COLUMN: How to best take care of a new pet fish


Elise Keane, Columnist

As we all start settling into our normal routines on campus, sometimes the homesickness can be overwhelming. You may find you need a companion to hang out with when you feel lonely. You might have an impulse to buy a fish because they’re simple. I am here to tell you how to best take care of them, so they live a long healthy life. 

First off, those glass fishbowls that you see in movies with a goldfish in them are the worst home for your fish friend. Looking through one of those is like looking at the world through a magnifying glass, distorted and blurry.

Fish already do not have the best vision so trapping them where their vision is even more distorted is detrimental. A simple five-gallon tank is enough for one Betta fish or four Guppies! Don’t go any smaller than five gallons for any fish.

Second off, fish tanks need filtration and a heater. Imagine if you were living in a place where you could never throw anything away, you were living in filth, and you had no air conditioning. It sounds miserable! That’s what happens to a fish when it doesn’t have a filter or a heater.

Also, they are cheap on Amazon, so there’s really no excuse not to have one. 

Some people love to decorate, and a fish tank is a great place to do that! Just be careful not to use anything with sharp edges or plastic. Legos are fish safe so you could build an underwater tree house that your fish would just adore! Silk artificial plants look gorgeous and are so much better for your pet fish than the plastic fake plants. Live plants would be even better, but you would need an LED light for your tank. 

About two weeks before getting any kind of fish you should get the tank, filter, heater, and fish food. I know it sounds counter-intuitive right? Why in the world would you get the food before the fish?

Well, the tank must go through something called the nitrogen cycle. This is when ammonia from fish waste (or starting out fish food) is converted into nitrates and nitrites. All you must do is sprinkle some fish food in the tank for a week and that will kick start the cycling.

I won’t go all technical on you but basically bacteria will grow in your filter that eat the ammonia to make nitrates and nitrites. This is good because an excess of ammonia will kill your fish. In fact, that’s how most fish die, their water is so full of ammonia that they suffocate and develop burns internally. The nitrites and nitrates will be removed with a weekly water change, so they won’t harm the fish. 

Fish are a living creature that require care and attention. If you are not willing to spend the money and time to care for them then do not get a fish.

It’s a waste of money on your part because they will die within a few weeks to a month if you do not properly prepare and care for them and be excruciatingly painful for the fish.

However, if you take all the right steps, you will have a good buddy for years to come.

Elise Keane is a sophomore neuroscience  major. They can be reached at 581-2812 or

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