarium. Many of the small fish easily available in pet stores or online can grow to be large fish and outgrow home systems. A common Plecostomus, for instance, are often seen in aquarium stores, but they can grow to over twenty inches in length. Many fine books are available to guide the budding home aquarium enthusiast.