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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Fish are friends, not food’

Published: January 20, 2012
Section: Opinions

Most people would say a fish is not a satisfactory pet. They are not furry, nor can you pet them. They will not play fetch with you or sit on your lap. And while my friends have always made fun of me for being a “fish lady,” I argue that they make the perfect pet for someone in college.

I live in a forced triple here at Brandeis. My room is smaller than my room at my house. Neither my roommates nor I are particularly clean, our bunkbed ladders constantly fall on us and our rug has ingrained cereal crumbs. If I stay in my room too long I find myself going stir crazy, since I can pace the entire length of the room in two seconds.

Having always been an animal lover, at home I have a cat and dog. Yet, there is no way any furry animal that needs space to move can live in our humble Brandeis abode. So to make up for the fact that I need animals in my life, our room has turned into a sort of haven for fish. We currently have four, all bettas in separate bowls, and we are quite obsessed.

While fish cannot make you feel physically better by being in contact with them (such as petting a dog can sometimes have health benefits), I believe my fish make me feel better. They are a constant in my life, occasionally the only males that like me. The benefit of having a betta (also called Siamese fighting fish) as a pet is that that they are very well suited for dorm life. They don’t require a heater or a filter and are easy to take care of.

Since bettas often take gulps of air from the surface of the water (strange fact since they are fish, but their gills are made this way) they are very aware of humans around them. My fish respond to me if I stand near their tanks- swimming closer to me and thus making up for my need to have animal contact.

While fish make the perfect pet at college, not all students take care of them the way they should. While bettas are occasionally sold at the SCC by the vendors we occasionally have there, they are sold in very tiny bowls that allow the fish no room to swim or grow. Students are also not informed about how to care for their fish: bettas need weekly water changes and without that will get infected and die. While being a crusader for fish is not exactly my goal here at Brandeis, I would like students to be more aware that they can actually do harm to these animals if they force them to live in small bowls and not clean water.

I personally am fond of all fish, bettas being my favorite. The aquarium is my favorite place and I occasionally look up facts about aquatic life just for fun. Many people have encouraged me to consider becoming a marine biologist (though it is a major that Brandeis does not offer). While my major here at Brandies is English, I would love to become a marine supporter in the same sense that Rachel Carson was a environmental crusader- using my writing skills to help others understand the realities of what is occurring in our environment.

Marine life, whether we are eating it, keeping fish as pets or going on a whale watch, is an integral part of the Earth’s ecosystem. While not as fun to play with as a dog, fish offer the planet a lot and should be granted the importance they deserve.