Think about that for a second, and show him this post.
Fish cannot "think" and force their bodies to grow a certain way, to a certain size. They will always grow as nature intended them to, they cannot rationalize that "oh hey, if I grow anymore, I won't have enough room. I'm just gonna stop growing". Fish can no more do that than people.
Think of it like this - you could take an infant child and place them in a glass box 3ftx3ftx3ft. As an infant, this is 'enough' space, TECHNICALLY speaking. But as they grow, they will grow cramped and crooked and deformed, not to mention severely psychologically/physiologically damaged. The same goes for fish. They cannot force their bodies to stop growing. They cannot sense that they have too little room to grow.
You could put a great white shark baby in a 55 gallon tank. For a few weeks the baby may have "enough" room, although will be hampered by insufficient space to exercise. Will the shark stop growing to fit this space? No. He's going to grow, and grow, and grow, until eventually his physical body can grow no more. However his internal organs will, and eventually he will die from this.
That isn't even mentioning the fact that the water volume will be insufficient to dilute his waste, and he would poison himself with his own excrement.
Fish however will get stressed from the lack of room, and will often turn very aggressive and frustrated. It's like being confined to one room in your house. It will drive you crazy. They will release chemicals that will affect everyone else in the tank and make them miserable.
Sorry to be graphic, but that particular sentiment upsets me a great deal.