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RSPCA: Don't Buy 'Fashion Accessory' Fish Tanks This Christmas

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SOUTHWATER, West Sussex -- The RSPCA is concerned about the growing trend for 'fashion accessory' aquariums which are designed as ornaments rather than suitable homes for fish.

We are urging Christmas shoppers against buying 'decorative' fish tanks such as globe-shaped bowls, tanks built into furniture, or picture-frame shaped aquaria as presents. We are also asking the retailers who sell them to reconsider.

Animal welfare experts warn there are a number of welfare issues associated with these novelty items. Many of them are far too small, which can lead to poor water quality and dangerous levels of chemicals like ammonia in the water. The shape of the tanks also means that only a limited amount of oxygen can be absorbed into the water, and the fish are in danger of suffocating.

Sophie Adwick, RSPCA scientific officer said: "People buying these tanks might think they are getting a novel or unusual present but it is unlikely to be a happy Christmas for any fish inside.

"They are designed and marketed as fashion accessories to match your living room rather than with any thought of welfare, and are inadequate homes for these animals.

"Displaying live fish as 'art' encourages people to see them as replaceable ornaments, rather than living creatures in need of care and commitment."

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, fish owners have a duty of care to meet the animals' needs, which include providing a suitable environment. The RSPCA is opposed to any degree of confinement likely to cause distress or suffering. Among the concerns involved with these tanks are:

— Overcrowding fish in a small volume of water will lead to high levels of harmful chemicals such as ammonia and nitrite, which can poison the fish and cause disease or even death.

— The decorative shapes tend to involve a very small surface area to volume ratio – or narrow top in comparison to its size. This means that very little oxygen can be absorbed into the water and the fish could suffocate and die, even in tanks which hold large volumes of water.

— Many types of fish, including goldfish, are social and should not be kept alone. However few fish can actually be kept in such tanks as the amount of oxygen available in the water can only support a small number of animals.

— The shape and size of the some of the tanks mean that it would be difficult to maintain a constant water temperature, which can be stressful and even lethal for fish.

— Some tanks are being marketed as a complete aquarium but include no enrichment (eg. gravel, plants, places to hide), no mention of the need to provide this and no instructions as to how many fish can safely be kept in the tank.

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