Pet Population Data reveals one million fewer fish tanks in the UK

Latest pet population statistics show that there are around 1 million fewer fish tanks in people’s homes, possibly due to rising energy prices. Outdoor ponds – which saw a big leap during the pandemic years as more people spent time in their gardens – have remained fairly steady at 6 million, down just half a million in a year.

Pet Food UK’s Pet Population data reveals that in 2023 there are 7 million indoor tanks which equates to 15% of the population and 6 million households are enjoying an outdoor pond (12% of households). This compares to 8 million fish tanks (17% of households) and 6.5 million garden ponds (12% of households) in 2022.

“It is perhaps not surprising to see that indoor fish tanks numbers have dipped in the past year. It seems likely that rising energy prices have made people take the sad decision to shut down their tanks,” remarked OATA Chief Executive Dominic Whitmee. “There is plenty of advice online about how to make small changes to tanks that will help lower energy costs and the numbers of tanks in households remains higher than in the pre-pandemic years so looking longer-term these are still high figures for our industry.

“Nevertheless I think this shows that the price of energy is affecting our industry and not just for home aquarists. It is particularly frustrating that despite intense lobbying and robust data, the Government has continually ignored our requests for aquatic businesses to receive additional financial support during the energy crisis because, like fishkeepers, high energy prices are severely affecting them.”

Marine aquariums have been particularly hard hit by the Cost of Living Crisis.

What we think

The news that, as a country, we are running one million fewer fish tanks and half a million fewer ponds is a devastating blow to our industry. Aquatic shops rely not just on the initial spend in getting a tank or pond set up, but also the ongoing spend on fish and accessories that aquariums and water gardening may bring. One million fewer fish tanks and half a million fewer ponds will equate to hundreds of millions of pounds of lost revenue for our aquatic retailers this year, and at a time of record inflation and running costs of those businesses. 

It also goes to show that no matter what we perceive to be a buoyant industry when viewed on YouTube and social media platforms like Instagram, the only thing that made people keep more fish was a government lockdown, and the factor making them close down or avoid the hobby altogether is the Cost of Living Crisis. Influencers actually play no part in the growth of the hobby in real terms, despite having hundreds of thousands of followers. It comes down to plain old economics, or in the case of the Covid pandemic, restrictions on other activities, and boredom.

There has never been a tougher time to run a UK aquatic business and with significant start-up costs, running costs, squeezed margins, and a downturn in potential customers, the horizons are looking gloomy for most aquarium and pond retailers.    

Jeremy Gay

Author of three fishkeeping books and lifelong fishkeeper. Experience includes editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, editor of Pet Product Marketing magazine, multi award- winning livestock manager and aquatic store manager.