Sneakypete, I commend you for doing your research thoroughly before you acquired a pet, any pet! More people should do their research, regardless if what they are getting is a fish, bird, cat, hamster, dog, etc. Every person who is considering getting a pet should do extensive research to determine whether or not that pet is the right one for them and their family. If more people took the time and researched, less animals would be given up or abused.
I agree, fish have feelings just like every other living creature does. I had a couple of Jumbo Pacus that were great fish. They recognised our family members, particularly the ones that maintained their aquarium and fed them daily. They let us know through their body language if they were content or if something was upsetting them. I loved all my fish. It hurt when they passed. I also believe that individual fish has unique personalities, just like other animals.
I also agree that most people you find in pet stores selling fish know very little about their upkeep. I don't agree with keeping fish in a small tank or bowl or vase. That is why I only every owned medium to large aquariums and would never go smaller.