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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Time-strapped lifestyles make fish popular again

But with people working longer hours and spending less time at home, keeping fish is a fast growing pastime.

The Australian Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council estimates there are 12.2 million pet fish in Australia, with owners spending $45 million on their upkeep every year.

That is compared to four million dogs ($2.6 billion) and 2.5 million cats ($1.015 billion).

Fish owners say their pets are no longer simple decorations for backyard ponds but can be as entertaining as any other animal.

Launceston Dentist Rodney Geelan has a saltwater marine tank full of tropical fish, coral, anemones and shrimp.

Aside from being a great feature for the house, he said that each fish had its own character.

"There is definitely a connection there - you can't get your fish and hold it but they definitely have their own personality," he said.

"Some are quieter, others are more boisterous and bossy and when you feed them there are those that will sit back and eat the crumbs while others will scramble to eat everything first."

The marine tank joins the Geelans' menagerie of family pets including three dogs, two parrots, a rabbit and his son's collection of fish.

"A marine set-up is a lot more difficult to maintain than a goldfish in a bowl but it is quite a talking point because you are basically creating a mini reef system."

Owner of the Olde Tudor Aquarium Daniel Midson said that the industry boomed after the release of the animated movie Finding Nemo.

"It definitely seems to be a popular hobby in Launceston and most people get pretty attached to their fish."

He disagrees with those who say fish are unintelligent.

Some species can identify the person that feeds them and there are even stories of fish that know when it is dinner time and wait at the top of the tank in anticipation.

As Daniel walks among the tanks the fish follow him but remain still for other customers.

"Oscars for example are a very lively fish," Mr Midson said.

"Where I have them in my house they have a direct line of sight with the fridge.

"When I open the fridge there is no problem but when I open the freezer where they know the food is kept they go crazy."

Mr Midson said that keeping fish could be as simple or as complicated as the owner cared.

"We offer entry levels from $2000 down to $50."

At the highest level a lot of care and precision is required to balance water chemistry to the biology of fish.

"With tropical fish you have got to be on top of them," Dr Geelan said.

"I had an anemone which died and released toxins which killed off a lot of my fish before I discovered it. That was rather distressing."


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