Respect for Fish Day is Aug. 1, a national awareness event to encourage kindness towards fish.
Fish like other pets can suffer when neglected and live contented lives when cared for properly.
Many people have pet fish, said Barry KuKes, Community Outreach Director at Halifax Humane Society. “They name their fish and bring them special treats. Fish, especially the salt water variety, can be very expensive and a large investment.”
But can fish be musically inclined?
“I have a friend that places an underwater speaker in his aquarium and plays different genres of music to see how the fish react,” Mr. Kukes said. “He swears they love hip-hop the best. Fish are sentient animals who feel pain, joy and fear. Obtaining a pet fish is no less of a commitment than adopting a dog or cat.
“Many fish species can live for years, or even decades, and have complex needs that vary between breeds,” he said. “Tropical fish need heating, social species need group housing, and goldfish require intense water filtration since they produce large quantities of ammonia. Confining fish to tiny bowls without filtration is abusive.”
You can help make this a better world for “our finned friends,” Mr. KuKes said. “If you see fish being mistreated, direct their guardians to resources about proper fish care. If this fails, report the abuse to your local animal control agency. Fish are protected under Florida’s animal cruelty law and abusing them is illegal in our state.”
Jewels Stremovihtg and Tyler Wright are managers at Pet Supermarket in Port Orange.
Ms. Stremovihtg said, “They’re all unique, so they all have different personalities like dogs and cats, like humans. So, they are all really different.”
A pet fish can help you, too, she said. “Fish are going to make you more relaxed; they are going to give you that nice feeling of not having so much stress going on. It’s definitely a nice pet to have to kind of calm yourself down just to look in there. Add pool plants, get creative in there, too.”
Mr. Wright was aware of an animal abuse law for fish. He said the law came about because so many were left without being taken care of. For example, someone moving and leaving their fish unattended.
“Fish are a lot different than a dog or a cat and taking care of them is a lot more involved,” Mr. Wright said. “The whole tank is its own living ecosystem. If it’s not being taken care of properly, the fish aren’t going to be able to survive. If you don’t have a healthy aquarium, then you are not going to have a healthy fish. There’s definitely a fish for everybody.”
Chad Macfie, manager of the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, believes education is important.
“When you have a fish or a turtle you need to make sure you replicate their natural environment as much as possible,” Mr. Macfie said. “That takes a lot of research. Not all fish eat the same things. You really have to research the species of fish you are interested in buying and making sure there is a proper diet you feed that fish. If you buy a fish that’s an herbivore, you need to make sure you are feeding that fish a plant-based diet.
“Another really important thing about being a responsible fish owner is knowing what your water qualities are in the aquarium,” he said. “When a fish lives in a big lake or the ocean, they have a large volume of water where the by products of owning a fish, which are fish waste and respiration, are diluted by trillions and trillions of gallons; in a small aquarium those toxic byproducts build up really quick. You have to make sure you know what water quality parameters to test to make sure that these toxic chemicals aren’t building up and eventually aren’t going to kill your fish. Sometimes fish probably wish they would die instantly rather than be attacked by parasites and have a slow death. There’s a lot that goes into responsibly caring for fish.”
He mentioned proper filtration as well. Further that besides homeowners, facilities that house fish have the onus to set a good example of proper care.
“We go to great lengths to make sure our fish are well taken care of,” Mr. Macfie said. “We have an aquarium manager and a life support manager and we have a very dedicated crew of volunteers that work every day to make sure the animals in the aquariums are healthy. We use these animals as ambassadors. These animal ambassadors do a great service to the conservation of Volusia County and beyond.”
He added the coolest quality of fish is their diversity with thousands of different species in Florida alone, each with unique characteristics allowing them to flourish in their environment.
Of course, Florida is known for fishing with fish a popular menu item.
“Please do not kill anything you don’t intend to eat,” said Dan Smith, Hometown News' fishing columnist. “Too many people think if you catch a catfish and throw it out and let it die that’s a good thing, or if you catch a stingray and you throw it out and let it die that’s a good thing. I see it all the time on the banks. That’s not right. They’re animals. They need to live, too. They have a place in the ecosystem.”
For more information about fish, contact the Marine Science Center, or visit marinesciencecenter.com.