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Care of Fish at School


Care of Fish at School
Shirlie L Sharpe
With the beginning of each school semester comes the decision about what to take to the dormitory or classroom. Pets can make excellent companions in the classroom and help college students feel less alone in their apartment or dormitory.

The problem is the age-old question of how to manage their care during weekend and holiday school breaks. For that reason, many pets are not suitable to keep in a classroom, college dorm, or a student apartment. Fortunately aquarium fish mean that it isn't necessary to give up pets entirely because of school.

Consider a Fish
Fish are an excellent option, as they require less interaction than many pets. They do not need to be taken for walks (most fish swim laps daily to get their exercise). They aren't inclined to leave their tank and get into mischief when you leave the room (although they might move the furniture around if you are gone too long). With proper planning they can even go without food for several days at a time (but don't leave the phone too close to the tank, as they might order out for pizza).

Feeding Your Fish
Living in a watery environment has its advantages. Fish don't have to wait for you to give them a drink and fish are quite capable of going for several days without a meal. In fact, healthy adult fish can go for a week or two without feeding. While that doesn't mean you should routinely skip feeding them, they can safely be left without food over the weekend. Having a few live plants in the tank will give your fish something to nibble on if they get really hungry during your weekends away.

If you will be gone for a longer for a week or more, you should have someone tend your fish. The most important thing to impress upon your helper is that they should not feed your fish too much. Excess food will foul the tank and can prove lethal. Many fish will beg for more food, but should not be indulged.

TIP: Go to a discount or drug store and get an inexpensive plastic pill dispenser - one that has a compartment for each day of the week. For the week before you leave, take the pill dispenser and as you feed your fish, place the same amount of food that you feed your fish in one of the pill compartments. By the end of the week you will have the next week's feedings all prepared for your helper. All they have to do is open the dispenser each day and put the food in the tank.

Light and Heat
Food is not the only consideration when leaving your fish alone for the weekend. The water temperature should remain fairly constant, and the light should be turned off at night and on in the morning. Lighting is easy to handle by purchasing a timer. No need to get a fancy one, just something that will turn them on and off once each day. I'd put the light on a timer and leave it that way all the time. That way the day/night cycle is standard, and you have one less thing to do each day (very helpful when mid-terms hit).

Temperature is only a concern if you do not have a heater in the tank. If you have an unheated tank, make sure that the room temperature does not drop or rise significantly overnight. Fish are accustomed to cyclic changes in temperature, but if the change is dramatic the stress will make them susceptible to disease. In school buildings the heat may be shut off on the weekends. If the room is in danger of being too cold, it is best to invest in a heater to ensure a steady temp. In areas where the weekend room temperature becomes very high in the fall or spring (90 degree range), it's best not to keep fish at all.

Steps Before Going on Break
  • Completely top off the tank with water before you leave.
  • Check the temperature to verify it's in the proper range.
  • Check the filter and make sure it's running at full capacity.
  • Make sure the timer for the light is working.
  • If you don't have a fish sitter, give someone access to the room for emergencies.
  • If you have a fish sitter, measure food into a dispenser for them.
  • Leave your number and the number of the local pet shop for your fish sitter.
Is it okay to be gone a whole week without a fish sitter? Yes, however it is important that the tank is in good condition, and the fish are healthy. If you have any sick fish, baby fish, or the tank is newly set up, you either need a caretaker or should not go away at all. If an emergency arises and you need to leave suddenly for an extended period of time, consider giving your fish to a local pet shop. It’s better to give your fish away, than to have them die from lack of care.

Readers Respond: Are fish a good pet to keep in your dorm room or at school?

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