Fish Are Friends

(PSHE and English)
Thousands of people keep fish as companion animals without knowing how amazing these creatures are. They keep them in bowls that are far too small, often alone and without anything for them to do. In the wild, fish have the enormous oceans, long winding rivers or deep, dark lakes to explore. In captivity, the most they can hope for is an interesting tank with weeds and some friends. Most have to settle for a lot less.

Fish Lessons
by Ingrid Newkirk

Taken from Kinship With the Animals (ed. Michael Tobias & Kate Solisti-Mattelon)

During the week when the house was quiet, he spent most of his time at the east end of the tank, near the window, catching the morning sunlight on his fins and then browsing among the reeds anchored in tubs in the silt. But on Saturday mornings, he swam to the other side of the tank and waited. Here he had the best vantage point from which to watch people’s comings and goings: he could see the hallway door through which he knew visitors sometimes materialised. The fish loved visitors.

When anyone entered, the fish raised himself up high in the water and pressed close to the glass, the better to see them and to hear their words carried across the surface of his watery little room. When they left, he and his spirits sank again. He returned to the bottom of the tank and started half-heartedly picking at the gravel, scooping up a stone, then spitting it out again, navigating slowly backwards each time to avoid the tiny dust storms created by each disturbance.

He was making time pass.

On weekday afternoons the man came home from work. Like a dog waiting at the gate for the school bus, the fish began “pacing” before the key turned in the door, swimming back and forth… Every few laps the fish would pause and hang in the water, staring hopefully at the door.

He accepted all new comers to his tank with dignity. In the end he outlived them all. Some of them died of “seasickness” – the trauma of sloshing around in the bag from ocean to distributor, in the truck to the pet shop, and then in the car on the way home. When the fish died, I found myself trying to imagine what his ancestral waters were like, where and how he had been captured or bred, and what on earth we were thinking of when we acquired him and robbed him of his little fish destiny. Sorry, old fellow. Truly.

Fish for a Day
Imagine you are a fish, swimming in the ocean. You are captured and taken to a fishbowl in someone’s house. Write a poem about the experience and how you feel.

Brainstorm and Design
In small groups, come up with 10 ways people can make life better for any fish they may have. Then choose one of those ideas and draw a picture showing how this idea is good for the fish.