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Pet Talk: Finding Nemo (The Perfect Home)

Posted: November 26, 2013 11:02 a.m.
Updated: November 27, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Though they may not be fun to play fetch with in the front yard, and can’t curl up with you on the couch after a long day, a fish can still make a wonderful and unique pet. Fairly easy to care for and pleasing to the eye, there are various species that will make a perfect addition to your home. Whether you choose your finned companion based on size, color, or unique attributes, the next step in proper fish ownership is familiarizing yourself with Nemo’s specific care requirements.

Before bringing your new aquarium fish home, there are some important things to consider. Primarily, you need to keep in mind the size the fish will grow to be, their tolerance of other fish, and their specific water requirements in order to find the perfect aquarium.

"There are two basic types of small aquariums: freshwater (tropical and temperate) and marine (saltwater), which should both be no smaller than 36 liters," said Caitlin Burrell, a zoological medicine intern at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Larger fish, or fish with high oxygen requirements, are better suited for large aquariums or ponds." Some common freshwater species suited for smaller aquariums are tetras, guppies, discus, danios, and various types of goldfish. Common saltwater species could include clownfish, damselfish, gobies, and blennies.

Burrell also recommends that before putting different species together in one aquarium, you should research their individual needs to ensure they are compatible and won’t show aggression. "Marine fish in general are not often kept in large groups in home aquariums, and it is important to make sure that fish housed together in one aquarium spend their time at different levels (for example, bottom-dwellers and midwater fish) to avoid overcrowding," said Burrell. "Additionally, there are more aggressive fish that typically do not pair well with other fish."

After you’ve purchased the perfect aquarium for your fish, you must learn how to keep them happy and healthy while living in their new home. "One of the most important aspects of a home aquarium is the water quality," said Burrell. "Things like pH, temperature, dissolved gases (oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen), salinity, and nitrogenous compounds need to be monitored closely, and partial water changes should be performed on a regular basis." Just make sure that your fish doesn’t execute his escape plan during your routine aquarium cleaning!

As with any other pet, feeding requirements vary greatly between species of fish. "Marine fish can be carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores, so it is important to research the type of fish to know what type of food to feed them," said Burrell. For freshwater fish, many commercial foods are available, and can be found for any type of fish. It is best to supply small amounts frequently to avoid excess food sitting in the tank and decomposing.

From aquarium specifications to feeding requirements, the responsibly of caring for your fish should not be taken lightly. However, after thoroughly researching how to properly care for your new finned friend, Nemo will undoubtedly be happy to call his new aquarium home.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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