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Pets are people, too: Discover tropical fish all over again

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Keeping tropical fish is a rewarding pastime that doesn’t take as much time and effort as you might think.

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Keeping tropical fish is a rewarding pastime that doesn’t take as much time and effort as you might think. Photo Store

It seems that fewer people are keeping tropical fish these days, and it’s a pity.

I had dozens of tanks when I was a kid, and while I didn’t have video games and social media to take up my time, my fish kept me very busy, and taught me a lot. Little things, like a smattering of Latin from learning the scientific names of my favourite fish.  Chemistry from testing water quality, hardness and pH. Biology through breeding the fish and treating parasites and infections. Construction, from building tanks and stands to put them on — even a little bit of plumbing.

Now, kids have a lot more distractions, so we’re seeing most of our aquarium customers from the older generations, some of whom have had fish all along, others who are rediscovering a hobby from their pasts.

I used to work with doctors on office automation and I got to know a couple cardiologists very well. They loved recommending their patients take up aquarium-keeping as a stress relief. The peaceful nature of an aquarium, the soothing sounds of water, fish floating calmly and silently through the water — these things are great therapy for cardiac patients, and anyone with stress in their lives.

I worked in a stressful sales job for many years (try having doctors as your sole clients), and there was nothing like coming home and relaxing on my couch, curled up with a book beside my big fish tank.  

Modern tank construction, filtration and cleaning techniques make it easier than ever to have fish in your life. But it does still take a little work on your part. Not a lot, mind you, just a few minutes every week is enough to keep a tank clean and healthy.  

Here’s a few tips to keeping a healthy tank:

• Don’t go too quick. Nothing good happens fast. Set up the tank and slowly introduce your fish. A few at first, a few more after a week or two, but no more than 25% of a full tank load. Once a tank has been running with fish in it for six weeks you should be good to add the rest of the fish. By going slowly, you allow the biosystem to mature and become stable.  

• Feed lightly. More fish die from the effects of overfeeding than anything else.  Don’t kill your fish with kindness. They don’t need a lot of food, they are cold blooded, taking their temperature from the water, and they float, reducing their need for energy even more. A small feeding daily, whatever they can eat in a minute or two, is more than enough. If there are flakes in the tank after two minutes, that was too much.  

A big benefit of light feeding is that the tank needs less cleaning.

• Clean weekly. All you need to is a 10% weekly water change, with a gravel cleaner, cleaning 1/8th of the bottom. That’s all. It takes 10 minutes a week. It’s pretty easy, and if done consistently, you’ll never have to do a 100% cleaning of the tank (something we never recommend, as 100% tank teardowns are dangerous and a sure way to overstress or kill your fish).  

So there you have it. Fish are easier than ever to enjoy, and a great addition to any household. Try them again for the first time.

Contact Jeff with your questions or ideas at aardvarkpets@shaw.ca or visit www.aardvarkpets.com.

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