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The Basics of Keeping Fish as Pets

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Pet Fish

Betta Fish

Photo © CCAC North Library

A fish may have very well been your first pet as a child. They usually appeal to parents because of the ease of caring for them, the fact that they are so quiet, and they are inexpensive.

Do Fish Make Good Pets?

This depends on what you expect to get out of a pet. If you'd just like something low maintenance and quiet to talk to that is just a step up from a plant then yes! A fish is a good pet. If you want to pet something and handle it a fish is not a good pet for obvious reasons.

Fish can add life and color to a room and even a relaxing sound with a waterfall filter. They can be fun to watch and the tank decorations can be changed to reflect the species of fish or seasons. And although most people start out with small fish bowls and freshwater fish, sometimes a larger tank with a filter is actually the easier way to go.

Freshwater Vs. Saltwater

If you are looking for a cheap fish with a cheap set up then freshwater fish are probably what you'll end up with. These are the kinds of fish you find in small bowls and without a lot of lights and filters but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be in something larger with more accessories.

Saltwater fish, on the other hand, won't be found in a store without filters and lights. These fish usually cost a bit more to begin with and their set ups are of course more costly and involved, but according to fish experts, saltwater fish are actually lower maintenance than freshwater once you have that set up established.

Beginner Freshwater Fish

Goldfish are by far the most common kind of freshwater fish. They usually do well in a simple set up with a bowl but are very dirty fish so regular water changes are required.

Betta fish are very popular due to the small bowls they are sold in at pet stores and their bright colors and long fins. Male bettas are usually housed alone and although they are sold in tiny bowls they thrive in bigger tanks with a filter and aeration system just like goldfish do.

Other popular freshwater fish include fancy guppies, danios (zebra fish), and other dyed fish including neon tetras. Species such as cichlids and other larger fish require much larger tanks, more fish and accessories to keep them thriving.

Beginner Saltwater Fish

Several kinds of angelfish, blennies, gobies, and even "Nemo", I mean clownfish, make great beginner saltwater fish. Compatibility of fish is crucial when setting up a tank so it is important to read up on what fish get along with what fish before just tossing in a new one. Each kind of saltwater fish also has different food and housing preferences so do your research before just buying a bunch of stuff.

Fish Tanks

There are almost as many kinds of fish tanks and bowls as there are kinds of fish but the most commonly seen tanks are glass aquariums. Gravel, filters, both fake and real plants, and other decorations will all fill your tank before you even pick out your fish. Setting up a tank will depend on what kind of fish you plan on getting but be sure to have your tank and water all ready for your fish before bringing any swimming buddies home with you. This will allow you to properly acclimate your fish to their new home without having to keep them in a bag for longer than is necessary.

Bringing Fish Home

After your tank is set up and your water has been tested you will be all ready for some fish. The pet shop will give you your new fish in a plastic bag filled with water and air. When you get home with your new pet you will float him in this bag in the water of his new tank for awhile until you can match water pH and temperature with the water he is in to the water in his new tank. This can be quite the process but if you are trying to set up a something larger than just a fish bowl this is vital to ensuring your fish actually survives the transition. If you just dump your fish into you tank at home you risk shocking him with pH and temperature changes and could kill him.

Fish names

It's fun to name fish, especially if you have a tank full of them. It's usually harder to come up with enough names for all your zebra fish than to pick just one for your betta. But if you're having trouble and want a few suggestions check out the "Fish Names" list for some ideas.

For more information on pet fish check out the Freshwater Aquariums and Saltwater Aquariums About.com sites.

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