Have An Elderly Who Is Lonely, Depressed? Try Fishkeeping. Here’s Why & Tips For Beginners
Updated: May 12
Mental health and wellness issues, such as loneliness and depression, are a major concern for elderlies. Fishkeeping, a “quiet” hobby, can help with that, according to Shi Qing Poh, founder of FishyHub Pte. Ltd., a digital marketplace for aquarium-related products and services. We spoke to Poh to discuss positive impacts of fishkeeping for elderlies as well as fishkeeping tips for beginners.
Name: Shi Qing Poh
Company: FishyHub Pte. Ltd.
Specialization: Aquarium expert and enthusiast
Base Country: Singapore
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Q: Can you tell me about yourself? What is your background and how did you start your company, FishyHub?
Poh: My academic background is in engineering and economics. After graduation, I worked in technology-related companies. That said, I’ve always wanted to do my own things.
In college, I built my first app for people to exchange second-hand products. Later, I had many other ventures, including starting a bubble tea business with some friends and pioneering the “bubble tea face masks”. The mask has a hole on it where you can put the bubble tea straw through.
Keeping fishes as pets has always been a hobby of mine. When I was a student, I would drop by my neighborhood’s local fish store almost every day to look at the fishes that I wanted but couldn't afford to buy.
Turning Problems into Opportunities
After having my own home, I started building my own fish tanks. I tried multiple times but most of them ended up in failure. I lack the knowledge to make things work, and I couldn’t get help, not even from the local merchants.
After speaking to more people, I realized that this issue wasn’t unique to me. Many people jump into this hobby without proper knowledge, and this resulted not only in the fishes dying, but also the eventual quitting of the hobby. I decided to turn this widespread lack of education into a business opportunity.
In my last job, I spent six months testing and experimenting the prototype for FishyHub. After gaining customers and fundraising from my family, friends, and clients, I decided to quit my job and run this business full-time.
Q: What is FishyHub? How is it different from a local, traditional fish store?
Poh: FishyHub is a digital marketplace that aggregates local fish stores, farms, and suppliers in the aquarium industry and connects them with consumers and aquarium hobbyists. Besides allowing customers to purchase all the things they need online, we bridge the knowledge gap by educating and recommending appropriate fishes and products best suited for the clients’ personalities and aquariums.
By providing education and convenience to fish keepers, we hope to create a win-win-win situation that will benefit the consumers, local merchants as well as the aquatic animals.
Q: What is your typical customer and what problems do these customers face?
Poh: We serve the full range of fish keepers, from the very experienced to those that are totally new to the hobby. Each of these segments have their own problems that FishyHub tries to solve for them.
Experienced Fish Keepers
For the very experienced fish keepers, they have very specific demands. They don’t generally need to go down to the fish stores to look at the fish because they know what they want to buy. They know the type of fish and the kind of equipment, and they are very particular about brands. It is much easier for them to buy online. As a digital marketplace and one-stop shop, we carry a wide variety of fishes and products and that works well for them.
For the more expensive fishes like arowana or certain species of cichlids, FishyHub has a “What you see is what you get” feature where through images and videos, fish keepers can see the exact fish that they are buying.
We also hold live auctions regularly, where merchants can sell their fish online and fish keepers can bid their favorite fishes real-time.
"Beginners" - The Less Experienced
For the less experienced fish keepers or what we call “beginners”, they are usually the ones who go to fish stores to compare because it’s like a discovery process for them. They are more likely to find new species and then buy on impulse. For beginners, they usually experiment with different aquariums and very often fail in their first few tries.
For this group of clients, that’s where the education comes in.
FishyHub has customer support that is almost 24/7 to help beginners make the right decisions. It starts from a customer quiz that allows us to know what the customers’ personalities are, what tank sizes they want and what fishkeeping level they are at before we proceed to get more detailed information on their needs and preferences.
