School is out and summer has arrived! For many kids, that means sunny days outdoors, swimming in the pool, and going on fun vacations. For others, it means bringing home a new pet!
As someone who works in pet retail, it seems like the arrival of summer brings a rush of new pet parents to the store. Fish tend to be a “starter” pet for young children. You know: if you can take care of this fish, we’ll talk about getting XYZ pet later. It’s not a bad idea. Most small tank setups are not difficult to maintain, especially if they have a filter. And fish are easy to feed!
Unfortunately, this also comes with a lot of misconceptions about fish ownership. I don’t mind educating new pet parents about how to take care of fish, and many don’t mind learning. And I don’t claim to know everything about fish, either! But some customers get frustrated at having to buy different or extra products. Pet retail is still retail – it can be harsh!
Here are a few common misconceptions I have heard from fish customers:
1. “Betta fish can live in a small bowl or vase.”
While betta fish live in rice paddies in the wild, these tend to be deep and connected to a larger body of water. Betta fish enjoy an environment with space to swim around and explore. A fish bowl allows little room for movement. And a flower vase is even more stifling!
2. “Betta fish don’t need a heater.”
A betta fish may survive without a heater, but it isn’t ideal. They experience temperatures around 79 degrees Fahrenheit in their natural habitat. If the water gets too cold, they will sit at the bottom of the tank and become inactive!
3. “Goldfish can live in a small bowl or tank.”
Goldfish cannot thrive in a fish bowl! Experts recommend at least a 10 gallon tank for one goldfish. They also need clean water – they cannot live without a filter! Many people who win a goldfish at a carnival do not realize that a simple fish bowl is not a suitable habitat.
4. “Tropical fish don’t need a heater.”
Tropical fish need water temperatures between 78 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Having your tank under a sunny window will not warm the water enough. Like betta fish, tropical fish in cold water become sluggish and inactive. Over time, this can lead to illness and fish death.
5. “Goldfish and tropical fish can live together.”
Goldfish enjoy cool water in their natural habitat. Their water temperature should sit between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer temperatures actually make them susceptible to diseases! Since tropical fish need warmer water temperatures, they are not compatible with goldfish.
6. “Big fish won’t grow if they are in a small tank.”
All fish start out small, but many have the potential to grow many inches long! Confining fish to a small tank is no guarantee that it won’t grow to its full length. At the very least, a fish that is in too mall a tank for it’s adult size will outgrow it over time.
7. “Koi fish don’t need to live in a pond.”
Did you know that koi fish can grow 24 inches long? Koi fish thrive in ponds because they are such large fish. Some pond enthusiasts do take their koi inside for the winter. But they have aquariums that can hold hundreds of gallons of water. Some even have 1000 gallon tanks for winter housing!
8. “I don’t need to change the tank water because it has a filter.”
While filters help keep tank water clean and healthy, you still need to introduce fresh water. Fish owners should perform 20% water changes once a week. Changing out more of the water gets rid of the beneficial bacteria growing in your tank. Beneficial bacteria helps keep the water clear!
9. “I can set fish free when I don’t want them anymore.”
Did you know that goldfish are an invasive species? Dumping unwanted goldfish into a river or lake can completely upturn the ecosystem. If you decide to own fish of any species, understand that there is still commitment involved. You can try to re-home your fish, but never set them free!
Do you have a pond or aquarium? Tell me about it in the comments! I have a betta fish and a nerite snail. 🐟 🐌