Aquariums' are aquatic prisons in which thousands of marine animals - including tropical, fresh and saltwater fishes and invertebrates - are confined. Some offer spectacles such as 'diving with sharks', 'petting pools' and animal feeding. Many of these individuals would otherwise swim thousands of kilometres a day and possess senses which guide them through their aquatic habitat, but are frustrated in tanks where they are condemned to spend their entire lives. Through the glass of the aquarium we do not see the full picture. We do not see the boredom, the monotony or the suffering endured by the animals behind the screens. Seeing the reality would surely prevent us from participating.
Most fishes possess spatial memories which enable them to create cognitive maps to guide them through the oceans, using senses such as smell, sound, lighting etc. As a result they suffer enormously when deprived of freedom, or, when they can’t live their lives in spaces as vast as the oceans, seas and rivers.
Fishes have evolved senses that are totally different from animals like us and so, for example, something which for us appears quiet or distant can sound much louder to a fish. A tap on the glass of an aquarium, for example, can be a source of extreme shock and stress for a fish.
Fishes are individuals who suffer from harshly reduced capabilities within tanks, which causes them stress and anguish. It has recently been shown that fish suffer from confinement and even exhibit stereotypic behaviour (repetitive behaviour that performs no obvious function and indicator of a long-term welfare problem) in aquariums, such as 'spiralling'. Particularly common is 'surface breaking behviour', observed mainly in rays and sharks. This stress can lead to physical health problems and even death. Other behaviours that have been observed include 'pacing', 'circling', 'head bobbing & swinging' and 'Interaction with transparent boundaries.
There are other problems associated with aquariums, aside from those caused by the lack of space. Health problems can emerge due to poor husbanry, such as mixing species, feeding methods, close intereactions with visitors, and the regulation of water chemistry. It is practically impossible to control the water temperature at levels that are suitable for the very different needs of the fishes trapped inside – and hundreds of animals die as a result. As well as this, the chemicals used to disinfect the tanks can cause those imprisoned inside.
For detailed look at the life of animals in aquaria, you can read the report 'Suffering Deep Down' by Captive Animal Protection Society.
Do not visit places where animals are held captive. Money from visitors maintains the companies that exploit aquatic animals. Therefore, if we do not support them, and encourage others not to support them either, these places will cease existing.
It might be visually stunning and exciting to see marine animals in aquariums, but consider the reality for these animals. If you like animals and want to learn about them, there are many ways to do this without harming them. We can look them up on the internet or in library books, watch wildlife documentaries about marine life or go on careful scuba diving expeditions to see animals in their natural habitat. Above all, remember that animals need your help. You can be their voice, and help to make the change so that, one day, the only marine animals that exist are those in the seas, rivers and oceans where they belong.