Keeping Fish as Pets

Fish could possibly be considered the humble, quiet achievers of the pet world. There are so many good reasons to keep fish as pets, but they’re often overlooked or relegated to a small tank in the corner of the room.

A great pet for kids

Fish are a great first pet for children. A basic aquarium is cheap to buy and simple to maintain. There are three general types of aquarium fish - coldwater (goldfish), tropical fish (brightly coloured ornamental fish that require a heated tank), and marine fish (saltwater fish from tropical reefs). I’d recommend a new fishkeeper start with coldwater fish such as goldfish. These are the easiest and require the least equipment. As the skill level and interest grows, people will often move on to the more complicated tropical and marine fish. This is a great feature of fishkeeping - it’s a hobby that can grow and develop with you.

Where to go?

There are many aquarium shops in Hong Kong, but the real place to go is Tung Choi St in Mong Kok, informally known as “Fish Street”, which is lined with aquarium stores selling fish of all shapes and sizes. Shops there can help recommend equipment, but as a guide I’d suggest you buy a twenty litre sized aquarium tank, an air pump and a filter. Avoid very small tanks or those without filtration as the water conditions and tank health can rapidly foul. Some shops sell all-in-one packages that make getting started easy. You should also buy some drops to add to tapwater to remove any chlorine or impurities.

Don't rush in! 

Don’t buy the fish on that first visit. It’s important to take the tank home and get it set up and working for a few days before adding the fish. After establishing the tank and allowing it to balance and settle, buy a few goldfish - not too many, or they may overload the tank and foul the water. It’s also fine to add a few aquarium plants - but be sure to check that they are suitable for coldwater tanks.

Fish diet and tank maintenance 

Goldfish should be fed once daily with a suitable flake food - just a small pinch, too much will also spoil the water. Every two weeks roughly twenty percent of the water in the tank should be removed and replaced with fresh tapwater, after adding the chlorine-removal drops. This helps keep the water fresh and free from contaminants or pollutants.

As the tank becomes more settled and established with time you can add more fish, but be careful not to overcrowd and overload the tank. As a general guide, a 20 litre tank could hold 8-10 small goldfish.

Potential Problems 

Goldfish are generally very hardy and rarely have any problems, but trouble signs to watch for include not eating, damaged fins, cloudy eyes, and small white spots or blotches on the body. Over ninety percent of problems in a tank are caused by one of the four issues mentioned above: overstocking, overfeeding, not changing water regularly or poor filtration and aeration. If this doesn’t fix the problem, I’d recommend discussing with your vet. Make sure to get to the root of the problem rather than just replacing fish - otherwise the problems will unfortunately just recur or get worse.

Fish are great pets, both for children and adults alike, and fishkeeping has so many good points. Aquariums can be as simple or as complicated as you desire. Getting started with fishkeeping is inexpensive and easy, and can develop as your interest grows. Fish won’t track mud over the carpet or chew the leg of the table like the family dog, and they won’t scratch up the curtains like the cat. They won’t keep you up all night with their barking or meowing. An aquarium can be a beautiful addition to the living room of the house. And best of all, watching fish swim around the tank and go about their day is scientifically proven to reduce stress, something we can probably all use.

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