Enclosed in a glass tank, small bright fish swim and move slowly through water. Their erratic movements as they occasionally ascend to the surface of the tank and back, wafting through aquatic plants, has caught the eyes of some guests in a quiet lobby of a bank in Bugolobi, Kampala.
Besides keeping the waiting guests’ eyes busy, as one of the guests commented in a conversation, the aquarium adds an alluring touch to the space of this newly opened branch.
According to Jessy Kidde of Aquapet Uganda, a fish keeping services company, there is a growing trend of having aquariums in homes and work spaces in Uganda. This, he says, also makes fish a more sought-after pet.
Like other pets such as cats and dogs, experts say, fish are also kept for companionship and pleasure.
“My mother used to tell me that whenever she sits near the fish (an aquarium), she feels alive. I did not understand it until I started embracing them. Today, I can spend 30 minutes looking at them, interacting and enjoying the way they move,” says Steven Gyagenda who has grown the hobby of keeping fish.
How a person acquires an aquarium varies. “You find one who saw it at a friend’s house, and picked interest. Some received them as gifts while for others, it is a hobby that has grown for years,” Kidde says.
Beauty and therapy
Whatever way in which one acquires an aquarium, Kidde says, they ought to know that as fascinating as they are while viewing them, keeping fish as a pet requires dedication for it to give desirable effects.
Phillip Luwemba, an interior designer, says an aquarium is a living decoration. He explains that it never gets boring. “There is a natural effect to it. It evolves each day you look at it. It gives a feeling that you are living with nature, which is much preferred in designing. It is captivating,” he says.
Luwemba says an aquarium elevates the beauty of any space, from a bedroom, sitting room, to an office. Aquariums come in different shapes, sizes and styles. It can be a lone fish tank, part of main furniture such as a table or TV stand, or built in a wall.
Kidde says aquariums can be put anywhere. He is, however, quick to warn that the space has to be conducive for both fish life and purposes of maintenance.
For example, he says the aquarium should be kept out of direct sunlight and heating, such as on windows and near spaces for cooking. Gyagenda advises one to seek advice from the aquarium installer on the perfect spot, keeping in mind that they do not do well in extreme temperatures.
For a home, Gyagenda observes that besides being a good decoration, keeping fish can help in teaching children responsibility as they care for them. For Gyagenda, it was his task at home to take care of the fish. “When I embraced my task of caring for the fish, I started loving them. Caring for them, knowing whether they have eaten, making sure they are not sick or have wounds,” he says.
Studies show that viewing an aquarium can be therapeutic as it lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and has a calming effect on people. Kidde observes, “We find ourselves in stressing situations. Looking at fish for some time can provide a break.”
Small-sized and coloured fish is common for pets, but Kidde says all fish can work as pets. He says, “most of the fish we have here are from Malaysia. But there are those that ask for local fish.”
He says some clients especially those from the diaspora ask for local nkejje for pets. Luckily, he says even the nkejje have different colours, so one has a choice to select which ones to put in their aquarium.
“Fish behave and move differently. A small shark does not behave like a Molly. There is angel fish which does not move a lot, can be in one place but dancing in a funny way. The Catfish stays on the surface glass of the tank,” Gyagenda observes.
Gyagenda says any fish can be good for a beginner. “It depends on your choice. A person providing the aquarium would advise better on which fish to have.” He says the advice will guide on which different types of fish can be kept in the same tank, because some don’t stay together.
Kidde says that once you choose the appropriate type of fish, you are not easily bored. As you get to know your fish, you may discover that they have their own personality, which makes them interesting.
Kidde says the bigger the tank or aquarium, the better because most fish may be small in size, but they still need plenty of room to swim, especially if you have decided to get more than one.
“They can grow up to two kilogrammes. Whenever it outgrows the tank, you remove it and put it in a bigger tank, and you get another from your supplier,” he says.
Besides the species where some grow faster than others, Kidde explains that growth of fish depends on the size of the aquarium and its feeding. Fish has a variety of food, with the common being flakes and frozen worms.
Kidde advises, “We usually limit them in feeding, because we don’t want them to grow quickly. Remember it is a pet. When you give them a lot of food, they can eat to death. They don’t limit themselves while eating. The more you give, the more it eats. Secondly, much food spoils the water. It also breeds carbon dioxide, which is bad for the fish because they need oxygen.”
The aquarium needs regular cleaning. Like building it, maintaining an aquarium requires a certain degree of expertise. Whereas aquariums use normal treated water, Kidde advises that before the owner learns to clean the tank, they should keep in touch with an expert to maintain the tank.
Besides the fish, the cost of an aquarium varies with the quality of materials used, such as the glass.
He advises that once one is ready to have an aquarium, they should sit with the expert and talk about the thickness of the glass. “You need one that will last longer. The glass is very crucial because a low quality glass can break in a short time and frustrate you,” Kidde observes.
Whereas some aquariums are imported, many are locally built. The outlook and beauty depends on the creativity of the person setting it up. The price of an aquarium ranges from Shs150,000 to as much as one can afford. Gyagenda adds that any house can have an aquarium.