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Friends of many colors

Posted: September 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Freshwater butterfly koi swim in an aquarium.

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Colorful, peaceful and low-maintenance tropical fish can make for fantastic pets.

“Fish are great for kids, to learn the responsibilities of how to care for a pet,” said Paula Wattana, owner of Valencia Pet, which carries a large variety of tropical fish, as well as the tanks and hardware necessary for their care. “It’s easier than a dog or cat, and being able to sit and relax and watch fish swim is very tranquil.”

The average life span of a fish is about two years, Wattana noted. While fish do not require veterinary visits, owners should be aware of the various medical conditions that can impact their health.

Ich, a parasite that resembles white, flaky scales, is the most common danger.

“Usually, basic, over-the-counter medication found at pet stores can cure it, but it depends on how severe the outbreak is,” Wattana said.

According to Wattana, there are several varieties of tropical fish, which are broken down into two categories: freshwater and saltwater.

For freshwater fish, a tank setup, with a light and filtration system, can start as low as $80. Freshwater fish start at $0.25 each and top off at $39 at Valencia Pet.

Typical starter fish include guppies, mollies and platties.

“These are community fish — schooling fish that swim together,” Wattana said. “People often think goldfish are the best to start off with, but goldfish can be very messy.”

If freshwater-fish owners opt for the more colorful cichlids, there are specific rules to follow.

“These are semiaggressive fish, so you can only have that species in the tank,” Wattana said.

For maintenance, freshwater tanks need the water changed once a month. Approximately 30 to 80 percent of water should be removed, and that can take up to an hour.

“You have to remove the fish, as well,” Wattana said. “People have a perception that the freshwater route is easier and less expensive, but that’s a total misunderstanding. Saltwater start-up costs more, but the maintenance is less.”

A saltwater tank with a light and filtration system starts at $299 at Valencia Pet, while fish range from $5.99 to $179 for a lionfish, panther grouper or clown trigger.

The clown fish is especially popular, as Wattana illustrated.

“With salt water, the No. 1 fish is the clown fish, like the one in ‘Finding Nemo.’ A lot of people do a similar setup with their tank as what you see in that movie, with a yellow fish, a blue fish and shrimps. Salt water is probably the better moving selection,” she said.

Maintenance of saltwater tanks includes a 20 percent water change weekly or biweekly.

Wattana and the Valencia Pet staff are happy to instruct customers on how to change tank water for both species.
Prospective fish owners should be aware, however, that they won’t be able to take their new pet home right away.

“We never recommend that you buy a tank and put in the fish the same day. The fish usually die that way,” Wattana said. “We take every precaution we can to ensure that our customers take a tank home and if it’s freshwater, wait a day or two — or saltwater, at least a week, before introducing fish.”

Live coral are colorful additions to a tank, and Valencia Pet carries a large selection. Not only are the coral beautiful, they can be functional, too.

“The plus side of having coral is that it helps to take care of the tank. When you just have fish, more waste is being produced. Coral feeds off the waste, so it keeps the tank a little cleaner,” Wattana said. “Coral has to be part of a community tank, not an aggressive tank.”

Valencia Pet is located at 28128 Newhall Ranch Road, Valencia. For more information, visit www.valenciapet.com or call (661) 775-3838.

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