All About Animals: The Issues (Ages 16-18): Fish

Fish are wonderful animals and cleverer than they are often credited for! Fish can recognise each other in their shoal and they keep an eye on who is friends with whom. They also have great memories, use tools and build large nests. Fish talk to one another using grunts, clicks and roars and some also express themselves by changing colour.

Like birds, fish need their freedom. In nature, they would have the oceans, rivers or a whole lake to swim around in. To them, a goldfish bowl must feel like a prison. Fish die easily in these conditions, which shows they are neither happy nor healthy. If you do have fish, it is very important that they have a large tank with lots of interesting things to do. The tank or aquarium should have clean gravel on the bottom, a filter to keep the water clean and an air pump to make sure the water stays healthy. Fish should be fed once a day with the food that is right for them. The pH balance of the water, levels of aeration and the temperature must all be suitable for the needs of the particular species kept. The tank should be cleaned regularly and carefully, changing no more than a quarter of the water at a time. The tank must be an interesting place for the fish to explore, so real plants, rocks and other tank supplies should be provided.

If you keep fish outdoors in a pond, it should be a large pond with plants. The water must be kept clean, so any leaves that have fallen in should be removed. The pond should be cleaned out once a year and if the water freezes in winter, the ice should be melted gently.

Fish can be hurt easily just by being touched, so if you need to move them, it is best to do this gently using a net.

Finally, fish need friends; so animal welfare campaigners say we should never keep a fish alone. And remember goldfish can live for up to 25 years!