Think about your home for a second. Do you like it? You probably do — after all, you chose the furniture and the art pieces. But do you love it enough that you’d be willing to stay in your house every second of every day? Would you still love it after six months of nonstop house arrest?
Now let’s up the ante a bit. Suppose that somebody else bought all of your furniture, arranged in a way that you didn’t like, and then nailed all of the furniture to the floor. Would you like your home then? What if that person also constantly screwed with your thermostat and you were forced to share your home with a dozen complete strangers? At that point your home would start to feel more like a prison.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. The situation I just described is what some aquarium fish have to endure every single day. I mean, don’t get me wrong — being an aquarium fish is kind of a cushy gig. They don’t have to constantly be worried about being devoured by some hungry shark or captured by zealous fisherman. Still, just because someone else takes care of you doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a happy life. Think about prisoners — they don’t have to pay for electricity, lodging, or food, but nobody wants to go to prison.
A recent study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that things might not be honky dory inside of your aquarium. Ronald Oldfield, the researcher behind the study, argued that all 182.9 million of American ornamental fish could be at risk of becoming stressed and eventually aggressive because of their sucky housing. He compared fish in tanks against fish in large habitats (such as what you might find at a zoo) and fish found in their natural environment. Oldfield believes that poor living conditions might be the cause of grumpiness in some ornamental fish.
So, what’s the solution? Should you install a miniature TV so your fish can watch SpongeBob Squarepants and the Discovery Channel? No, the solution is much simpler alternative to reduce fish stress — it’s all about aquascaping. People usually stress about things like bad credit scores from bankruptcy and relationship woes, but for fish everything boils down to home sweet home.
To fish, aquascapers are kind of like a combination of architect and interior decorator. They build the fish’s home and they also equip the new environment will all kinds of natural furniture.
Big Fish in a Small Pond
Would you rather have a 10,000 square foot home or a 1,000 square foot home? That’s obviously a silly question. Humans love large, spacious houses and the same rule applies to fish. Oldfield found that fish are generally happier if they have more room to stretch their fins. Now, don’t let that scare you away from getting an aquarium. You don’t necessarily need to have a bathtub-sized aquarium to make your fish happy. What’s important to remember is that size is relative. The smaller your fish, the more content they will be with a compact aquarium.
You also have to worry about overcrowded conditions. More roommates means more problems.
Imagine that there were people instead of fish crowded together in the picture above. You think they’d be happy? Not unless the lady on the right is there to perform a rock concert.
Your interior decorator gives you two options: you can either have a single chair in your living room, or you can have a sofa, a coffee table, an end table, and a huge flat-screen TV. Go ahead and make your pick — I know it’s a tough decision.
It turns out that people and fish both like stuff, but for different reasons. People like stuff because objects all perform different functions. Fish like stuff because it gives them places to hide.
Out in the wild, the only thing that stops fish from turning into incredibly fresh sushi for other wild fish is camouflage and hiding spots. Aquarium fish might not be at risk of being eaten alive, but they don’t know that. Giving your fish lots of different places to hide will reduce fish stress levels and make your fishy companions much more cheerful.
That’s where aquascaping comes in. You can’t just plop a plastic sunken ship and a few aquatic plants on the bottom of your aquarium and expect to create an impressive aquascape. True aquascaping professionals can create a stunning underwater scenes. These aquascapes are doubly useful — people find them beautiful and fish adore all of the little nooks and crannies.
So, don’t skimp out when it comes to aquarium design. Upgrade to a professional-grade aquascape that will brighten the day of humans and fish alike.