Fish are Friends

BY ANNELIESE MOLL
For the UAS Whalesong
At some point in time you’ve probably heard someone say that people with pets are healthier. Well, this idea has actually been tested. In a study, Pets and Human Health in Germany and Australia, found that pet owners make roughly 15% fewer annual doctor’s visits than people who do not own pets. Luckily for us, aquariums count! A study was published by Environment and Behavior reported that when people are exposed to natural environments we exhibit a reduction in heart rate and many reported an increase in mood.
Aquariums have the ability to be an excellent addition to a home, be it a house or a dorm room. They can vary and size and nature, but when done correctly are fairly simple to maintain. When it comes to tank size, bigger is usually better and easier. The reason why I am saying that bigger is easier is because there is more water to dilute pollutants and thus the water chemistry is easier to maintain. However, here at UAS housing, we are only able to have 10 gallon tanks.
Many people simply go to the pet store and pick out a tank or bowl and a fish. While the fish may survive for a time, this definitely is not the best route to go down. A fish is a living organism that will be dependent on you for everything, it’s unethical for it to be kept in a tank or a bowl that is not properly set up and maintained.  
The first step in setting up an aquarium is gathering the equipment. Obviously you are going to need a tank, but a filter of the proper size is also key, as well as a light and a heater. The next step is to understand the natural processes involved within the closed system. It all begins with acquiring the proper amount of beneficial bacteria. This can be done a few ways. It is possible to purchase bottles of bacteria and over the course of a few weeks add that into the water, live sand can also help (it’s called “live” sand because of the bacteria within it), or by adding small amounts of ammonia or simply bits of fish food to the water. After you start this, you need to remember to feed the bacteria.
During the first few weeks you should expect the levels of ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite to be pretty high. It’s important to remember that these will go down eventually and to not rush the process. The reason this is such an important step is because once you have acquired your fish it will be producing nitrogenous waste, which can build up quickly and kill your fish if you are not prepared. Adding some biological filters, such as plants can be beneficial to your system and can also reduce stress or aggression within fish because it offers a hiding place.
Once your tank is able to fully handle the ammonia, this means that if you add ammonia, after a day or so your test kit reads 0 parts per million (ppm). The nitrate and nitrite should also be as close to 0 as possible. Depending on the type of fish you want, your pH can vary a bit also, but typically around 7 (neutral) is best.
Unfortunately, adding fish may not always be as simple as you might think. Be very wary of what people at pet stores tell you is or isn’t okay for a tank because at the end of the day they are trying to make money. While not all stores that have fish are like this, it is still a good idea to do your own research on particular species before you bring it back, there are many websites and other resources online to help you with this. Fish like betta and goldfish often get the short end of the stick because of people either not knowing what they need or how to care for them.
For example, while bettas can live in a tiny bowl they do not like it. They are a tropical fish and need their water to be at least 75°F. A filtered tank is also always better. If you can do this you can see a pretty drastic change in your betta. A sassy betta is a happy betta. Their color will also be more dramatic and even change completely. Goldfish are also better suited to ponds than bowls or small tanks because of the size a healthy one should obtain and because they are a colder water fish (less than). Goldfish kept in tanks that are too small become stunted, and that greatly reduces their health because their organs do not stop growing. Being kept like this greatly reduces their lifespan. There are many other options than just those species, ones that would be much happier in a 10 gallon tank.
When it comes to physically adding a fish I would recommend not adding too many at once. If you are interested in a fish species that is known to be aggressive add it last or have it be a species only tank. You should also allow the bags your fish come in to float in your tank before adding them in. This helps the fish acclimate rather than being shocked by the temperature change. After your fish have been added it’s good to do a small water change every two to three weeks. This refreshes the water and can add small amounts of nutrients back into the water.
If you are worried about the cost of setting up a fish tank make sure to check your local Craigslist or similar website because you can usually find some good deals. Petco also has dollar per gallon sales occasionally.
I think it is pretty common for people to mistreat fish because, “it’s just a fish.” However, they are living organisms just like a cat or a dog, and they really do deserve to be treated well. When properly cared for they have the ability to have some awesome personalities and can even learn to do simple tricks.

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