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Are There Any Fish That Don't Die So Easily?

Some fish are mostly idiot proof, like the Betta
Some fish are mostly idiot proof, like the Betta

Wet pets, especially fish, are not the most robust pets in the world. Sometimes, it seems if you just look at the tank funny, the fish will float the next day. Fish will inevitably die. That's what fish do. But they should live a couple of years or more before they shuffle off this mortal coil. We have all heard of someone who spent a fortune on aquarium supplies and couldn't get a fish to live more than a fortnight. Then we seem to bump into someone who had a goldfish living in a cramped bowl for 25 years. Is there any way of figuring fish out?

Be Prepared

Somehow, aquarium fish got the reputation that they are maintenance free. Nothing could be further from the truth. True, they don't need annual inoculations or walks every day and the poo is minimal, but they certainly need your time and energy in order to be given at least a fighting chance. You don't just stick a fish in a bowl and sprinkle it with food once a day and that's that. Like any other pet, you need to be sure they are clean and not stressed out.

The heartiest and easiest to care for fish are freshwater fish. Unlike brackish water fish or salt water fish, you don't need to keep a constant balance of saline to water. Since you don't have to worry about that, you are given enough freedom to worry about all of the other aspects of fish care. And, with freshwater fish, the easier ones are those that do NOT necessarily need a heater. They prefer their water a little on the cool side.

Not for Kids

Somehow, fish got the reputation of being a great first pet for a child. Unless the child is responsible and genuinely interested in animal care as a long-term affair, instead of a fad hobby, do NOT get the kids a fish. Fish need to be checked every day. Generally, the smaller their bowls, the more their water has to be changed. You need to deal with algae growth, as well. And, you need to be able to check your water's quality. This might be a bit too complicated for small children, say, under nine years of age.

Perhaps the myth that fish make great children's first pets is that goldfish have usually been given away as prizes. And, if the child isn't too observant, the fish can be replaced with a look alike at low cost without the child realizing that the fish has died. This method of fishkeeping really isn't recommended.

Set Up Before the Fish Move in

The best way to keep the fish from dying so quickly is to know what you're getting yourself in for before you get the fish. You need to set up your tank or bowl at least a week before you get your fish, ideally. This will give you a chance to get used to having a tank or bowl around and get into the habit of changing water or figuring out how the equipment works before risking a fish.

There are lots of books, magazines and websites that explain simply how to set up your bowl or aquarium. One good site is here. They're written by people who have been in the same situation you are in. It is a good long term investment to pick up a few fish care books to turn to in case you can't get online.

Meet the Fish

The most idiot proof (or, in my case, Sherwood proof, the other end of the scale) are these three species - the common goldfish, the Betta (Siamese Fighting Fish) and the Plecostomus. Not all species of Plecos will handle living in an unheated aquarium, so check to see if your intended Pleco will not mind the chill. These are usually the more plainer brown ones.

The common goldfish - not the fancy kind with bubble eyes, fan tails or lion heads - is one of the hardiest fish in the world. How old do they get? Well, brace yourself - the oldest goldfish ever known was Tish, an English common goldfish who lived in a little bowl until he was 43. Tish even outlived his owner's son, who won Tish in a Doncaster funfair in 1956.

Goldfish require at least a gallon to two gallons per fish. The temptation to overfeed is incredible, as they do get in the habit of begging. They come in an incredible rainbow of colors, not just gold.

The next hardiest is the Betta, or Siamese Fighting Fish. The males must be kept on their own - they sometimes attack other fish, and will always attack another male Betta. Their ancestors hopped from puddle to puddle in Thailand. Female betas can live in groups, but are not so spectacular to look at. They require at least a gallon of water and regular water changes. Here is an article on feeding bettas for you.

The next is the Plecostomus, which is talked about here. They can sometimes grow to unpredictable sizes, but for the most part stay small. They require different food than just fish flakes. It's great if they have places to hide, too.

Good luck!

