06 Disadvantages of Having a Pet Fish [Know Before]

Having a pet fish can come with disadvantages such as high maintenance and limited interaction opportunities. Owning a pet fish requires careful monitoring of their tank conditions and regular cleaning, which can be time-consuming.

Additionally, fish lack the social nature found in other pets, making it difficult to form a strong bond and interact with them. These limitations can make owning a pet fish less fulfilling compared to other pets like cats or dogs, which offer more companionship and engagement.

However, despite these drawbacks, some individuals still find joy and relaxation in the serene beauty of having a pet fish. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if a pet fish is the right choice for you.

One of my fish tanks with gravel, and decors
One of my fish tanks with gravel, and decors

What To Consider Before Getting A Pet Fish

Pros Of Owning A Pet Fish:

  • Low maintenance: Unlike dogs or cats, fish require minimal effort to take care of. They don’t need to be walked, groomed, or entertained, making them a perfect choice for busy individuals.
  • Relaxing and soothing: Watching fish swim gracefully can be incredibly calming and therapeutic. It can lower stress levels and provide a sense of tranquility in your home or office.
  • Educational: Owning a pet fish can teach children about responsibility, biology, and the aquatic ecosystem. It can be a great educational tool for kids to learn about the importance of water quality and fish conservation.
  • Decorative: With their vibrant colors and mesmerizing movements, fish can serve as beautiful decorations for your living space. They can add a touch of life and color to any home or office aquarium.

However, owning a pet fish also comes with its fair share of disadvantages. Here are some things to consider before bringing a fish home:

My community fish tank with guppies, and tetra
My community fish tank with guppies, and tetra

Things To Keep In Mind Before Bringing A Fish Home:

  • Initial costs: While fish may seem inexpensive at first, setting up their habitat can be quite costly. You’ll need to invest in a fish tank, filtration system, lighting, decorations, and fish food. These expenses can add up, especially if you opt for a larger aquarium or exotic fish.
  • Time commitment: Although fish require less attention than other pets, they still need regular care and maintenance. You’ll need to feed them daily, monitor their water quality, clean their tank, and ensure they are in a healthy environment. Additionally, if you plan on going on vacation, you’ll need to find someone to feed and care for your fish in your absence.
  • Limited interaction: Unlike dogs or cats, fish don’t offer the same level of companionship. They are not known for their affectionate behavior or playful nature. Consequently, if you are looking for a pet that can provide emotional support or engage in interactive play, a fish may not be the best choice.
  • Fragile health: Fish are sensitive creatures, and it can be challenging to maintain their health. They require specific water parameters and a well-balanced diet to thrive. Any sudden changes in temperature, water quality, or nutrition can lead to stress, disease, and ultimately death. It is crucial to have a good understanding of fish care and be prepared to invest time and effort into ensuring their well-being.

Considering these factors before getting a pet fish can help you make an informed decision and provide the best care for your aquatic companion.

Some of the chemicals you need for setting up the tank, and fish wellbeing
Some of the chemicals you need for setting up the tank, and fish wellbeing

#1: Fish Is Expensive To Keep As A Pet

Many people may think that having a pet fish is a cost-effective choice compared to other animals, but the reality is that fish can be quite expensive to keep as pets. Here are some reasons why:

A. Initial Setup Costs For An Aquarium And Equipment:

  • Aquarium: Purchasing a suitable aquarium for your fish can be a significant expense. Prices can vary depending on the size and quality of the tank.
  • Filtration system: A quality filtration system is essential to maintain a healthy environment for your fish. This equipment can range in price, depending on the type and capacity.
  • Heater: Some fish require a specific temperature range to thrive. Investing in a reliable heater may be necessary to maintain the ideal water temperature for your aquatic pets.
  • Lighting: Proper lighting is crucial for the health of your fish and the overall aesthetic of the aquarium. Led lights designed for aquarium use are commonly used but can also add to the initial setup costs.
  • Decorations and substrate: Adding decorations and substrates to the tank can create a more visually appealing environment for your fish. These items can vary in price, depending on your preferences and the materials used.
One of my fish tanks set up with artificial plants
One of my fish tanks set up with artificial plants

