Pets' corner: Scary spiders and the truth about Goldfish

Your questions answered by Chamois Rose-Wood

My daughter is frightened of spiders - will a pet spider cure this phobia? Benedetta Menchini, Pembrokeshire

If you buy a spider for your daughter, you will probably make her phobia much worse. Children with phobias need gentle, regular exposure to whatever they are frightened of and this can be a long process.

Spiders are exotic pets and need expert handling. They are relatively clean, do not require lots of space and can be fascinating to watch. Apart from the initial cost of buying a spider and its aquarium, they are inexpensive to keep, far less so than an average pet, such as a cat or a dog. However, nearly all species of spiders are venomous to some degree and most of them do not like to be handled and don't interact well with humans.

How long do goldfish live, and is it true they only have a short memory? George Hammock, Liverpool

Goldfish are sociable and should be kept with other fish, but the tank should not be overcrowded. They can live up to 25 years but the oldest on record lived until it was 43! When a goldfish lives in a tank, it needs to be fed two to three times a day, but don't overfeed. Give them as much as they can eat in a couple of minutes and as a treat you can give them fleas or bloodworms. Don't be fooled when you buy one, because goldfish grow; make sure your tank is big enough.

Even though their body grows, this does not mean their brain grows too, however. There has been a lot of scientific research on goldfishes' mental capabilities, but there is as yet no proof that they've got a short memory, or indeed a long memory.

Send your queries to The Independent Magazine, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or email petscorner@independent.co.uk

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