“Don’t be afraid to fall into the sea. Close your eyes and jump, for you will fall on the back of a big fish which will carry you to your destination”
― Bangambiki Habyarimana
Having fish can be a fun, worthwhile and satisfying experience. Contrary to popular belief, fish are intelligent creatures and form tight social bonds. In the wild, groupers and coral trout will hunt together, giving them a higher success rate than if they were to go at it on their own. Smaller species of fish such as angelfish and butterflyfish also act as cleaners for larger fish. Fish can even remember the faces of humans who give them rewards, making them a much more interesting and interactive pet than some people would think. If you’ve been playing around with the notion of getting a pet fish for yourself or your loved one, the following pros and cons can help you make that final decision.
Pros of Having a Fish as a Pet
It teaches patience
While it may look as simple as throwing a few fish in a bowl and feeding them once or twice a day, keeping fish as pets takes a lot of time and patience. You will have to acclimatize the fish to their new home, find the right balance of nutrients to feed them, and study the tank to develop a sense of how often it needs cleaning and water changes, among other things. The breeding habits of your fish are something you will need to familiarize yourself with as well, in order to prevent overpopulation and disease. None of this is going to happen overnight, and the process involves a lot of trial and error in the beginning.
It’s a chance to learn something new
An aquarium functions as a mini science experiment and can be a great source of learning for everyone in your household. From reading up on different species of fish when deciding how to populate the aquarium, to brushing up on the aspects of biology, ecology, and chemistry you need to apply to keep it in balance, an aquarium makes an amazing teaching tool, and also makes teaching and learning fun.
Whether it’s for your home, office, or school, a tank full of fish is sure to invite tons of questions, especially from small children, which makes it a great conversation starter and provides many opportunities to share your knowledge.
Keeping fish is relaxing
There’s something about watching fish swim about that is both relaxing and enjoyable for most people. According to studies in psychology, we derive pleasure from the perceived social support through companionship that can be found in raising fish, as well as the chance they give us to nurture. Having fish can reduce the loneliness of someone living alone, or provide a much-needed distraction from stress or triggers for someone suffering from anxiety. The soft and intermittent sound of splashing is also soothing to the ear, which is why aquariums are found in many dentist’s offices and other stressful environments.
You can join a new community of people
The internet offers a vast network of threads, communities, and chat rooms where you can connect with other fish lovers, giving you the opportunity to become a part of a whole new community of people. You can find information, share resources, ask questions and get ideas on how to be creative with your fish in a way that would cost a tremendous amount of time and money if you were to do it in person. With the stroke of a few keys on your smartphone, you can find inspiration on how to decorate the tank, or buy a new sunken ship for your fish to swim in and out of. You can ask questions of experts in the field of breeding certain types of fish, or find out why your pet fish is looking listless, which brands of fish food are healthier than others, or why your fish refuse to mate. Even if it’s just you and your fish in your home, you can still share this experience with millions of other like-minded people.
Fish are less needy than cats and dogs
Compared to cats and dogs, fish make much less needy pets. They don’t run around your legs begging for cuddles and attention, or cry out for more treats. They don’t keep you up half the night barking or run away, and will never poop in the middle of your carpet. Once you’ve set up your aquarium, your fish will pretty much wander off into their own existence without paying you much mind except for during feeding time. They can live their entire lives with no guidance from you and need only that you keep the tank clean and food in good supply. If you are looking for a pet that doesn’t require too much emotional investment, this could work for you.
An aquarium makes beautiful décor
The natural beauty of fish makes even small aquariums wonderful home décor pieces, and by finding different ways to design the environment in the tank, you can have it reflect your home or contrast it in whichever way you like. You can add plants to the aquarium, pirates and lost treasure, waterproof artwork, and houses for your fish to swim in and out of as they please. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Waste water is great for your plants
If you have houseplants or a garden, the waste water from your fish tank will make an excellent source of nutrients. Chemicals that build up in a fish tank can be harmful to your fish if they aren’t frequently removed by changing the water, but this water need not go to waste. It is an excellent source of nutrients like ammonia, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and can be harvested and used to water your houseplants or garden.
It’s a chance to be creative
Assembling an aquarium can be an extremely rewarding exercise in creativity as well as a soothing hobby. From choosing the right size tank for your home and budget, to which different kinds of fish to populate it with, there are many decisions to be made and you can take your time and have lots of fun making them. Fish come in all sorts of designs, with beautiful colors that can complement any design theme or idea that you can imagine. You can have a tank full of different kinds of striped fish, or only blue fish, it’s completely up to you.