B. Ongoing Expenses For Food, Filtration, And Maintenance:

  • Fish food: Providing your fish with a proper diet often means purchasing specialized fish food. The cost can vary depending on the species of fish you own and the quality of food you choose.
  • Filter media replacement: To maintain the effectiveness of your filtration system, you’ll need to replace the filter media regularly. The frequency and cost will depend on the specific filters you use.
  • Water conditioner: Most tap water contains chlorine or other chemicals that can be harmful to fish. A water conditioner is necessary to remove these compounds and make the water safe for your pets.
  • Testing kits: Monitoring the water parameters, such as ph and ammonia levels, is crucial for the well-being of your fish. Testing kits may need to be purchased periodically to ensure water quality.
  • Maintenance supplies: Regular cleaning and maintenance tasks like water changes and algae removal will require various tools, such as aquarium siphons and scrub brushes.
  • Veterinary care: While fish may not require routine trips to the veterinarian like other pets, there may be occasions where professional assistance becomes necessary. The cost of specialized fish veterinary care can be significant.

As you can see, owning a fish entails more than just the initial purchase. From aquarium setup to ongoing supplies and maintenance, the costs can add up over time.

However, with careful planning and budgeting, these expenses can be managed effectively, ensuring that you can provide a happy and healthy environment for your aquatic companions.

#2: Pet Fish Have A Short Lifespan

One significant disadvantage of having a pet fish is its relatively short lifespan.

Some fish species have relatively short lifespans, which can be disappointing for pet owners who hope to enjoy their companionship for many years.

Popular aquarium fish like goldfish typically have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, while others, like guppies, may only live for 2 to 3 years.

A nice fish tank set up Owner: Jen Ford

It’s important to consider the lifespan of a fish species before bringing them home as pets, especially if you’re looking for a long-term commitment.

The short lifespan of pet fish means that their owners may experience the loss more frequently. This can be particularly difficult for individuals who have formed strong attachments to their fish.

Understanding the average lifespan of different fish species will help you make an informed choice and prevent potential disappointment down the line.

#3: Limited Interaction And Bonding Opportunities

Unlike dogs or cats, fish do not possess the same level of intelligence or emotional capacity to form deep bonds with their owners. Fish primarily rely on their basic instincts for survival and are unable to develop a sense of loyalty or attachment.

  • Limited response to human interaction: Interactions with fish are limited to observing them swim or feeding them, lacking the meaningful connection found with other pets.
  • Minimal physical interaction: While some fish like Oscar fish may become accustomed to their owners and recognize them, physical interaction is limited.
  • Lack of emotional connection: Developing an emotional connection with a pet fish is not due to their limited range of emotions. While fish may exhibit some level of recognition towards their owners, they lack the capability to form deep emotional bonds.
  • Limited play and engagement: Fish do not engage in the same playful activities as other pets. They typically swim around their tank and may have some interest in interacting with objects such as plants or decorations, but it is not the same as the active play observed in other pets.

The lack of interaction and bonding opportunities with fish can make them feel less like companions and more like decorative elements in your home. If you are seeking a pet that provides companionship and emotional support, a fish may not be the best choice.

A super aquarium set up
A super aquarium set up Owner: Virginia Jennings

#4: Fish Are Fragile And Prone To Health Issues

Fish are delicate creatures and can be easily injured or stressed. They have sensitive bodies that can be easily harmed by rough handling or sudden changes in their environment.

Their delicate nature can make it challenging to transport them, especially over long distances, without proper care and equipment.

Health Issues In Fish:

  • Fish are prone to various health problems, which may range from common issues like fin rot or ich to more severe conditions like dropsy or swim bladder disorder.
  • Maintaining the water quality in the aquarium is crucial for fish health. Poor water conditions can lead to stress, diseases, and even death.
  • Dietary issues can also impact the health of fish. Overfeeding or providing an improper diet can result in obesity, bloating, or malnutrition.
  • Treating fish illnesses often requires specific medications and treatment methods that may be challenging for owners to administer properly.

Sensitivity To Changes:

  • Changes in water temperature, pH levels, or oxygen levels can negatively affect fish. Sudden fluctuations or inadequate monitoring can cause stress and health problems for these sensitive creatures.
  • Adding new fish to an established tank can disrupt the existing social dynamics and may lead to territorial disputes or aggression.
  • It is important to maintain a stable and consistent environment for fish, which requires regular monitoring and adjustments.
Betta fish tank
Betta fish tank Owner: Jaimie Graham

Specialized Care Requirements:

  • Certain fish species have specific needs and may require specialized care, such as specific water conditions, tank size, or companionship requirements. Failing to meet these requirements can result in poor health and reduced lifespan.
  • Fish tanks need regular cleaning and maintenance to keep the water quality in check, which can be time-consuming and meticulous.
  • Some fish, especially those with complex dietary needs, may require additional effort and expenses to ensure they receive adequate nutrition.

