Fred Willard Reminds Fans That Fish Have Feelings

Fish aren’t merchandise. They aren’t “starter pets” or decorations.

Now, these intelligent, sensitive animals have an ally in legendary comedian and actor Fred Willard, as he speaks up for fish in a new PETA PSA. In the video, he goes to “fishbowl therapy” in order to highlight the isolation and loneliness that fish experience when they’re forced to live in a cramped tank or bowl.

Willard is a long-time PETA supporter, having spoken out about everything from the dog and cat overpopulation crisis to encouraging fans to adopt and never buy an animal companion. “Fish should be left in their natural habitat,” the improv genius and Christopher Guest regular says in a Q&A video. “[They] don’t get the respect they deserve.”

The biggest, best-maintained aquarium still can’t compare to a fish’s natural habitat, and what goes on behind the scenes of this pet trade is gruesome and deadly. Approximately 95% of saltwater fish sold in pet shops are captured from the wild, meaning the majority of fish forced to live in cramped tanks once experienced the freedom of the ocean. To capture these animals, divers often squirt cyanide or other poisons into the coral reefs where the fish live. Freshwater fish sold in stores don’t have it much better, as roughly 90% of them are raised on fish farms.

Betta fish also suffer greatly at the hands of the pet trade. PETA’s eyewitness investigation into bettas at more than 100 Petco stores revealed dead fish in small cups of contaminated water and fish floating on their sides as they struggled to swim. At one store, a fish’s eyes severely protruded from their sockets. Multiple Petco employees admitted that the process of transporting bettas to stores is so stressful that the animals often become sick and die shortly after their arrival and that the small cups they’re confined to make them susceptible to health problems.

Unfortunately, there’s no safe way to return captive fish to their natural environment, so PETA has some tips for helping fish maintain their utmost happiness and well-being in a tank. Please share the following information with any friends or family who currently care for a fish at home:

  • Provide a stable environment. Place a tank on a smooth surface that won’t rock or jiggle, and keep it away from windows, direct sunlight, and temperature extremes.
  • Make sure that fish get proper nutrients. That jar of flakes might not be what your fish would choose to eat. The right type and amount of food varies from fish to fish, so take the time to learn what your fish need.
  • Provide at least 24 square inches of water for every 1 inch of fish. The more room, the better! Fish become frustrated and unhappy when kept in cramped bowls or tanks.
  • House fish in a large filtered tank. All tanks should have a pump to keep water flowing continuously.
  • Decorate! Bare homes make for frustrated fish. Place structures in a tank for your fish to investigate. A few plants—plastic or real—will make your fish feel more at home. Some fish will use tank-lining rock bits to build nests for themselves.
  • Keep them in a quiet area. Fish “talk” with one another through a range of low-frequency sounds. The pumps and filters necessary in many home aquariums can interfere with this communication, so use quiet equipment, and don’t place radios or televisions near your fish.
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