Your duty of care

Owning aquarium fish can be rewarding but it's a big responsibility. Fish aren't simple creatures to look after - they have very specific needs and require attentive and routine care. If you own or are responsible for pet fish, even on a temporary basis, you're required under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to care for them properly.

This misunderstanding of fish as simplistic creatures has resulted in us instigating a number of cases against people who fail to meet the needs of fish.


First bred in China over 4,500 years ago, goldfish were brought to England in the eighteenth century and have remained the most popular of cold water pet fish.

A common misconception with goldfish is the age and size they can reach. Lots of people think goldfish live for about five years and generally grow to about 12 cm in length. The fact is they're known to live for up to 25 years and some can reach over 40 cm!

Freshwater Tropical Fish

Freshwater tropical fish come from tropical areas of the world and there's no limit to the variety of colours, shapes and behaviours. Different species have different behaviour - for example, some are 'shoaling fish', and feel more secure when kept as a group. Others aren't very social and will fight with either their own kind or other species.

Fish species

There are many different breeds of goldfish and different species of tropical fish. Each has different requirements. We look at the most common types on our Behaviour page.

Understanding the needs

Fish can be challenging to keep. They can't show their feelings as clearly as mammals do and meeting their complex biological, environmental and behavioural needs takes a great deal of preparation, investment, time and care.

Read our fish care sheet (PDF 556KB) to find out more about the needs of fish: Environment, Diet, Company and Health and Welfare.

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