Blue sand community tank

Are Fish Pets? Or Are They a Hobby?

Is fish a pet since you can’t touch it and, for the most part, interact with it?

Most fishkeepers will readily give (our biased) opinion on the matter, which will be a resounding “yes”. No wonder there.

People who prefer dogs or cats might disagree. In fact, that’s the very thing that prompted me to think about this question.

For me, fish are pets. I care about them, spend time with them, spoil them with new plants, decorations, and food, am concerned when they are sick, and I am sad when a fish dies.

I told as much to a friend who owns a dog and he didn’t get it. For him, being unable to pet and play with the fish makes them… Well, maybe not un-pets but poor pets. He values the interaction, the unpredictability a four-legged animal brings, the affection, and the playful moments.

I get that. I have had dogs most of my life. I haven’t always been the chief caretaker but have been responsible for them and have interacted with them regularly. Dogs are awesome! I have had parrots, hamsters, and I have cats. These “dry” pets are great and provide a lot of joy (and the occasional concern) through direct interaction, tactile experience, and sheer personality.

But they are way simpler to take care of. Yes, each terrestrial species requires some form of bedding and food, and a potentially restricted environment in the case of guinea pigs and hamsters, but that’s about it.

Fish and other aquatic species need an entire ecosystem built for them. That’s not necessarily more expensive, but it definitely calls for much deeper knowledge and research if you are to do things right. This research and thirst for understanding make you care deeply about the hobby.

The Fishkeeping Hobby

This brings me nicely to the next point: fishkeeping is a hobby. Fish are pets, but the act of maintaining their biodome healthy is a hobby.

You may be wondering whether a fish is a pet, and that’s fine.

But have you asked yourself if cats are a hobby?

Probably not.

When talking about fishkeeping to other aficionados, you’ll discuss as often your setup and maintenance practices as your care practices and fish behavior.

See, when creating an ecosystem, you make a lot of things. You create this aquatic gem. You tinker with it. You maintain it. Aquarium maintenance stretches far beyond feeding and walks for pooping. It requires far deeper, technical knowledge, often acquired through observation.

People that have never had an aquarium might struggle to grasp that, but people who actively maintain their tanks know what I am talking about.

This is why fishkeeping ventures into hobby territory.

You see, you always build your aquarium. Not the glass walls but the things inside. They require and inspire imagination, planning, arrangement, and re-arrangement. Aquariums are the physical manifestation of a vision.

That’s even more obvious when experienced aquascapists enter the game.

On top of that, fishkeeping is one of the most tech-heavy pet-related hobbies out there. Low-tech setups still require eclectic gadgets for water circulation and filtering, light, and heaters. The sheer volume of elements that enter a well-balanced tank — tech, substrate, decorations, plants — allows, and in many cases calls for, regular tinkering.

That’s true at a low, entry-level setup too.

Skillful folk that know their way around tools and fish tanks make outlandishly ingenious aquariums. But even without mad skills, there are so many moving parts around fishkeeping that the creative possibilities are nigh limitless.

Just like with any hobby worth its salt.

But the fish themselves are pets.

Fish Are Pets

Dogs and cats need beds, toys, and playgrounds, but once you procure those they are largely left to the pet to play with. They don’t need any special environment to thrive. Mostly all of the care is given directly to the animal and almost none to its environment. Indeed, babies need vaccines and careful exposure to larger members of their species, but that is a growing phase that passes.

Anyone can easily learn how to take a dog on a leash outside or open the door for a cat. And any cat can stand indecisively at the doorstep.

The main reward is that over time you get to know your four-legged companion, their character, quirks, and needs. You get to understand them and love them deeply. Of course, the animals themselves are a massive contributor to the relationship. They keep you company, play with you, and mess things up while being adorable.

With fish, it is not that different. Each little swimmer has their own character and personality as well. Through observation — or playful training, if you are so inclined — you will get to know your aquatic pets very well. Given that you have the knowledge to maintain their environment healthy, you can enjoy their soothing behavior with ease and peace of mind.

Fish don’t provide the tactile experience of a terrestrial pet. They lean more on the meditative-observation side of things. A beautiful aquarium is closer to a work of art than a messy furball, but each and every fish, snail, shrimp, or turtle has its personality and behavioral patterns that make it unique and interesting.

They simply grow on you.

And they help you stay healthy. That is true of any pet but not necessarily of any hobby.

Fish Provide Many Health Benefits

Just like four-legged pets, fish bring a lot of health benefits to their owners. Medical studies discover more and more positives surrounding fish. They lower blood pressure and stress levels, calm down people with Alzheimer’s disease, and improve mood. Observing fish has a soothing effect that improves sleep and mental recovery.

Additional benefits include increased knowledge about chemistry and biology. And even though fish tanks are low-maintenance, they still teach responsibility and care.

These are but a few of the benefits of fishkeeping. At the end of the day, having a pet is all about adding a source of joy and positivity into your life. Even if said pet is wet and slightly slimy and shouldn’t be handled much, it will find a route to your soul and heart.

To conclude my musings, yes, even legally speaking, fish are pets. Through its relatively heavy reliance on technology and scientific knowledge, fishkeeping is considered a hobby.

But the living critters you put in your carefully designed tank are pets.

More importantly, they are awesome!

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