Paul has kept fish owner for many years, and has dealt with numerous challenges. Born in the UK, he currently lives in Florida.
Consider the Pros and Cons
In my experience, there are many benefits to having fish as pets. They are enjoyable to keep, and you learn a lot about biology, chemistry, and ecosystems. However, there are downsides too, and you should consider carefully whether they are the right pet for you. Fish are amazing, but they are not for everyone.
This article looks at the negatives—the purpose being to lay out the challenges—so that proper consideration can be given before you or your child obtain your fish and tank. If the downsides don't put you off, then you should go ahead with your plans. Fish make fascinating and fun pets when they are well cared for.
6 Disadvantages of Fish as Pets
- It costs more than you think.
- They are long-term pets.
- Setting up your tank takes time.
- Aquariums require regular maintenance.
- Vacations require planning.
- They aren't tactile and interactive.
I examine each downside in more detail below.
1. It Costs More Than You Think
It's a well-known fact that pets cost money, be it purchasing them, paying for their food, health expenses, toys and other effects, such as collars and beds. Fish are no exception, but the costs are often underestimated.
There is the initial outlay of the setup, buying the fish and aquarium, plus other specialist equipment (a 29-gallon setup can easily cost in excess of $500). Then there is the amount that you spend on an ongoing basis, which is usually proportionate to the size of your tank and the number of fish that you keep.
Food is an obvious expense, but there are other considerations and essential items of equipment that are easy to forget. These include things like:
- Electricity to power the air pumps, filters, heaters, and lights.
- A gravel vacuum for cleaning the bottom of your tank.
- A net for catching fish.
- Water conditioner for water treatment.
2. They are Long-Term Pets
As with all pets, it's easy to love and care for them when they are a new addition, but the challenges can become more wearing when the fish cease to be a novelty, particularly for children. Depending on the breed, a well-looked-after fish can live for ten years or more. It's important to acknowledge this and be realistic.
3. Setting Up Your Tank Takes Time
Before fish can be added, there is a process called cycling your aquarium that needs to be performed. It basically involves pushing your tank through the nitrogen cycle. This can take weeks, but it is essential if you don't want your fish to get sick.
The process can be frustrating. However, it's necessary, because it builds up the population of beneficial bacteria necessary for breaking down the bad chemicals produced by waste, such as fish poop.
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4. Aquariums Require Regular Maintenance
Fish don't just need regular feeding. There are numerous tasks that need to be regularly performed if you are going to keep a healthy environment for your fish to live in. The regular chores you will need to perform include:
- Changing the water in the tank
- Cleaning the filter
- Vacuuming the floor of the aquarium
- Cleaning the tank's walls
You also need to regularly test the water and monitor levels of ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, as well as the pH, KH, and GH. The chemistry of the water is vital to the well-being of your fish.
Note: Smaller tanks can be more problematic than larger ones, that's because when problems do occur, the negative effects often manifest much quicker in smaller volumes of water. Unfortunately, the fish can die before you have a chance to fix the issue in situations where the water chemistry or temperature changes in a matter of hours or even minutes.
5. Vacations Require Planning
Many pets can just be dropped off with friends or relatives when you go away, or at a business whose job is to care for them, such as dog boarding kennels. Fish tanks are rarely portable. That means that you need someone to come to your house regularly to care for the fish while you are away.
Few people are fit for this role, as aquarium maintenance requires monitoring by somebody who is experienced. Otherwise, you will return from your vacation to a tank of sick or dead fish.
Note: If you are someone who frequently moves house, that can also be a problem for similar reasons to above. Aquariums and the associated setups just aren't designed to be moved around.
6. Fish Aren't Tactile or Interactive
Unlike some other common pets, such as cats and dogs, fish are physically and socially remote. You aren't advised to touch them, never mind pet, stroke, or cuddle them. Dogs and cats understand certain key words, such as their name. Dogs can be trained to sit, lie down, come to you, and fetch thrown objects.
Although they can be relaxing to watch, fish are not interactive. Unless it's feeding time, they will completely ignore you. I myself find their biology and behavior fun and fascinating, but I've seen others grow bored of them, especially children.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paul Goodman