#5: The Time And Effort Required For Fish Care

Cleaning the fish tank on a regular basis is necessary to remove any waste, excess food, or algae that can accumulate over time. Some of the common maintenance jobs include but are not limited to:

  • Changing a portion of the water is essential to maintain a clean and healthy environment for the fish.
  • Regular maintenance also involves checking and replacing the filter media as needed to ensure efficient filtration.
  • Inspecting the equipment, such as the heater, air pump, and lighting, is necessary to ensure they are functioning correctly.
  • Additionally, trimming and pruning live plants, if present, is necessary to maintain their health and prevent overgrowth, which can impact the fish and the overall ecosystem of the tank.

Taking care of pet fish involves a daily commitment to feeding and water monitoring, as well as periodic maintenance tasks. This responsibility should be considered before deciding to welcome a fish into your home.

Close capture of my pet fish
Close capture of my pet fish

Alternatives To Pet Fish Ownership [Other Low-Maintenance Pet Options]

If you’re interested in a low-maintenance alternative or want to experience fishkeeping without the responsibilities, there are a few options worth exploring.

  • Hermit crabs: These small crustaceans are fascinating to watch and require minimal care. They are relatively low-maintenance pets that can live up to 15 years with proper care. Plus, hermit crabs are interactive and can be easily handled.
  • Terrariums: Owning a terrarium can be an excellent alternative to fishkeeping. You can create a miniature ecosystem with plants and small animals like snails, frogs, or lizards. Terrariums require less maintenance compared to fish tanks but still offer a captivating natural habitat to observe.
  • Reptiles: Species such as geckos, anoles, or leopard geckos are relatively low-maintenance pets that require less attention compared to cats or dogs. They make great companions and can live for several years, providing a unique and fascinating pet ownership experience.
  • Betta fish: If you still want to experience the beauty of fishkeeping but with less maintenance, betta fish can be a suitable option. These colorful fish are hardy and can adapt to various water conditions. They don’t require a filtration system or a large tank, making them easier to care for than other fish species.
5-gallon Terrarium Owner: Monique Tecson Salinas

Are Fish Considered Low-Maintenance Pets?

Yes, fish are generally considered low-maintenance pets. They don’t require daily walks, grooming, or constant attention like other pets. However, they still require regular feeding, water changes, tank cleaning, and proper monitoring of water parameters to ensure their well-being.

Can Fish Die Easily In Captivity?

Yes, fish can be susceptible to various health issues and stress factors in captivity, which can lead to their untimely death. Factors such as poor water quality, wrong tank setup, overfeeding, temperature fluctuations, and incompatible tankmates can all contribute to fish mortality. Proper care and attention are necessary to prevent such issues.

Are Pet Fish Expensive To Maintain?

While pet fish may seem affordable initially, the overall cost of maintenance can add up over time. Factors like purchasing aquarium equipment, fish food, water treatments, electricity for tank lighting and filtration, and potential veterinary costs can all contribute to the expenses of keeping pet fish.

Can Fish Carry Diseases That Can Be Transmitted To Humans?

Yes, fish can carry diseases that may be transmissible to humans, although the risk is relatively low. Common zoonotic diseases associated with fish include fin rot, ichthyobodo infection, and fish tuberculosis. Practicing good hygiene, handling fish with care, and maintaining a clean aquarium are essential to minimize any potential risks.


Having a pet fish can be a delightful and visually appealing experience. However, it is important to understand the potential disadvantages that come along with it. First and foremost, fish require proper care and maintenance, which includes regular water changes, feeding schedules, and monitoring of their habitat conditions.

Failure to meet these requirements can lead to stress, illnesses, and even death for your fish. Additionally, fish tanks can be expensive to set up and maintain, with costs including aquariums, filters, heaters, and decorations.

Furthermore, while fish may provide some companionship, they do not offer the same level of interaction and emotional connection as other pets.

Overall, it is essential to carefully consider the disadvantages before deciding to own a pet fish. By being aware of the potential drawbacks and taking the necessary precautions, you can provide a healthy and enjoyable life for your aquatic companions.

Sujit Modak

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