Do sin­gle gold­fish get lonely?

Gold­fish are a so­cial species, liv­ing in shoals in the wild. In cap­tiv­ity, it’s strongly rec­om­mended that they should be kept at least in pairs, to pro­vide com­pan­ion­ship.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By PETEWEDDERBURN

Gold­fish are the third most pop­u­lar pet in the UK, but they get lit­tle cov­er­age com­pared to dogs and cats — the num­ber one and two in the lat­est sta­tis­tics. And when gold­fish are dis­cussed, they tend to be de­meaned, with un­fair com­ments about their short­mem­o­ryand­lowlevel of in­tel­li­gence. In fact, gold­fish are far smarter than most peo­ple re­alise, and they have as much of a per­son­al­ity as many other larger an­i­mals.

I know this for my­self: I have shared my home of­fice with a tank of gold­fish for the past decade. My fish recog­nise me, swim­ming out from be­hind a rock to greet me; if any­one else comes up to the tank, they hide. They may not show af­fec­tion like a dog or cat, but in their own fishy way, they have a cer­tain charm.

I’ve been go­ing through a type of ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis with my fish in re­cent times. I orig­i­nally had three fish in the tank, but a num­ber of months ago, the two small­est fish died. I sus­pected that the largest fish, Ricky, may have played a role in their demise (he was al­ways a bit of a bully), but their ab­sence left me with a dilemma. How should I cater for the so­cial needs of Ricky, as the sin­gle re­main­ing gold­fish?

Gold­fish are a so­cial species, liv­ing in shoals in the wild. In cap­tiv­ity, it’s strongly rec­om­mended that they should be kept at least in pairs, to pro­vide com­pan­ion­ship. If you watch fish in a tank, you’ll see that they reg­u­larly en­gage with other fish. It’s thought that soli­tary fish, much like soli­tary hu­mans, may be­gin to suf­fer from de­pres­sion and lethargy. In­deed, in some coun­tries (such as Switzer­land), it’s now il­le­gal to keep gold­fish on their own, since this con­tra­venes an­i­mal wel­fare leg­is­la­tion.

There’s no lawto stop me keep­ing Ricky on his own, but I felt sorry for him. Last week­end, I made the de­ci­sion to let him out of soli­tary con­fine­ment. I didn’t want to have­more fish in­doors (the truth is that the reg­u­lar tank clean­ing regime has lost its charm in my busy life), so I de­cided to move him out­doors, into our gar­den pond, where he can min­gle with our four out­door gold­fish. The larger body of wa­ter would suit his in­creas­ing length and girth, in any case: Ricky has out­grown his in­door tank.

This is the ideal time of year to trans­fer gold­fish from in­doors to out­doors: the gar­den pond is as warm as it gets all year, min­imis­ing the risk of cold shock. My main con­cern is the risk of a heron at­tack. We have tried to heron-proof the pond by cre­at­ing hide-away refuges for the fish us­ing bricks and or­na­ments with tun­nels, and we’ve set up a foun­tain that dis­turbs the wa­ter sur­face, which we hope will make it more dif­fi­cult for the heron to spot his prey.

The trans­fer has gone well so far: within min­utes of ar­riv­ing in his new home, Ricky started to in­ter­act with the four other fish. One day on, he now reg­u­larly swims in a small shoal with them. I have no idea what’s go­ing on inside his gold­fish head, but from what I’ve read, and from what I can see for my­self, Ricky’s a happier gold­fish now.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Gold­fish have a cer­tain fishy charm.

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