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 Mental Wellbeing. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your fish have positive experiences and are receiving the love, understanding and companionship they need for their mental wellbeing.
Fish have feelings and emotions just like any other animal, and just like other animals, fish can experience stress. As a fish guardian, it’s your responsibility to identify and prevent any stress triggers. Knowing the things that cause fish stress and limiting them before they become a problem can save your fish from suffering.
Before deciding if fish are the right companion animal for you, you need to consider if you are the right fit for each other. Fish have unique needs and requirements, with each species and breed being different. You must make sure that you have the time and money to meet these needs. Fish deserve care, kindness, understanding, and respect from their guardians. When they are provided with these things, their fear and distress can lessen.
Reducing your fishes’ stress starts from the moment they come into your care. This means you must arrange appropriate transportation for your fish. Moving to a new home can be very stressful so it’s important to ensure that you provide your fish with the best possible environment to do so.
Temperature is a key factor in moving – what is best for your fish will depend on the species. A common technique for companion fish transportation is for the fish to be gently placed in a secure plastic bag containing 1/3 water with air space at the top. This bag can then be placed in a polystyrene box that’s big enough for the bag not to be squished, but small enough so the bag does not move around. The polystyrene box can then be snuggly placed in a cardboard box for added security. Tropical and cold water fish species water temperature varies so be sure to talk to a fish vet about the best way to transport your new fish.
As moving to a new home can be stressful, that existing stress can be heightened if you then abruptly switch you fish from one water source to another. It is important to acclimate your fish. Acclimation is when fish are slowly introduced to their new water and environment. Talk to your parent/guardian and fish vet about which method of acclimation best works for your fish and aquarium set-up.
As stated in other sections – water conditions are one of the most, if not the most, important factors for happy, healthy fish. Incorrect levels of ammonia, nitrate, and pH, lack of oxygen, inappropriate temperature, etc. cause a great amount of stress.
Have an aquarium cleaning schedule in place and ask an adult to help you regularly test your aquarium’s water quality and check to make sure all equipment, such as your water filter, lighting, aeration pump and heater is working correctly.
The number of fish you can keep in an aquarium depends not only on the size of your aquarium or pond, but also the behavioural needs of your fish. Keeping too many fish in the aquarium means they'll have to compete for food and/or resources like hideouts which may result in them becoming stressed.
Just like some people don’t get along, some fish also do not get along. This can happen if there is not enough space, there are too many fish, there’s nowhere to hide, or if your fish are simply just not compatible.
For example, Siamese Fighting Fish are a breed of fish that will fight with other fish, so they prefer to be alone. If your fish are fighting, it is something that needs to be address immediately so that it does not get out of hand.
Fish are the kind of companion animals that enjoy being looked at, but not being touched or disturbed. Remember to NEVER tap or bang on the glass of your fish’s aquarium to get their attention. Fish have excellent hearing, and all this does is scare them. Vibrations travel through the water and the sound is magnified, causing a great deal of stress. It’s also best to keep netting, “furniture” rearrangement, and noise levels to a minimum.
Also, try to ensure that if you like to listen to loud music, you do this in a different room to your fish, as both the sound itself and the bass vibration can stress your fish out.