Fish Are the New Pet of Choice for Stressed-out Chinese Youth

Low on time, space, and money, some young people are choosing to keep fish instead of cats and dogs

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6:03 PM HKT, Thu January 18, 2024 1 mins read

Pet ownership is steadily rising in China, but some young people are turning their backs on cats and dogs and choosing to keep fish instead.

The challenges and uncertainties of contemporary life have led many young people in China to seek less demanding and overwhelming pets. Fish offer a simple and low-maintenance alternative to cats and dogs, which may require considerable time and attention.

A viral post shared on Xiaohongshu by a high school student, “Tomato That’s Right,” highlights the trend. The student recounted her experience of raising fish in a plastic pencil holder on her school desk, garnering around 10,000 likes.

The trend extends beyond this single post, with other young individuals sharing images online of the fish they keep in their homes or college dormitories.

Fish on School Desk China

A photo shared by “Tomato That’s Right” of the fish she keeps on her desk. Image via Xiaohongshu.

Stressed by education or work, these young people may not have the time and resources to take care of more traditional pets like cats and dogs. In such cases, keeping fish seems more feasible. Some people even start by growing aquarium plants, then later add fish to their tanks.

Another Xiaohongshu user, “Cicada on a Willow Branch,” shared a transformative experience, stating, “Before I could not understand the middle-aged men who like to raise fish as pets, until I brought some home.”

“When I returned home one night, I found numerous baby fish in the aquarium. The angelfish gave birth without any warning, and for the entire night, I crouched in front of the fish tank, scooping up the tiny fry."

Moreover, creating a personalized space in the fish tank, adorned with decorations, allows young pet owners to enjoy moments of tranquility.

“I like to watch fish at night. By looking at them, I feel connected to the fish, and that brings internal peace to my heart. Raising fish is not only a way to relax, but more an attitude towards life. It teaches me to go with the flow, and understand the very nature of life, simplicity, peace, and intelligence,” another user posted.

Some go on to discover the deep depths that fish ownership can entail, and fully embrace it. What began as a simple endeavor taking care of low-effort pet can quickly evolve into a full-time hobby. They dive into researching the ideal environment for fish, or even learn the chemistry behind maintaining ecological balance in tanks.

Others feel overwhelmed and realize that owning a cat or dog might actually be simpler than raising fish perfectly. One Xiaohongshu user, “Freely Walking Fa,” commented, “I started keeping fish and realized how much easier a cat would be. For fish, you need to control the temperature, add [disinfectant] Methylene Blue, use cotton filters, scrape algae, and so on.”

Cover image via Xiaohongshu.

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