Keeping fish is a fun hobby. Have you heard someone say that pet fish are not “real” pets, or that they are not quite pets like dogs and cats are?
We can assure it isn’t true. Of course, we are aware that fish are completely unlike “traditional” pets in many different ways. But there are many benefits in keeping aquarium fish as pets. For many people, fish might be a better choice than a cat or a dog.
- Fun to watch. Though everyone has different inclinations, many agree that observing pet fish is a fun activity—at least more fun than watching the grass grow. Fish are not passive animals, and many of them swim most of the time. They actively engage with their environment. Some fish are social and interact with others; some can be territorial and guard a particular corner of the fish tank. Many spend their time looking for food, or scouring through different parts of tank in pure curiosity. Sometimes fish can also interact with the people near the tank. Watching fish can be addictive. People spend hours gazing into a glass water container. But, if you are in a hurry, even a quick glance may boost your mood in many ways.
- Require a lesser commitment. We don’t like attributing phrases like “lesser commitment” when talking about living beings—all pets require the owner’s commitment. At the same time, it is undeniable that fish require lower maintenance when compared to cats or dogs. You need to clean the aquarium regularly, provide partial water changes, and even remember to feed the fish once in a while. But otherwise, there is no training (though you can do it for fun), no correction of destructive behaviors, and no scheduled puppy classes! Besides, many maintenance tasks can be automated, such as switching lights on and off. That being said, though, remember that keeping a pet is still a commitment of a long-term responsibility. Thus, before making a decision to buy fish as pets, think through whether you can afford the time to commit to your future pets.
- Fun to maintain. Though not as social as dogs or cats, keeping fish provides a whole other dimension of fun. If you have an engineer geek inside you, you will be thrilled to dive into the technical part of fish-keeping. Starting by setting up the aquarium, the pumps and filters. Then continue with the large DIY projects, including custom lighting, artistic decorations, and water maintenance. Consider the water paremeters: hardness, pH levels, water taste, and so forth. But there is more good news! If you are not a geek, many of these tasks are optional, though still quite fun.
- Quiet animals. Dog bark and cat meow, right? No, cat actually goes MEOOOOOWWWW! Fish, on the other hand, don’t make a peep. That’s right, they don’t make much noise except for an occasional plop. The loudest noise that comes from the fish tank is from the tank equipement itself. Air pumps, the modern ones, are usually satisfactorily quiet. However, the bad news is that if you forget to feed the fish, they won’t bark to let you know. Thus, you must implement a sort of reminder system to feed the fish, such as mobile phone reminders or drawing a fish silhouette on a wall calendar. This reminder system will help to keep your fish well fed. Seriously, it’s no joke. It’s easy to forget to feed fish (personal observation), which can be problematic if done consistently.
- Can be left alone for a longer period. Most pets are okay to be left home alone for a reasonable amount of time. For pet fish, though, this “reasonable” amount of time is usually significantly longer than for “regular” pets, such as dogs or cats. First, it’s okay for a fish to go a day without food. But if you are away for a longer period, there are plenty of products to feed them without your active involvement. Food blocks can sit in a tank and can be nibbled on for up to a week. There are also timer-controlled feeders. Almost anything in an aquarium can be automated, except for cleaning, though we are enthusiastic about the future of household robotics. Lights and air pumps, in our opinion, are a “must” to run on a timer so you can be consistent in providing the right amount of light and bubbles your fish need.
- Teaching commitment to kids. Okay, any pet can teach kids about commitment. But fish are harder to screw up (we’re not saying it is impossible). Weekly partial water changes, glass scrubbing and daily feedings are the required minimum for most fish to survive. An aquarium hobby can also provide kids with an activity that many of them love—measuring the water pH levels, the amount of ammonia, the water hardness and other cool science stuff.
- A conversation starter. Do you often have guests over, but don’t know what to talk about? It is reasonable to ask why you invite them over—but worry no more! Get a fish tank and you will often see raised eyebrows and hear tons of questions (and likely a compliment or two). People love to talk about pets. But the truth is, no one ever bats an eye upon seeing dogs or cats anymore—everyone’s so used to them. Fish, however, are another story. Even though 12 million fishtanks are kept in the US alone, they are still relatively scarce when compared to the two most popular pets. This guarantees that whenever people see an aquarium at someone’s home, they are not indifferent. And if it happens that your visitor has an aquarium of his own, it’s even better! You’ll have a common interest and a shared hobby to make for an instant ice-breaker.
We have likely only scratched the surface on the fun side of keeping aquarium fish. If you enter the world of aquarium fish, it is like a new dimension opening to a whole new universe. It’s always been here, but you were unaware of it. Learning new things, reading books about fish, communicating with other people about a shared hobby or being frustrated when you see green algae covering the front glass—it’s all part of the great aquarium hobby.
In the next article we are going to dive deeper into the practical aspects of setting up and maintaining fish tanks. Stay tuned!