Are the fish in your aquarium happy? Five things to watch out for

If 1,500 confined creatures suffocated in a zoo, there would be a public uproar. So, when a Berlin hotel aquarium burst towards the end of 2022, why did so few people express concern about the fish’s welfare? The emotional reaction to aquatic species does not appear to be the same. And this discrepancy confuses our perception of their imprisoned lives.

Scientists agree that fish may feel pain after decades of researching their sentience (their ability to experience feelings and experiences). Pain has a significant emotional component in humans, and it appears that the same is true in fish, who are also capable of dread and anxiety. This, together with mounting evidence that fish can conduct sophisticated tasks requiring tools and problem-solving, elevates them to the level of other vertebrates.

Fish are the third most popular pet in the UK and 9% of the population own at least one. The ornamental fish trade is huge, with millions being plucked from their natural habitats (mainly in Asia and the South Pacific) each year and shipped to aquariums primarily in the US and Europe.

However, the attitude towards Pisces is somewhat cooler than that of other species. When it comes to considering fish as a food, surveys have consistently found that people are the least concerned about the welfare of fish compared to other farmed species. This may be because fish strayed from our evolutionary path so long ago.

But all that distance vanishes when you meet a water-breathing buddy. If you’re considering of getting a pet fish, there are five things you should consider if you want to keep your new companion happy.

1. Food

Many individuals do not feed their fish properly. Many individuals have difficulty feeding fish food that is species-appropriate. Keepers of tropical fish and goldfish in the same tank, for example, will discover that tropical fish like high-protein treats like mosquito larvae or brine crabs, but goldfish dislike too much protein.

You could be giving your fish the right food, but you’re not adjusting the amount to the size and age of the fish in your tank. There is a lot of rivalry for food in the tank, especially in bigger groups, so the younger fish may go hungry.

2. water

Fish excrete a lot of waste, and ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels in aquarium water may quickly rise. There are monitoring systems that may inform you if the water in your tank is safe, but data suggests that many hobbyists do not adhere to the requirements.

Then there’s illumination. Fish sleep, too, and their sleep habits are comparable to those of humans. Fish require a specific amount of darkness to relax, therefore do not keep the light on 24 hours a day.

3. Uncomfort

Do you know how to spot a sick or damaged fish? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Even among pros, fish are among the least understood pets.

Injuries are prevalent in home aquariums when fish create hierarchies and fight. Bacterial infections and parasites are also possible, although they can be difficult to diagnose. It is critical to detect a disease early so that affected fish may be isolated and treated to prevent its spread. A fish scratching against the tank, usually to eliminate parasites, is an indicator that it is in distress.

4. Ordinary conduct

It’s tough to define what defines normal behaviour in a fish. However, one of the most crucial topics to consider is whether the fish’s natural group structure or habitat can be replicated in the tank.

If your fish are shoal species (meaning they form tight formations called schools), they like to reside in groups. For example, zebrafish should be housed in groups of at least six of their own type. However, there is a delicate balance: overcrowding causes violence as fish struggle for food and space, while scarcity prevents schooling.

At the very least, the tanks should be large enough for the fish to swim freely, and there should be enough shade (plants or a tiny underwater canopy for them to hide behind) to allow them to be alone if they so want.

5. Anxiety or anguish

There are various ways for a Pisces to be afraid. Some fish may be bullied on a regular basis by larger tank mates, which may be excruciating if there are no hiding spots.

Fish are also susceptible to stimuli outside of their aquarium. Is the tank, for example, near a heated radiator or an open window? Is it being bothered by vibrations from a neighbouring washing machine? All of these elements can contribute to worry and stress.

It appears that there is a lot of labour involved in keeping fish and having a home aquarium. However, maybe this list demonstrates that fish, like other pets, have complicated needs—even if you can’t take them for a stroll.

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