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( Originally Published 1938 )
The Chinese and Japanese, and some neighboring peoples of the East, were the first keepers, and breeders, of decorative fish. The Orientals seem to have been attracted to pet fish at a very early date, a time when most Europeans did not know a guppy from a dolphin.
Today there are thousands of enthusiastic fish fanciers, and millions of people who simply keep fish for their ornamental qualities, without entering into the more wildly joyous delights of the confirmed fanciers. The following chapters are directed to the second group-to the persons who bought a few fish merely as a curiosity, and who have become interested enough to want to turn casual ownership into a real "live" hobby.
In recent years many people who started out with a bowl of goldfish purchased at a ten-cent-store have built gorgeous collections of tropicals that any collector would envy. The progression is easy. While the offering of this statement will probably start five dozen arguments, I believe that fish are the easiest of all pets to keep.
Naturally if you are going to turn plain ownership into an active hobby, you won't be particularly interested in the ease of keeping fish, since achievement of success in the face of difficulties is a factor that adds to the pleasure of any hobby. But breeding and developing fish can be turned into an exciting job, one that opens wide opportunity for indulging your latent scientific flair. Of the four classes of pet owners discussed in this book, the intelligent aquarist comes nearest to being a votary of pure science.
Right here I want to advise a precaution about keeping any kind of pet. DON'T LET YOUR HOBBY RUN YOU-YOU RUN IT! Stating this point another way-if you don't use moderation about this business of a spare-time occupation, the hobby will burn itself out: you will lose interest in it too soon.
Worse still, unless you spend all your time conversing with other gentle maniacs in the same hobby, you are apt to bore any number of your good friends stiff-friends who don't happen to share your views on the intrinsic value of Platypoecilus maculatus. Be interested and interesting-but be moderate.
One thing surely should recommend fish pets to a beginner, and that is the low cost of getting started. For under five dollars it is possible to get an aquarium, water plants, and fish enough to experiment with. You will know in a short time whether you wish to continue. If you give yourself and the fish half a chance to find out about each other, you will continue.
Just in case you were on the point of buying a globe, let me report that there are many experienced fish fanciers armed with shotguns who are looking for the fellow who invented the common round fish bowl. The elusive inventor has probably been dead many years, but the wrath of the fish is understandable and justified. You can sum up their reasoning in about four steps.
1. The fish absorbs oxygen from the water with its gills.
2. The water absorbs oxygen from the air.
3. If the contact area between air and water is small, very little oxygen will be absorbed in the water.
4. If not enough oxygen is absorbed by the water the fish will die.
Since the average round globe is the poorest of all vessels (jugs excepted) for bringing water and air into contact with one another, it stands to reason that fish won't lead a very healthy life in a globe.
In recent years new shapes have been turned out by the fish bowl makers, and when choosing a bowl these days you have a much better chance of getting good surface area. The keystone bowls and squatty shaped bowls when filled to the widest point are much more efficient than the old glass cannon balls.
Best of all the fish containers is the glass tank aquarium, usually rectangular in shape, with metal frames and glass side walls. While there are all-glass aquariums made in the rectangular shapes, great care must be exercised in handling these tanks for fear of breakage when filled. A casual scratch on an all-glass tank may result in wrecking it with a very slight jar. The aquarium with a metal frame is much more substantial, since the frame provides needed support and protection at vulnerable corners and edges. Nickel or chromium plated brass is generally considered the best frame material because of its non-corrosive properties.
What size tank shall I choose?
That depends on how many fish you want to keep, and on the size of the fish. Following is a table of approximate sizes which will give you some idea of how many goldfish the various tanks will support safely. Roughly, allow 20 square inches of water surface per inch of fish. Tropical varieties will stand more crowding than goldfish, especially if the oxygen supply is good.
TANK SIZE SURFACE AREA 1 IN.FISH 2 IN.FISH 3 IN.FISH 4IN. FISH
8" x 10" 80sq.in. ...... 4...... 2...... 1...... 1
8" x 12" 96sq:in. ...... 5...... 2...... 2...... 1
10" x 12" 120sq.in. ......6...... 3...... 2...... 2
10" x 14" 140sq.in. ......7...... 4...... 3...... 2
NOTE: A given tank will support only the number of goldfish noted in one size bracket. Hence, an 8" x 10" tank will support only four fish 1 inch long. The tank could not in addition support two fish 2 inches long.
Where should I place the aquarium?
Where the light is strong. However, direct sunlight is not desirable for long periods of time because it is apt to heat the aquarium water too much. Bright light, diffused by curtains, is the best solution for most of the day, with about an hour or two of direct sunlight a highly important interlude.
Why is good light important?
Aquarium plants will supply oxygen to the water if the aquarium has access to sunlight. Since a sufficient oxygen supply is necessary to keep the fish healthy, the plants should be given opportunity to perform their task.
Good light also performs the useful act of preventing one form of aquarium clouding.
How many fish shall l buy?
Fewer than you want! Since most of the trouble experienced with pet fish is caused by aquarium jamming. Better start with the minimum number your aquarium will scientifically support.