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Animal Doctor Articles Weekly on August 02, 2011

Question

You never write much about small pets like gerbils and hamsters, or tropical fish, parakeets and other cage birds. Is there a reason for this, since I do have a fish question?

My son thinks his goldfish Goldie is lonely, and so he wants us to get him another one. How do we know they will get along?

Aug 01, 2011

Answer

I am generally opposed to people keeping wild-caught or captive-bred amphibians, reptiles, birds (especially parrots) and small animals (such as sugar gliders and hedgehogs). These animals take expert care and are rarely provided the proper environment for their health and well-being.

I rarely receive letters concerning the care of small domesticated species that you mention. Those that I do receive I usually publish, since proper care and understanding are important.

Goldfish, a member of the exotic carp family, can live for decades. They normally live in small groups and are highly social, so I consider it inhumane to keep a goldfish alone his or her entire life in a glass bowl. Studies have shown that they grow more and are healthier in pairs or small groups. Also, goldfish show signs of depression, becoming less active and disinterested in food when a companion fish is removed due to illness or death.

Their tanks must be cleaned regularly and filled with purified water, or municipal tap water first left to stand in a bucket for 24 to 48 hours to get rid of chlorine and other volatile chemicals. They should be provided plenty of swimming space with various environmentally enriching hideaways, and the tank should include a charcoal water filter and aerator to keep the water clear and cleaner longer. The latter are not essential for hardy goldfish but are for tropical fish, along with an immersion heater. A cover is advisable since excited fish can sometimes leap out of the tank or bowl and be found dead on the floor.

Quarantine any new fish for two to three weeks before introducing, and return to the supplier if any signs of illness appear, notably white spots or erratic movement.

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