for the week of 2/5/98
“But don’t fish grow only to the size of their aquarium?”
We hear this question on a seemingly daily basis, as we tell customers that certain fish are likely to outgrow their home aquarium. In a common scenario, a customer with a 10 or 20 gallon aquarium just can’t live without a couple of those cute little baby Oscars or Jack Dempseys. And to a certain extent, this old bit of aquarium lore is true: fish growth is limited by their environment.
But the story doesn’t end there. Fish growth is not limited so much by the dimensions it is confined to as it is the buildup of waste products in the water it must reside in. A six-inch oscar has about the same mass (and thus waste output) as 216 one-inch oscars, so it’s hardly a surprise that waste would accumulate quickly in a small aquarium.
In the case of less hardy fish, waste accumulation leads to disease and death, but a few of the toughest specimens may survive indefinitely even in very poor water conditions. However, there is still a toll taken: these fish most often become stunted, deformed runts – mere shadows of their properly-cared-for cousins. Leaving aside the ethics of such treatment, it goes without saying that the value of such fish is greatly diminished.
Plan ahead! If you like fish that are capable of reaching large sizes, be prepared to either purchase a larger aquarium or find them new homes elsewhere.
Submitted by: Jim Kostich
“Tip of the week” appeared regularly in 1999 and 2000.