Cruelty through ignorance


"Is there an excuse for cruelty when fishkeepers unintentionally mistreat fish by not doing their homework?", ask forum regulars Andy Gordon and Michelle Stuart.

Is ignorance an excuse for cruelty? There are many different ways to treat animals inhumanely; the easiest to detect is cruelty through violence or neglect.

Putting any animal through such treatment is condemned, and rightly so, without question or hesitation, but what about animals that suffer simply because the owner doesn't know any better? Is that any better a fate for an animal to go through, after all the person didn't know they weren't providing the proper care for their animal?

So often this issue is brushed aside with a shrug saying that they really tried to care for the animals, or they had good intentions!

New fishkeepers

The most common time for fish to be placed in inadequate conditions is when a hobbyist is first starting up their very first tank.

New hobbyists are often unaware of the need for cycling the tank and going slowly to allow for the required bacteria to grow in the tank and as a result the fish seem to die for no apparent reason. They stock the tank too quickly since they want an instant show piece for their home.

These problems are compounded by some manufacturers and some retailers who sell products with style in mind rather than purpose and make exaggerated claims for some products, which will supposedly solve the initial stocking and long-term maintenance problems.

There are many other examples where fish are inadvertently mistreated:

  • Not acclimatising the fish when transferring them to a new tank.
  • Adding incompatible species of fish in the same tank such as Oscars in a community tank.
  • Mixing coldwater and tropical fish in the same tank.
  • By calculating the stocking levels of the tank using the young immature fish and not taking the adult size into consideration.
  • Little or no water changes.
  • Keeping them in unsuitable water chemistry or water of poor quality.
  • Not treating harmed or diseased fish or treating fish needlessly or inappropriately.

Finding information

Information is more freely available than it has ever been from a variety of sources such as aquatic clubs/societies, books and magazines, the Internet, and other fishkeepers. Is there really any reason for getting things so very wrong even if some poor advice has been given in the very early stages?

The easiest way to combat cruelty due to ignorance is to learn as much as you can about your tank, the fish you wish to keep, the requirements to keep the fish healthy and then share as much information and experiences, whether good or bad, you can with other hobbyists.

There are many different inexpensive, reliable resources available to hobbyists that fish should not have to suffer because people didn't know any better!

In this hobby a little research goes a long way in keeping fish healthy and in the end it will greatly increase the enjoyment people find when keeping fish.

This is an article from the Practical Fishkeeping website's archives. It may not be reproduced without written permission.