The Importance of Fish Research

The Importance of Fish Research

Have you ever noticed how many new aquarists get started these days? They go down to the local fish store or chain store and purchase the typical 5 or 10-gallon tank kits that come with a heater, filter and lights. They then read on the box, which has a picture of twenty goldfish swimming happily in the tank, that everything is included except the gravel, decorations, and the fish…and, I would hesitate to say, some KNOWLEDGE!!!

In the days that follow, the person then proceeds to purchase the flashiest, coolest looking fish in the store, in mass quantities no less; never bothering to consider that a fish is not a fish is not a fish, or that the little tank that they just bought definitely has a limit on how many and what kind of fish can be put in there. Simply put, fish, like dogs, grow to be different sizes and have very different requirements. It’s only after a problem arises in the tank that they come one of the many forums on the internet for help, but, by then, it’s usually too late. The remedy to this problem is simple…do your research before making any purchases.

Many experienced aquarists attempt to blame the people that work at the fish store or chain store that sells fish, but, in reality, shouldn’t it behoove the person that ultimately wants to be a pet owner to do a little independent research into the requirements of the pets that they want to own? I know that fish store employees could often times do a little better job on many occasions in assisting a new hobbyist, but the prolific amounts of information available to the modern aquarist in the form of libraries and the internet means that personal responsibility has been elevated to a new level. No longer can we say that the ability to be educated before making aquarium purchases is limited to “the few” that managed to get a job selling fish. This information is there for anybody and everybody.

Given these facts, how many tragedies could then be avoided? It staggers the mind to realize that, in this case, a little knowledge truly could go a long way. There would be far less “trade-ins” at the fish store for fish that have outgrown tanks. There would be significantly less fish deaths from overcrowding, stress related aggression, water parameter incompatibility, and tank size deficits in relation to fish size. The pitiful stories that are repeated over and over again, ad nauseum, on many forums would cease to be told. Best of all, the fish would receive the proper care that they deserve; it would only be a win/win situation.

The most important thing for a person considering becoming a fish keeper to do is research. If you have a computer “Google” is an excellent place to start. Enter the words “aquarium help”, “fish tank help”, or “aquarium advice” and many great websites come up that will steer a new hobbyist in the right direction. If you don’t have a computer, then there is your local library that will allow you to check out many books on fish and fish keeping absolutely free of charge.

In doing fish research, the following things need to be taken into consideration:

· The stocking rules. Take the surface area of the tank, which is the length times, the width and divide by 12. A typical 29-gallon tank, for example, has a length of 30 inches and a width of 12 inches, so, 30 X 12 = 360 and 360 / 12 = 30 inches of adult fish. This is roughly the number of inches of basic community fish that your tank will comfortably accommodate. A 20-gallon long tank will accommodate the same fish load since it has the same surface area, but a 20-gallon tall will not. These rules do not apply to all fish equally because some fish, due to their behavior and habits, need more room.

· The adult size of the fish. Some fish may start very small as babies in the store, but they can quickly grow to massive proportions that will far outstrip the capacity of even a fairly large tank. Several examples include, but are not limited to, the common plecostomus, the silver arowana, the red-bellied pacu, and tinfoil barbs. Realize that the myth “the fish will grow to the size of the tank” is just that, a myth. A fish’s internal organs will continue to grow long after its body becomes stunted by the release of growth inhibiting hormones. This results in a painful, slow death for the fish.

· The territory requirements and swimming level of the fish. Many African and South American cichlids are very messy eaters and very aggressive toward other fish and need a lot of room with caves and rocks so that they may establish territories. Also, fish inhabit different levels of the tank. There are top swimmers, mid-level swimmers, and bottom feeders. One should try to avoid purchasing too many fish that stay at one particular level. The goal should be to spread the fish out evenly between the levels.

· The needs of each different type of fish. Ignore the “accepted wisdom”, which is almost always misinformation, and pay attention to the minimum tank requirements and water parameters for the fish you want to keep. For example, goldfish are very messy, get quite large, need cooler temperatures, and live a very long life if cared for properly. Despite what is commonly depicted, a goldfish will not fare well at all in a bowl. One goldfish needs at least 30 gallons with each subsequent goldfish addition needing an additional 10-15 gallons each, and they also need very good filtration. Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions is that goldfish can be mixed with tropical (warm water) fish. This is not the case, and, eventually, the different temperature requirements will result in a shorter lifespan for either the goldfish or the tropical fish. Likewise, African cichlids need very hard water with a high pH and many South American cichlids need softer water with a fairly low pH. These things need to be taken into consideration when choosing tank mates.

· The aggressive tendencies of each fish. Not all fish are community fish that play well with others. Some fish that appear friendly, such as tiger barbs, can be quite nippy towards tank mates, especially those with long, flowing fins, and ends up killing the fish in the tank with them. Many cichlid species are very aggressive to just about any fish put in the tank with them, especially other cichlids.

Basically, if a person will do some basic research into aquaria and the types of fish that are available and that they are interested in keeping there are no excuses for not properly caring for our fish friends, and many tragedies and fish deaths can be avoided. Buying a fish tank should not be an impulse buy, but a well considered, well thought out decision that can bring many years of joy if done correctly.

Submitted by: crazyred (Melissa Webster)

Melissa Webster (crazyred)