In a Fish Bowl

With schools hitting the homestretch this month, we’re up to our ears in school programs full of kids anxious for the summer and teachers trying to keep up. And since it is late spring, we are encountering TONS of critters on the beaches, in the marsh and in ponds. Many of these creatures are small and fit perfectly in a kid’s hand, inevitably leading to one question:

Can I Take It Home???

Probably a lot of us said this when younger–I know I did often, but I am amazed at the variety of creatures kids want to take home. Everything from baby snapping turtles and mosquito fish to coquina clams and juvenile pompano fish.

I ask the kidnapping kid what they would put the little creature in and the majority proclaim that they have a wonder fish bowl that would work well [a few mention their freshwater fish tank…].

This is what they call a ‘teachable moment’–one of those moments that you weren’t planning on, but that just spontaneously provides a perfect time to expound on a relevent tangent.

Habitat

That one little word is essentially the answer to the fish bowl dilemma. Can you provide the necessary food, water, shelter, and space–all the components of a habitat–for the creature?

Food: Most creatures have a complicated diet that is not easily found in stores. Even pet stores carry food specifically for their breeds and not necessarily for wildlife.  Unless you want to spend hours collecting and preparing the proper food, it’s much easier to buy a creature whose diet we can mass produce.

Water: It seems simple, doesn’t it? Water is water, but our clean water is deadly to many creatures. Chlorine is one problem, but the lack of bacteria can be deadly to fish. When you set up a fish tank, you aren’t just putting a filter on a glass case, you are creating a micro-ecosystem complete with a bacterial population in the gravel bed that will break down waste and ammonia that would otherwise kill fish.

Shelter: Most animals see humans as predators and for this reason would rather hide than be stared at all day. Stress like that can kill, you know?

Space: What is it to a fish or turtle if they have lots of room or not? What’s it to you to have all that square footage? Imagine just living in one room of your house, not being able to leave and not being able to take out the trash on your own. If you couldn’t sweep, all sorts of stuff would pile up, crumbs would accumulate, as would your hair and dander. Pretty gross, huh? Space is very important, even if you are ‘just’ a fish or turtle.

Just One Room

You probably wouldn’t be happy if you were only allowed in just one room of your house and never allowed to leave. This one room wouldn’t allow you any privacy and it also wouldn’t be well ventilated or insulated. Essentially, that’s what a fish bowl amounts to. Such a small body of water is basically a stagnate puddle and how many creatures do you see thriving in puddles? Perhaps a few, but unless you are adapted to puddle life such as a betta fish is, then you are going to have a hard time not feeling closed in, dirty, stuffy, too warm or cold, etc.

“Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” –Blaise Pascal

With that quote in mind, that good ol’ glass fish bowl isn’t of much use.  Not even goldfish have a good, long life in a bowl [especially since they are the ‘dirtiest’ fish you can buy!]. As mentioned above, bettas are really the only thing that can eek out a living in the sphere of doom and wildlife certainly have no place confined in a bubble.

Bottomline: Fish bowl =/= Habitat

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