So, are you considering buying a pet fish?
But they certainly are not for everyone.
I have had pet fish for quite some time now…
The end of this year will see me in the fishkeeping game for 15 years.
During this time I have actively been involved in online fish forums, local meetups and helped many, many beginners overcome problems with their aquarium setup.
You would be amazed at how often I hear this phrase uttered by beginners after receiving advice:
Ugh… If I knew that, I never would have considered fish as a pet!
What are these deal breakers?
That’s exactly what I am going to reveal in this guide.
If at any point while reading this, you think to yourself:
I don’t like the sound of that…
Then I highly recommend considering a different pet for you and your family.
Which brings me to my first point…
1. A fish is not a temporary pet
Perhaps it’s because we also eat fish. Or, because you can buy a pet fish for less than a meal at Chick-fil-A…
Whatever the reason, fish are often treated as a novelty. You keep it for a few weeks until you get bored of it.
When your fish finally dies because you forgot to feed it or change its water, you discreetly flush it down the toilet – No harm done, right?
Would you do the same to a pet dog?
No, of course not!
So, why would you treat a fish the same way? Both are pets after all.
It may surprise you to learn that fish have a long life span.
When properly cared for, a betta can live up to 5 years and goldfish up to 10 years. Not exactly a temporary pet.
And if you are entering this hobby, the goal is to keep your fish alive and healthy for as long as possible.
The takeaway: If you cannot commit to a fish for the length of its average life span, then this isn’t the right pet for you.
2. An aquarium is going to cost money
I know, I know… All pets cost money.
But the ongoing costs of fish can add up, especially if you are on a tight budget.
These costs are all proportional to the size of your fish tank and the amount of fish you keep – the larger the aquarium, the more expensive it will be to maintain.
Food is an obvious cost, but fish also need a lot of other specialized equipment.
Anything you need to do in your aquarium needs a special tool.
Want to catch your fish? You need a net.
Want to clean the bottom of a tank? You need a gravel vac.
Want to change the water? You need to treat the new water with a water conditioner.
… You get the idea.
But at least most of the equipment is a one-time cost. Once it’s up and running, it will not need to be replaced.
An estimated cost for a basic 29-gallon setup will be at least $570.
But unlike many other pets, fish require an ongoing cost…
Essential aquarium equipment, such as filters, heaters, air pumps and lighting, all run on electricity. And as you know every time you get your power bill – electricity costs money.
The takeaway: If your budget won’t cover all the associated equipment and running costs, then fish are not the right pet for you.
3. You will likely have to wait weeks before you can add fish to your tank
Think you’ll have your brand new tank up and running in under a day?
Before you can add fish to your aquarium, you need to perform a task called cycling your aquarium – forcing your tank to go through the nitrogen cycle.
To put it simply, this process introduces good bacteria into your aquarium. These bacteria help break down harmful chemicals that are given off from waste such as fish poop.
Unfortunately, it can take some time for this bacteria to grow. In fact, the cycling process can take as long as 8 weeks!
Cycling a tank is an essential part of setting up a new aquarium. Skipping this process can cause your fish to suffer from stress, sickness and even death.
The takeaway: If you want a pet that you can show off immediately, a fish isn’t the right pet for you.
4. Fish keeping is chemistry
The health of your fish entirely depends on the quality of the water they live in.
But to you and me, water just looks like water. You can’t simply glance at your aquarium and determine whether or not the water your fish live in is safe.
That’s where water chemistry comes in.
Now, I must stress that the chemistry knowledge required to monitor the water quality in your aquarium is minor. In fact, I have guides on this site that can teach a beginner enough to get by in under an hour.
But even so, I have come across many would-be fish keepers who find this information overwhelming or worse, are just not interested.
The life of your fish depends on water chemistry. It’s not knowledge you can simply skip over.
The takeaway: If you don’t want to learn something new, then a fish is not the right pet for you.
5. More chores!
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Keeping fish will add maintenance to your ever-growing list of things to do around your home.
In addition to testing the water quality, which I touched on in the last point, you need to perform tasks such as:
- Feeding your fish
- Changing the aquarium water
- Vacuuming the bottom of the aquarium
- Cleaning the aquarium walls
- Rinsing the filter
These are all essential tasks to ensure your fish live happy and healthy lives.
With practice and the proper equipment, aquarium maintenance should take you less than 30 minutes every two weeks.
The takeaway: If you can’t squeeze regular maintenance into your busy schedule, a fish is not the right pet for you.
6. Fish are not a companion animal
A fish isn’t going to interact with you the same way a dog or cat does – don’t expect a fish to follow you from room to room, demanding your attention.
Except for feeding time, most fish swim around doing their own thing, quietly ignoring you.
Fish are an interesting pet in that while they require feeding and care, they are more like a painting – amazing to look at but won’t keep you company on the lonely nights.
The takeaway: If you want a pet to keep you company, a fish is not the right pet for you.
7. Fish need care while you are on vacation!
Planning a vacation or leaving the home for an extended period of time?
Fish are not exactly practical travel pets.
You will need someone to take care of your fish while you are away.
Unfortunately, due to the size and weight of an aquarium, you can’t just leave it at your relatives – someone will have to come to your home to care for your fish.
And this requires someone with experience in the hobby – you don’t want to return home to dead fish, do you?
So, if you are someone who spends extended periods of time away from home, you will need a plan in place to look after your fish.
The takeaway: If you are away from home a lot, a fish is not the right pet for you.
Don’t get me wrong, fish are amazing pets.
They are not for everyone.
And, I would rather that you figure it out now instead wasting time, effort, money and the lives of innocent fish before you realize that fish are not an appropriate pet for you.
Still reading and see no cause for concern?
Fish might be the perfect pet for you!
If that’s the case, then check out the ultimate beginner’s guide to fishkeeping.
In this guide, I teach you everything you need to know from choosing the right aquarium to the proper maintenance to keep fish happy and healthy. If you are new to the hobby, it is a must read.
Do you have another deal breaker that should be added to this list? Let me know in the comments below!