Keeping Fish as Pets


We have studied almost every kind of animal that can be considered a pet for humans. Most all of them fulfill the desire for reciprocal love, the pleasure of touch and the joy of companionship. The dog fulfills those needs as do cats, horses, and other animals, depending upon the particular human.

male Betta

Fish cannot be held, cuddled, or stroked, but they do offer a certain feeling of relaxation and a necessity for care that can be appealing to many people. They have a calming influence on people, both young and old.

Fish come in a variety of colors and sizes. Some are what we call “bottom feeders”, others swim through the middle of the tank, others dash back and forth near the top of the water. The variety of color and movement can be mesmerizing.

You find aquariums in doctor’s offices, restaurants, attorneys offices–anywhere people gather. Just watching the movement and color can bring a feeling of quiet and well-being to an otherwise hectic day.

But what does it take to maintain an aquarium? How do we keep fish as pets?

A Home for the fish

In the wild fish live in ponds, lakes, rivers. creeks, puddles, oceans. That is their world. We have warm water and cold water fish; saltwater fish, freshwater fish, and the denizens of the sea.

For our purpose we are considering fresh water aquarium fish. These are more commonly called tropical fish -that is where they mainly live: in tropical waters. Those who like cooler temperatures live on or near the bottom; whose who like warmer temperatures swim near the surface.

To keep fish as pets you need an aquarium – a rectangular glass tank. They come in all sizes from a 10 gallon size to a 55 gallon size. It depends upon where your aquarium will be housed and how many fish you want to keep.

For most homes, probably a 20 to 30 gallon tank would be sufficient. You can keep several species together in that size.

Equipment and Species

Before you start to buy equipment and fish, look around. Go to a pet store that specializes in tropical fish. See the different species and decide what you like. Decide where the aquarium will go in your house and how easy it will be to work around and maintain.

Consult with a knowledgeable person in the pet store to find out just what you need. Determine the size aquarium, the proper filter, a thermometer, and other equipment. Set up the aquarium BEFORE you buy the fish. You want their living quarters to be in good running order before you put your fish in their new home.

You will have made your species selection earlier, so the aquarium can be right for its new inhabitants. Depending upon the species, will you need a thermometer to keep the water the right temperature, or will the room temperature in your house be sufficient? How many plants, rocks and other decorations do you need? After the aquarium is set up and working correctly, it is time to go get your new pets.

Ten popular species of tropical fish


Fish vary in size and type of habitat so it is best to know which fish species live well with others. For instance, most people fall in love with angelfish because they are so beautiful and they have that lovely name. But if you put too many in a tank with other, smaller fish, you will suddenly find that you have nothing but angelfish in your tank.

Bettas–Siamese Fighting Fish-beautiful fish that come in many colors. It is the male that sports the brilliant color and the wavy fins and tail. The

Male Betta

female is more muted in color and are smaller than the male. The male bettas are very territorial and must be kept separate from each other.

I kept Bettas for a while. I had three very small tanks and one Betta per tank. Bettas are so much fun to watch and they do learn to recognize you when you approach their living space. I’m sure it is a shadow that they see, but they will come to the side when you appear. A few female Bettas can live in tanks with other fish.

if you only want one fish in a traditional fish bowl–the Betta is the fish to have.

Goldfish--while not really an aquarium fish- they are way up on the list as everybody’s favorite pet fish. Goldfish are related to the Carp family. They can grow quite large and need a good size tank. Don’t over crowd –they will live many years. They are a cold water fish and can survive quite well outside. My Grandfather had a fishpond in his backyard and I loved to look for them. We lived in Florida, so the temperature was just right for outdoor fish. In the summer, they would come up for food, but in the winter they were no where to be seen. I asked my grandfather where they went. He said they were on the bottom, and they would come up when it got warmer.


He was right. In spring and summer, they were right up top, looking for food.

Catfish- these little fish provide a very important service for your aquarium. They are bottom feeders and spend their time keeping the tank clean by consuming the algae that grows in the tank. Catfish come in numerous colors and most are compatible with other community tank dwellers.

Guppies – These colorful little fish are easy to care for. There is one drawback. Guppies breed constantly and can soon overwhelm a tank. It is best that you choose all males or all females for your fish community. The males are the brighter and more colorful. If you ever decide to breed fish, Guppies are a good species to work with. You will soon have fish galore.

Mollies–Small, hardy, black fish. Mollies bear live young so ration the number of male to female. A ratio of one male to every three to four mollies works best. These fish have a tendency to rip the fins of other species. If this happens, place the mollies in a separate tank. A few mollies in a community tank will work best.

Neon Tetras– These are spectacular. They are small translucent blue and red fish that are not aggressive.

neon tetra

Tetras are a welcome addition to any fresh water tank. Keep them in a school of at least six and maybe a few more–depending on the size tank. They will swim in the middle of the tank, and they make a great color display.

Platies– These fish are very good fish to have if you are just starting out with your first tank. They come in dozens of shades. They make a very harmonious addition to a community tank. They are very good for small tanks. Platies are very active and will swim in the middle of the tank.

I think I had some of these in my aquarium. It has been a long time ago–in the 1950-1960 years.

Swordtails – Grow to fit the tank. The larger the tank, the larger they will grow. Or, I should say, the longer they will grow. They are a hardy species. The males are flashy red. Sometimes you will find a bright red male with a black tail. Males may fight when in the same tank. It is best to only have one per community tank.

Zebra Danios —These little fish have striped bodies and will survive a variety of water temperatures. Zebras mate for life. They are very active and will swim all over the tank. They have peaceful natures and will make a continual bright moving display in your tank.

I had a few of these fish and they will make your head swim watching all their activity.

Tanks are measured in gallon capacity. The 10 gallon size is about 22 inches long-12 inches deep and 13 inches wide. The tanks will range from the 10 gallon size to 55 gallon size.

Just to give you an idea of size as they go up : a 15 Gallon tank will measure 16 by 15 by 15. A 20 gallon tank will measure 24 by 12 by 17. Estimate the size before you go to the pet store and plan on making two trips. Buy the equipment, get it home and all set up with water, filter, etc. When the aquarium is all ready, then go get the fish.


A complete set-up will include the tank, filter, heater ( if necessary), thermometer, hood lights, a fish net. You will probably want to get a few plants and a rock or two. Go light on plants–they grow and add algae to the tank. However, you will want a few things in the tank for decoration and a hiding place for some fish.

Now it is time to go get the fish. Start out with a few and add a few at a time. Fish, just like us, need time to get acquainted.

Keep the balance in the tank, the size, plus number of fish, plus temperature, plus cleanness of tank. Once you start feeding, you must watch the debris build up.

Once everything is set up and the fish are oriented in their new home, your aquarium will give you hours of pleasure.

Veil tail gold

One main rule to remember. In the animal kingdom, the male is the brightest and most colorful, but otherwise, males are more likely to fight and kill each other. When populating your fish community, you will want males, because of their color and pattern, but you will need more females than males in order to keep the peace.


Pictures courtesy of Pixabay

I’m Barbara Nelson and I’m happy you visited today. I would love to hear from you and I will be happy to answer your questions.

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