I was thinking of what to get Anupa for her birthday and was considering one of these cool EcoSpheres that you sometimes see in science fairs. It’s a completely self contained aquarium that’s sealed and requires no maintenance other than keeping it in a non-dark place. It lives for several years and consists of tiny shrimp that eat the algae who in turn are fed by the shrimp’s waste. The energy comes from a little bit of sunlight and that’s it. It looks very pretty, elegant and most importantly is hassle free.
I was reading up on Wikipedia about how the eco system works. There was a section where some were saying that the shrimps were slowly poisoned and live a miserable life. I don’t know how true this was, but I erred on the safe side and decided not to buy it. This made me think of a larger question – are aquariums in general cruel to fishes?
I may be wallowing in mistaken anthropomorphization here, but if I were a creature I wouldn’t want to spend my entire life in just one house or room. My entire life! Swimming around from one end to the other. Animals in cages have been known to become frustrated and pace, banging their heads on their cages and go insane. So the need to have freedom isn’t just a human one. I don’t know how a fish feels, but the kind of lives they have in aquariums must not be pleasant.
For this reason I’ve avoided keeping fish as pets. There are many opinions giving reasons why keeping fish is ok. They don’t have to compete for food, there’s no danger from predators (in a well kept aquarium) and their environment is controlled. All true of course. But going by the behavior of some animals in zoos, it must be quite a frustrating life with no stimulation and no chance to play out the course of their lives.
At least with other animals like dogs we have indications of their mood. Happy faces mean happy dogs. Cats of course come and go as they please. But how do you tell a fish’s mood? There’s no indication or give away. They could be happy or miserable and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! Since I have no way of gauging a fish’s mindset, I have no choice but to make assumptions. Otherwise there will always be the nagging suspicion in my mind that I’m imposing a horrible torture on this creature.
So what do you think – is keeping an aquarium cruel to a fish and in the absence of evidence, how do you deal with this lack of knowledge?