Going for gold: pet firm reports resurgence in fish-keeping

You can’t cuddle or stroke them, and God forbid you should take them for a walk. Yet the humble goldfish is making a comeback as more Britons embrace pet ownership.The switch to working from home has led to a well-documented rise in households adopting puppies and kittens, but the retailer Pets at Home says fish-keeping is also enjoying a renaissance.After a period of what looked like “terminal decline”, said Peter Pritchard, the company’s chief executive, fish-keeping was increasing for the first time since he joined a decade ago.

“People are at home more,” he said. “It is an easy way to get into pet ownership. They don’t need to be walked and you can leave fish alone.”

He said the cost of setting up a tank started at about £50, with the fish “a couple of pounds” on top of that. But as with any hobby, the sky is the limit, with the retailer selling extras such as £60 ornaments shaped like the Acropolis.“Fish-keeping is a hobby that requires a degree of involvement from easy through to very sophisticated,” Pritchard said. “It is very rewarding. A fish tank is an incredibly peaceful thing to have in your home.”

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Owning a pet fish may also be one of the few options open to those living in rented accommodation, suggested Dick Mills, of the Federation of British Aquatic Societies. Some landlords “really don’t want cats and dogs but don’t mind fish tanks,” he said. “I mean, the worst that can happen is that it leaks.”

Fish-keeping is a practical choice but also provides a mental workout as owners must grapple with maths, physics and biology to keep their fish alive – and that’s before you get into what type of fish you are going to own.

“Is it going to be cold water, warm water or tropical marine fish?” said Mills. “You have got so much to choose from. It’s the best living picture you can hang on your wall.”

The shift to working from home has benefited Pets at Home , which has 451 stores and was classed as an essential retailer by the government, as working-from-home Britons lavished attention on existing pets or embraced ownership for the first time.

Membership of its Puppy and Kitten Club – where cat and dog owners receive expert advice and exclusive offers – is up 25% on this time last year. This week the company said sales at established stores were up nearly 8% in the three months to 8 October.

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