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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Tillema

Four Fish Care Myths You need to Know

So you won a goldfish at the fair! Your kids are SUPER excited with their new Pet and you are off to find a proper container for Bubbles the goldfish!

But wait! What is considered a proper container for a goldfish? A fishbowl? A vase? Lets look at 4 common myths about fishkeeping.

No fish should be stuck in a tiny fishbowl or vase. Fish are extraordinary pets and should live several years if treated properly. Unfortunately, we have been brainwashed to think that fish can live anywhere, and if they live six months or a year, they have lived a long, happy life. Nothing is farther from the truth. Here are four myths you need to know before bringing Mr. Bubbles home!

Myth #1:

Fish only grow to the size of their container

Many pet stores perpetuate this myth, As is most of the misinformation you will hear on keeping fish . A fish will grow to the size his genetics and DNA allow. Period. He will not just stop growing because there is no room to grow. Instead, once he reaches a specific size, he will die. Yep, you heard me, they die. How long do you think a goldfish should live?

12- 15 years is a good long life for a goldfish but most never reach that potential because of living conditions. Even those used as feeders (comet goldfish) should live much longer than they usually do. Premature death often happens when the "tank" conditions can no longer keep up with the waste the fish produces as it outgrows its surroundings. How big does our example get? A comet goldfish should easily reach 8-12 inches! Most aquariums won't be able to support a fish that size, much less a fishbowl. You need a minimum of 40 gallons for a SINGLE fish, and a koi pond is an even better choice to house Mr. Bubbles.

I have a couple of Bala Sharks in my 120-gallon tank. They are already around 4 inches at six months old. When I got them, they were small, and the person who gave them to me said my 40-gallon tank would be fine. This was not acceptable. I moved them to the 120, and they are so much happier and healthier. My friend came over the other day to see them and was amazed at the size and the length of time they have lived! Six whole months! (Bala sharks average ten years) The reason his did not live long enough is the size of the tank he was keeping them in!

Id like to make a special note for the Betta Fish here, Since Betta are sold in tiny cups people think they are easy keepers and are ok in tiny spaces. This myth has cut the lives short of so many poor Betta fish! They should have a minimum of 5 gallons; 10 gallons is ideal. Cups, vases, and pickle jars are terrible places for a Betta to live. They also need a heater, bubblers and a filter.


Throw in some water conditioner, and your fish will be fine!

Well, yes and no. If you do it correctly, you can fill your tank with water and some conditioner, but doing it properly where your fish do not suffer is a bit harder.

The ideal situation is to buy a tank, set it up, and cycle it for a few weeks. This is called a "fishless cycle" and takes vigilance, patience and knowledge. There are several ways to cycle a tank, but with a "fishless cycle" you are setting up the environment first and adding fish later. Cycling gets all of your parameters in order. Nitrates, Nitrites, Ammonia, Ph levels, etc., so your fish stay happy and healthy from the beginning. I will explain the cycling process in another blog.

If you already received a fish or two and need to set up immediately, it will be a more complex process. This is called a "fish in cycle." You will have difficulty keeping your parameters at a level the fish can live in safely. Many fish die in a few days, and some may live a few months before they pass away, usually from an ammonia spike. The" fish in "cycle will require water changes weekly or even daily. It will also require that you test the water several days a week until you are cycled.

Other than conditioner you should also invest in bacteria, an API testing kit, and live plants all of these will help you cycle the aquarium as quickly and humanely as possible.

Myth #3:

as long as your fish are all freshwater /saltwater, they can live together in the same tank

This myth has led to the deaths of many fish. Just because your fish are all freshwater or all saltwater does not mean they can live together peacefully or even at all. Fish have different requirements and preferences. Let us use freshwater fish as our example. You have cold-water fish who like the cooler water, and tropical fish who need heated water to thrive. These fish should not live together. Even with tropical fish, some species like the tank warmer than others. Research which fish like similar temperatures before investing in them.

There are also fish who like movement and those who do not. For example, my guppies love to play in a current, so I have an underwater wavemaker for them. A betta, on the other hand, requires very still water. Again research water movement requirements before buying your fish.

Personality clashes can happen even in the same species. It is probably unavoidable to avoid a conflict now and again, but you can reduce these instances by picking tankmates wisely. Keep peaceful fish with peaceful fish and aggressive fish with aggressive fish. Some fish even require no tankmates. Also, larger tankmates may eat smaller ones even if they were raised together. Avoid that trauma by researching what fish can go together.

Speaking of tankmates, there is one more myth.....

Myth #4:

Betta must live by themselves

For the most part, this is true. Depending on age and personality, it may not be a problem to keep other fish. Many people have a sorority (group) of females that work just fine together. If there is a big tank with enough places to hide, two males might even be ok. I have a friend who keeps a betta with guppies and shrimp; it works for her, although It probably shouldn't be recommended for most betta fish. Much of the reason betta do not get along is because they do not have room and places to hide, or the tank is entirely too small. Certain types of betta may also be more aggressive than others.

In conclusion

I highly recommend doing a lot of research before getting a fish. They are living beings, and fish are fun and satisfying, but they are not easy to keep correctly. Pet stores often have no idea how to care for certain species, so find someone good at aquariums and get advice. You are sure to have happy fish and loads of fun!

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