All fish should be allowed to express natural behaviours. Behaviour refers to the way that an animal acts. An important type of behaviour that an animal expresses are those that are instinctive (what they would typically do in the wild). Enough space, proper shelter and housing, as well as company of the animal's own kind, encourages the expression of natural behaviours.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Behaviour. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your fish receive the exercise and enrichment they need to express their natural behaviours.
Enrichment allows fish to express their natural behaviours. Fish enrichment includes fake and/or real plants, driftwood, rocks, hide outs, shells, and hoops. These types of items give fish places to rest, hide, and explore.
Always ensure all enrichment is fish safe - any gravel, furniture, ornaments, and artificial plants should be smooth with no rough edges. Rough edges tear the delicate fins of the fish which will affect their swimming. Additionally, all natural enrichment such as plants should be non-toxic for your fish.
Creating a gradient/slope with the substrate is great enrichment for your fish as well, as this is more interesting, complex, and natural than a flat bottom environment.
An interesting environment in which fish feel safe will not only make your fish more active, happy, and interested, but it will also reduce stress and result in a healthier fish. Get creative and build the ultimate playground paradise for your fish!
It’s important to make sure you have a tank that can fit lots of enrichment for your fish. Healthy fish require an environment that resembles their natural habitat. Imagine if you had a very small bedroom with only a bed inside – no books, no toys, no games, no phone. Would you be bored? A small, bare tank is like that for fish.
Be sure to provide enough enrichment resources for all of your fish so that they’re not competing for things like hideouts. However, it’s also important to remember not to overcrowd the aquarium. An enriched environment with lots of space allows for your fish to express their normal behaviours. The general rule is one quarter decorated, to three quarters open water. By doing this, you will still give your fish plenty of space to actually swim in.
Fish do not express themselves the same way a dog or cat would. However, it is still very important to understand what your fishes’ normal behaviours are. In general, normal fish behaviour involves active swimming, healthy eating, foraging/digging about in gravel, and occasional hiding. There are so many kinds of fish so it’s best to study the breed of your goldfish or species of tropical fish and what is considered normal behaviour for them.
Fish have different personalities so get to know your individual fish – how they act, what they like, and what they dislike. Keep an eye out for which area of the tank your fish hangs around in, as happy, healthy fish swim around mid-water level and explore all areas of the tank. If there are any areas your fish is avoiding, it may be because something is stressing them out. Be sure to consult a fish vet in this case.
Abnormal behaviour is when your companion animal is not acting as they normally would. It is always a concern because odd behaviour is how fish communicate that they are not feeling well. Easily identifiable abnormal behaviour includes:
Depending on the breed or species of fish you have, they may need company of their own kind to be happy. Some fish are more comfortable alone, some in pairs, while others feel safest in groups. When choosing which fish is right for your family, do your research and make your choice based on the best interest of the fish.
Goldfish do sometimes fight each other, but it’s difficult to know in advance whether your goldfish will fight. Different goldfish have different personalities, so some goldfish fight each other more than others.
Goldfish are far more likely to fight when there is competition for space, food and hiding places, such as in a home aquarium or small pond. You should therefore make sure that your pond or aquarium has plenty of space for your goldfish and that your aquarium contains lots of plants and "furniture” for them to hide behind!
If you notice one goldfish continually chasing another goldfish, or biting at them, then they are fighting and you need to adjust your aquarium setup.
One of the most important things to remember when you have a fish is that they DO NOT have short memories. In fact, fish are intelligent animals that remember sounds, people, and other fish. Some fish have even been known to react to training.