How to keep fighting fish alive and what they need in tank

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SMARTdaily’s pet columnist and chief veterinary officer at Greencross The Pet Company Dr Magdoline Awad discusses how to look after fish.


Hi Dr Mags,

I need help keeping a fighting fish alive, or any sort of fish for that matter. We have a small tank with pebbles and an aquatic plant and always buy the right food. We have tried gold fish and now on to our third fighting fish. I don’t think the kids can handle another fish death. What could we be doing wrong and how can we keep this one alive as long as possible? – Eric

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Dear Eric,

Fish are becoming ever so more popular as pets not only for children but for families as well.

Contrary to popular belief, fish can be quite challenging to take care of.

They have unique requirements such as tank size, water temperature and quality, heating, filtering, the substrate used, feeding and more.

Some of these requirements differ depending on species of fish. Tropical fish, for example, need a different water temperature to non-tropical fish.

A common area where fish become unwell is tank preparation – that is, how you prepare the tank before introducing a fish for the first time or introducing a new fish to a tank where fish have been previously unwell.

Another is water quality which is a combination of the chemical balance in the water and the filtration system including substrate used.

It’s essential to have a good water testing kit to ensure it’s correct and balanced for the species of fish.

Your water filter should be the correct size for the size of the tank. If you have a tropical fish, there are optimal temperature ranges to maintain, so it’s important to use a thermometer.

Having sea plants, appropriately treated wood and other objects for fish to hide or seek refuge is important.

The above may sound daunting but once set up, fish are a true joy to look after.

Luckily, most pet stores have team members trained in aquatic fish care that are able to help.

In addition, dedicated aquariums also provide a great source of knowledge, expertise and the equipment needed to set up and maintain the perfect tank.

Do you have a pet query for Dr Awad? Email:

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