The most important thing we need to know is their desired tank size because that is the determining factor of how many fishes and what types of fishes can be put in the tank to avoid killing the fishes.
Common Beginner Issues
A lot of beginners are unaware that overstocking tanks can kill fishes. We had a customer who bought a goldfish and complained that the goldfish died two hours after being released into the tank. After some investigation, we found out that he had overstock the tank with too many fishes and the condition of his tank was what caused the goldfish to die.
It’s less important to know what kind of fish the beginners want. Most of them know very few species even though there are thousands of species out there. Once we have better knowledge of their requirements and restrictions, we can recommend suitable fishes, including those that the beginners didn’t know about, to help them in the discovery process.
People With Zero Experience
Lastly are the customers who have zero experience in fishkeeping. They often don’t have the basics of fishkeeping, go to a fish store and suddenly realize that they need to buy a whole lot of different items.
Most people think that fishkeeping comprises just three things - fish, tank and water. It doesn’t work that way. An aquarium also needs the right filter, light, air pump, substrate (eg. pebbles, materials to cover the bottom of tanks), rocks, sand, soil, bacteria (responsible for maintaining water quality and creating a safe environment for fishes), plants, fishes, medication and so on. There are roughly about 20 components in an aquarium.
Even if you try asking a fish store for help, you may not always get all the answers you need.
For this group of customers, FishyHub provides hassle-free aquarium packages called “adventure packs” that allow brand new beginners to easily set everything up right right from the start. If some customers prefer to buy things separately, we can send them a list of the recommended items based on their needs and wants. In this way, we help educate customers to do things correctly.
Check out FishyHub Adventure Packs here.
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Q: Are there any segment of the market that you are looking to target?
Poh: There are two segments that we are targeting – existing pet owners and people looking for stress relief, mental wellness and to beautify their homes.
For existing pet owners, such as people with cats or dogs, they are already qualified animal lovers, and they are used to keeping high maintenance pets. Many of them don’t mind having another type of pet that is relatively low maintenance.
For keeping fishes for stress relief, mental wellness and to beautify their homes, an example of such people will be retirees or elderlies. Surprisingly, there are many elderlies on FishyHub. Many of them prefer to buy online because they don't have to go all the way to the fish stores to get the fish and equipment that they want.
A Hobby That Attracts Elderlies
Many elderlies started fishkeeping as a hobby because it’s something that they can take care of at home. It’s not only good for stress relief and mental wellness, it also gives them something to do continuously, such as sprucing up their tanks by decorating them or just looking at fishes swimming around. It’s less physically demanding compared to other pets such as dogs, where you have to walk them outside on a regular basis, and cats, where they are always hiding somewhere, and you can't find them.
A customer, who’s a retiree, once told me that he enjoys being a fish keeper because it’s a “quiet” hobby. Having an aquarium where he can sit down and gaze at the fishes is very relaxing. There are no barking or other noises. Fishkeeping requires less commitment compared to keeping dogs or cats, and he could still find companionship with fish, just like any other pets.
Check out more things to do for elderlies/retirees in our Retirement Marketplace.
Q: What services do you offer that can help elderlies in this hobby?
Poh: Aquascaping and maintenance are services that we provide that would be suitable for elderlies.
There is a change in trend among the elder generation. In the past, people used to keep large tanks with basically just one big fish, like the flower horn or the arowana. These days, the trend is aquascaping. Many elderlies use our aquascaping packages to spruce up their tanks with aquatic plants and create mini jungles or gardens in it.
For elderlies and people who don’t have the time or don’t want to spend the effort to maintain their tanks, they will choose our maintenance package. It includes services such as cleaning the filters, lights and inside of the tank, as well as replacing dead aquatic plants. This maintenance service is helpful for elderlies in terms of labor work, especially if they have large monster tanks.
The maintenance service costs vary based on the size of the tank and whether the tank is a bare tank, heavily or lightly planted tank. We are looking to standardize the costs so people can get this service directly online just by selecting the option that suits them without the hassle of having to call us.
