July 27, 2016 – Mars Petcare, which produces fish food brand Aquarian – some batches of which were recalled a few weeks ago in the UK ago due to possible Salmonella contamination – is encouraging parents whose children were ‘charmed’ by new film Finding Dory to buy them a fish as a ‘starter pet’.
Mars Petcare, which claims Aquarian is the UK’s number one fish food brand, said: “As cinemas welcome thousands of youngsters to screenings of Pixar’s animated fish tale, the sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo, Aquarian scientists are encouraging families to consider the benefits of fish as ‘starter pets’.”
Mars advised parents to consider freshwater fish instead of marine fish as maintaining a sea water aquarium requires extensive knowledge and experience, and added consideration and research should be carried out before taking possession of any pet.
The pet food giant went on to cite its 2016 UK pet survey, which found that around 12% of UK households own at least one pet fish, and revealed that the average age of a first fish owner is 8- years-old – much younger than those owning a cat or dog for the first time, and: “7% of UK households choose a goldfish as their child’s first pet”.
In May, the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said it had collected almost 10,000 fish following calls from members of the public about their welfare and said it was expecting further unwanted and neglected fish to come into its care following the release of Finding Dory.
Alexandra Jones, RSPCA exotics scientific officer, said: “Many people bought clown fish after the release of Finding Nemo in 2003 which led to a large number of fish being neglected or dumped when they grew too large or were more difficult to look after than expected. We are bracing ourselves for a similar trend once again.
“Fish – particularly goldfish – are often seen as an easy first pet for children however it is still really important they are cared for properly and the conditions they live in are a vital part of that. They need regular routine care and have very specific needs.
“Sadly many owners who buy exotic pets on impulse after seeing a film or TV show don’t find out how to care for the animals first. When they then realise how much space and care the animal requires they can lose interest, or feel unable to care for them anymore. As a result exotic pets are often abandoned, given up to animal rescue centres or released into the wild.
Commenting on the Mars Petcare statement, a Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) spokesperson told Pet News Today: “Owning goldfish can be rewarding but it’s a big responsibility. They are not simple or easy animals to look after; they do not show their feelings clearly, have specific needs and require a lot of attention and routine care.
“A common misconception with goldfish is the age they can reach – many think of goldfish as living for a short time. The fact is they are known to live for as long as 25 years, so they are long-term commitment.
“Anyone considering getting a goldfish for their family, thinking they might be a good ‘starter pet’, should think again. Not only do goldfish have specific needs, parents may find themselves looking after the fish when their children have grown up and left home.”
A spokesperson for professional veterinary association the Fish Vet Society (FVS) told Pet News Today: “The FVS recognise the health benefits of keeping fish to their owner. Goldfish are commonly kept but statistics show that they often die within six months of being with their new owner. Goldfish can live for 15 years or more, but for this to be realised the needs of these animals should be well understood and cannot be underestimated.”
The RSPCA added: “If you own or are responsible for pet fish, even on a temporary basis, you’re required under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to care for them properly.”
To find out more about keep pet fish and download a fish care sheet visit the RSPCA website. The RSPCA is also promoting the Big Fish Campaign, an initiative to reduce the amount of large fish being given up for adoption when they outgrow the owner’s tank. Such ‘tank busting’ fish include red-tailed catfish, giant gouramis and certain species of pleco catfish. Many of these fish end up being given up to public aquariums because owner did not fully research these fish and so may have been unaware of their adult size. Goldfish should never be kept alone in a tank.