Cons of Having a Fish as a Pet
Interest in fish tends to wane over time
Especially with younger children, the interest in keeping fish as pets tends to wane as time progresses. Fish can live long, healthy lives when properly taken care of, but a drop in interest usually comes with less cleaning and erratic feeding, leading to the untimely death of your pet. If you feel your children are still too young to appreciate that this is a responsibility which needs to be upheld, or you worry that you won’t have enough time and patience to devote to providing a clean, healthy environment that your fish can thrive in, this may not be the right pet for you.
The learning curve can be steep
Successfully maintaining even a small population of two fish in a simple tank is not as easy as dumping them in there and letting them be. While it may be enjoyable, the learning process can also come with disappointments. When fish die, it can be emotionally disturbing, and this can happen over and over again while you try to figure out what is going wrong. If you’re using tap water to fill your tank, for example, it may be laden with chemicals that are harmful to freshwater fish and it could take a while before you figure this out. You may also run into problems determining the optimal temperature for your fish to remain healthy, adjusting it too low or too high before you find the sweet spot, causing them to get sick or die.
Regular maintenance is a must
As much as fish are low maintenance themselves, their environment needs to be kept in optimal condition for the population to thrive and live long, happy lives. This includes checking your tank often to determine if the chemicals are still in balance, and changing the water when toxins have built up. Fish need to be fed regularly to remain healthy, not too little and never too much, which can tie you to your home if there’s no one to feed them when you have to leave for long periods of time. The water filtration system will also need to be cleaned, along with the inside and outside of the glass, especially where you have small children placing their sticky hands and faces up to the glass.
It can get a little messy
Changing tank water can get a little messy, especially if you’re getting your little ones to help. Spills happen and are a part of the process. Fish have also been known to jump out of the tank and die, which can lead to stains and smells if they land somewhere they won’t immediately be spotted. The location of your tank will be very important if you prioritize neatness; placing it on the edge of a shaky table is always a bad idea.
Humid air may damage paint or electronics
If you have an open top tank, you may need to invest in a dehumidifier. Increased humidity released into the air from the tank can cause wallpaper to peel, damage some paints and even electronic devices nearby.
It can be an expensive hobby
Setting up your aquarium can become quite expensive. You will have to buy the tank, choose and buy the different varieties of fish, purchase water conditioner and a filtration system, as well as a heater to keep the water temperature constant. Depending on the varieties you choose, the fish themselves and even the plants going in to accompany them can be fairly costly.
You will have to consider the regular, ongoing costs as well. Your tank will constantly be running on electricity, which can run up your bill. The tank will require frequent water changes as well, and the bigger the tank, the more water you will need. Sick fish will also need medicine, and you may just find yourself spending more money than you had budgeted trying to maintain your pets. This is why it is imperative to do your research before you go out and buy your fish, because you may find yourself unwittingly making a huge financial commitment that you cannot uphold.
Leakage or breakage can be very costly
Keeping fish comes with the added risk of a leaking or broken tank. Slow leaks can cause damage over time, especially if the leak is somewhere you can’t easily see it. A tank which falls and crashes to the ground can destroy floors, rugs, electronics, and furniture, as well as leave shards of glass everywhere and lead to a considerable financial loss.
Dirty tanks are gross
Once in a while, a series of unfortunate events can lead to the water turning foul, which can kill fish and plants off fairly quickly. Even one dead fish in the water can be detrimental to the ecosystem, and it is important to keep track of how many fish you have and if any are in need of medical intervention. If you are inattentive to your fish or they are somewhere you don’t frequently look at directly, it could be a while before you notice the foul smell coming from the tank. This mess is not a pretty sight, nor is it a pleasure to clean up. This is what makes regular maintenance so vital, as well as regular temperature and chemical balance checks, which will let you know when your water has become toxic to your fish and a breeding ground for bacteria.
It requires time
Although fish don’t necessarily need your love to survive, they do need your attention. Depending on the size and species of fish, you will have to feed them once or twice a day. You will also have to set aside enough time each week to perform the regular maintenance needed to keep the tank clean and your pet fish happy and swimming strong. If you are very busy, you may not have the time to do this, but it is a requirement of keeping fish as pets.
Tanks can be heavy and difficult to move
If you have to move house or need to move your tank to another location in the house, it can be quite difficult to do so.