Q: What are the key things beginners should know for fishkeeping?
Poh: Before anyone dive into this hobby, there are a couple of important things they should be aware of.
One, an aquarium is going to be a huge and visible part of your home. If you live with your family, make sure you should get their consent first so that you don’t get into arguments.
Next, once you buy your new tank and equipment, you need to let the tank “cycle” for at least two weeks before you introduce any livestock into it. Cycling is the process of allowing beneficial bacteria to grow so that they can breakdown the harmful substances that fishes and plants produce. The water parameters in new aquariums are generally not ideal. By allowing the tank to cycle, it stabilizes the new environment and make it a safer place for your fishes.
Three, don’t overfeed your fish. You only need to feed your fish once a day. Most people kill their fishes by overfeeding them. Overfeeding also causes the water in your tank to become dirty faster, which means you have to do more cleaning. If not, the fishes can die from the dirty water.
Lastly, fishkeeping is a very addictive hobby. Do not underestimate the cost, time and effort that you may spend on it.
Aquarium hobbyists are collectors. You may start off with a small tank and only a few fishes, but through time, you will buy more fishes. Once you start buying more fish, it’s natural that you start buying more tanks to accommodate more fishes because some fishes can’t stay together in the same tank. For example, you can’t put goldfish with small community fish, such as the tetra fish, because the goldfish might eat them. All these costs add up.
When you have more fish tanks, you also have to spend more time maintaining them.
Q: There is a community that thinks capturing or enclosing fishes are unethical. What are your thoughts on this?
Poh: I believe that everything starts from awareness and education. There are many things that people are unaware of and uneducated about when it comes to the aquarium industry.
Once people are more educated about how to care for fishes correctly, it can minimize the killing of fishes and provide a safe and happy environment for them, which is no different from owning any other pets. We want people to know that having an aquarium not only helps to relieve stress and mental wellness, but it can also help them appreciate nature more, and subsequently, want to take better care of mother nature.
Undeniably, there are currently many problems within the industry. But FishyHub is tackling these issues one by one, working hand in hand with farms and local suppliers to create a healthier aquarium ecosystem for customers and aquatic animals.
Q: What are FishyHub’s future goals?
Poh: Our goal is to bring the aquarium community together and build a more automated system. What we have now is an automated FAQ to walk people through our website step by step, instead of relying entirely on manual messaging.
In future, we will be able to ask you a series of questions, such as “What tank size do you have?”, “Why do you want an aquarium?”, “Is it for stress relief, Feng Shui or a new hobby for retirement?”. At the end of it, you will be able to build your customized virtual aquarium before you finalize your purchase.
This interview has been edited for length.
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and get 7% off all purchases (min. spend SG$50)!
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What are the benefits of fishkeeping for elderlies?
Fishkeeping is good for stress relief and mental wellness. It is less physically demanding and requires less commitment compared to keeping other pets such as dogs or cats. Elderlies often find companionship with fish, just like any other pets.
How can I get started on fishkeeping?
FishyHub provides "adventure packs" that are hassle-free aquarium packages to help brand new beginners to get started with this new hobby.
Use the Immortalize X FishyHub coupon code "Immortalize7" to get 7% off all purchases (SG$50 min. spend)
What should I beware of before I start fishkeeping as a hobby?
Make sure you and your family have reached a consensus about this new hobby of yours.
For new tanks, you must "cycle" it for at least 2 weeks first before you introduce livestock into it.
Don't overfeed your fishes.
Don't underestimate the cost, time and effort that you may spend on keeping fishes.
Is it ethical to keep fishes as pets?
Once people are more educated about how to care for fishes correctly, it can minimize the killing of fishes and provide a safe and happy environment for them, which is no different from owning any other pets. Fishkeeping can help people appreciate nature more, and subsequently, want to take better care of mother nature.
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