Decoration and Torture instrument

You find them more and more in restaurants and shops, in different shapes and sizes: a Fish bowl with one or more goldfish in it. You will also find half-fishtanks that are hung up on the wall by their flat side. In a restaurant at an exhibition in IJmuiden they placed a simple glassbowl with two goldfish on every table. Some visitors threw their cigarette ends and leftover beer in it. Every morning the dead fish were replaced by new ones. Goldfish as decoration is apparently in. The animals are rarely seen or treated as living creatures even though it is known that goldfish are very sensitive animals. If treated well goldfish can reach the age of 20 to 40 years. In their narrow goldfish bowls they barely last a few days or weeks. More than a thousand years ago the Chinese started to breed goldfish from silver carp. Initially they were kept in ponds but later on they were also kept in big pottery bowls. Through the centuries goldfish have been bred in numerous different ways, all over the world and became more and more popular. Every year one hundred million Goldfish are bred throughout the world, between 5 and 10 million are sold in Holland alone. We can conclude that in general these animals are fated to live a short life.

 

Why the goldfishbowl is bad

Many of the goldfish will end up in a goldfishbowl. People unfortunately don't realize that this is an instrument of torture for the fish. What makes it so bad? First of all the goldfish bowl is of course much too small. The bowl usually contains only a few litres of water. If they are lucky and get a big fishbowl it contains 10 to 15 litres of water. That's far too little for a goldfish who needs at least 250 litres. The small amount of water in a fishbowl not only gets dirty very quickly, but can also become too warm very fast. Due to the shape of the bowl the contact area of the water with the air is so small that there is a constant lack of oxygen. The living environment of the fishbowl offers the goldfish no interests or variety. They can't take their bearings, conceal themselves, keep their distance from other fish and search for food. The bowl also barely offers any room to move. Fish, Goldfish as well, are built to swim considerable distances. In a bowl they can just swim in circles. According to the opinion of the experts the goldfishbowl is absolutely unsuitable for keeping fish. The biologist and head of the Wilhelma Aquarium in Stuttgart, Dr Dieter Jauch, writes in his book about the care of goldfish, Goldfish in aquariums and gardenponds; 'who ever puts goldfish in this sort of prison is committing animal abuse'.

     
     
How should we keep goldfish?

The starting point is that they be kept in a natural environment. A good, deep pond is the best way to go. But if we keep them in a suitable aquarium, and they are approximately 15 to 20 centimetres in length, they need to have at least 250 litres of water at their disposal. That means an aquarium of 100x 50x50 cm. This standard size was recently recommended by the magazine The Aquarium. This is a big difference from the tiny goldfish bowl. As long as the goldfish are small, a smaller but rectangular aquarium is acceptable. Goldfish are social animals and shouldn't be kept alone, but in small groups of, according to experts, approximately 10 fish. It's also very important that the goldfish in the aquarium have an interesting, varied environment. Various waterplants, stones and sandy gravel are an absolute requirement. Goldfish like to swim in groups through the water while they are constantly searching for food. What they like to do is root up the stones with their noses, actually just like pigs, when searching for food. That offers the animals the necessary diversion and movement and keeps them psychologically and physically healthy.

  How can we get rid of the goldfish bowls?

First of all the owners of the goldfish must buy a normal aquarium. That's more expensive than a fishbowl, but will provide the goldfish with the minimal living space and will give the people who keep them a lot more pleasure. Secondly, the animal trade has a big responsibility. They are the ones who have these unsuitable fishbowls in their shops and sell them to their customers. A lot of people think that goldfish bowls are good because they are sold in pet shops. The petshops must be strongly requested not to offer these fishbowls to their customers.

Ton Dekker and Marijke Santen