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Comments 13 comments

Rebecca 8 years ago

Gosh, no wonder your fish die so quickly being that overcrowded and with that little cycle time. A full cycle takes 36 days though hardier fish can be added after two weeks if you watch your parameters closely. Goldfish require 10-30 gallons each depending on their type (double-taileds on the lower end, single-tailed on the higher), it is a myth that they will grow to their tank size and live healthily after that. Most aquarium fish have life spans of over ten years, tetras are one of the more popular community fish and weigh in at 12 years. Noted exceptions to this are bettas and a lot of livebearers that only live 3-4 years. If their tanks are cycled and kept up properly they're really not at all difficult to keep alive.


judy  8 years ago

i don know ewhat im doung wrong i have haqd 2 fighters die n mend now the third has fin rot ''new plants rocks ect in an orb fish tank its a palace to what he came from ihave names for them so its not just a fish i become very attached but can,t stand to watch them die when i am doing every thing right i think . are fresh blood worms ok help juy


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flutterbug77 8 years ago from USA

Excellent Hub. Male Betta's are one of the most beautiful of all fish, in my opinion and I've had the priviledge of raising a few Betta fry. Very fullfilling!


sammie 8 years ago

they can last ages just treat them right


donna 7 years ago

have got 4 fish in a 20 litre tank. followed all the instructions. have kept an eye on the pH and the water is fine. don't understand why my goldfish are dieing


Seriously? 7 years ago

4 gold fish in a 20 litre? A Goldfish grows to about 6" and needs 12 gallons to itself in a 20 gallon tank. You'd need about 40 gallons for 4 goldfish to thrive properly. You have a 5 gallon tank Donna. Lets think Betta, or 3 or 4 small tetras if you have a filter+heater.


swimswimswim 6 years ago

i recently bought a 10 gallon aquarium for my 5 black tetra fish. Is this enough space? Also, do you think it would be worthwhile to purchase a water testing kit?


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twogroce 6 years ago

We have had a very hard time keeping the Beta fish. Well the first one my daughter bought her 5 year old cousin thought it needed lotion, no saving that one. We tried other Betas and they didn't last either. This last one we bought I said this was it, no more after this one. I was surprised it has lasted as long as it has. After adopting 4 hermit crabs and caring for them I started using the product that cleans their cage for the fish bowl and it works GREAT. It comes clean in a breeze. The product is called "Hermit Clean" and it is all natural from Jurassipet. It contains lime and other citrus oils. Thanks for the informative Hub, great job!


Michele 6 years ago

Betta fish are not easy to keep AT ALL I have had all types of fish gold fish(all types), Molly's, guppy's,and betta fish. the betta fish were by FAR the hardest to keep alive they constantly needed water changes because if you do not they eventualy get fin rot. These inferior fish get a ton of other diseases such as,FUNGAL INFECTION, ICK, VELVET,POPEYE,DROPSY,SWIM BLADDER DISORDER, EXTERNAL PARASITES,INTERNAL PARASITES, BACTERIAL INFECTION, TUBERCULOSIS,INFLAMED GILLS just to name a few. bettas are very fragile fish and I DO NOT recommend them for any one unless you are willing to devote serious time in to them and don't be sad at all the hard work for them to only live about a year... not the mention the water that you put in the bowl for a betta fish hard water kills them so even when you think you are doing the right thing by changing the water you might not be its a constant chemistry project for betta fish are the nitrates to hight is the ammonia to high if they are sick.. what about this -->Ampicillin, tetracycline, Aquarisol, salt, BettaZing if you don't know what these are then you should NOT GET A BETTA FISH


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Jawbreaker 6 years ago

Convict Clichlids are STRONG but very AGRESIVE! don't die easily


Katty Kat 6 years ago

Me and my friends are planning on keeping a goldfish in our locker and need a plan that requires minimum care. Any advice?


WillSteinmetz profile image

WillSteinmetz 5 years ago

Awesome article.I love keeping fish which don't die easily.


Smart 4 years ago

Actually bettas living six or more yearssuch as ten years have been herd of.

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