Most parents have been in a pet store and had their child beg them to get a fish. Having a fish tank can be a great way to teach your children about responsibility and patience. This article will be going into detail on how to best set up a fish tank for a kid. It won’t go in to the specifics of how to set up a general fish tank, which can be found at that link, but more of what you need to consider when setting up a kids fish tank.
When setting up a kids fish tank, you want to make sure it’s going to be interesting, easy to maintain, and has very hardy fish. The last thing you want is for all the fish in the tank to die and have to explain to your kids what happened. A close second might be having your kid lose interest in the fish tank and leaving you to care for it.
Prior to setting up the fish tank, you should definitely do some research on the type of fish you want to keep, more information later in this article. You don’t want to have to disappoint your kids by telling them they can get a fish, only to find out it will outgrow your tank, or that it’s so difficult to take care of that it ends up dead. Showing your child pictures of the fish they will be able to keep in their aquarium before you get to the fish store will help avoid your kids from wanting the wrong type of fish and makes it easier on you.
Keep Your Kids Fish Tank Interesting
The best way to keep your child interested in the fish tank is by having them design the aquarium. You may think a nice natural looking aquarium is best, but your kid will likely want crazy colored gravel and plants, and even crazier decorations. Let your kids imagination run wild when setting up the aquarium. The more excited they are when setting it up, the more likely they will stay interested.
Another great way to keep them interested is to add fish slowly to the tank. Instead of adding all the fish very quickly, which you really shouldn’t be doing anyways, add fish every once in a while. This will keep your kids excited to be getting new fish and keep them interested in the fish tank.
One last trick to keeping your children interested in the fish tank, is moving around or changing out the decorations. Just like adding new fish, adding a new decoration to the fish tank can add excitement back to the fish tank. It’s important not to change out the gravel though, because this is where a lot of the beneficial bacteria lives. Also, when changing out the decorations, you may not want to remove all the existing decorations, because beneficial bacteria will be growing their as well. You could also try a new plastic background, to change the look of the fish tank as well.
Make Your Kids Fish Tank Easy
Depending on the age of your kids, you may need to help them care for the fish tank. Whether it’s you or your kids doing most of maintenance, you want to keep it simple. If you set up the fish tank properly, you should be able to care for the fish tank in 5 minutes each day, and 15 minutes every other week. Each day you just need to check on the tank and fish, and feed the fish. Honestly, if you’re really rushed, you could probably do this in 30 seconds. Most likely, your kids will want to feed the fish, which is a great way to keep them involved and teach them responsibility. Every other week, you will want to do a water change to the tank. All this means, is removing between 15-20% of the water and replacing it with new water. You may need to help your kids with this one if they aren’t old enough. To find out more of what’s involved in maintaining a fish tank, follow that link.
The Right Fish For Your Kids Fish Tank
Possibly the most important thing is, picking the right fish for your kids aquarium. It is never fun to explain to your kids why the fish they bought died. Below are the top five fish for a kids fish tank, that are hardy, stay small, and get along with other fish. There may be other fish that could work well in your tank, but this gives you a good starting point.
White Cloud Mountain Minnow: This fish does prefer cooler temperature and does great in an unheated fish tank, however it can still do well in a tropical tank so I include it in this list. They are an extremely hardy fish that are active swimmers with neat colors. There are two varieties, standard color (seen to the left) and gold. They are easy to care for, making them a great candidate for a kids fish tank.
Zebra Danios: Zebra Danios are a small hardy fish that do very well in home aquariums. They are a very active fish that is best when kept in schools. Zebra Danios are naturally beige with black stripes; however you can get Danio GloFish which come in a wide range of colors. They are genetically modified fluorescent fish, not dyed, and could be an excellent addition to a children’s aquarium. Some people set up just GloFish aquariums with special lighting and gravel to really make the colors pop.
Black Molly: Black mollies are a very hardy fish that can tolerate a wide variety of conditions. This can be great especially for a kids aquarium to help reduce the chance of finding a dead fish. They come in a striking black color, but there are other varieties of molly that would work as well. One thing to be mindful of is they are live bearers and will reproduce if there is a male and female in the tank, so unless you are ready for baby fish, it’s best to just get one fish, probably a male so there is no chance of buying a pregnant female.
Guppies: They come in a huge variety of colors and are generally peaceful fish. Guppies also bred very easily and are live bearers. If you have a male and female, be ready for babies. Another alternative is to just keep all females or males in the tank. Guppies even do well on their own, and don’t need to be kept in schools like other fish. Due to their small size, they can be kept in smaller tanks and will eat any commercial fish food.
Bloodfin tetra: They do best when kept in schools and should be kept in a 20 gallon minimum since they are active swimmers. They don’t grow very large and are peaceful fish. They are hardy fish once they are acclimated to your tank and would do very well in a kids fish tank.
Fish You May Want To Avoid
You may have noticed there are some common fish that you may have been thinking would be on the list. I specifically did not include Goldfish, Bettas (Chinese Fighting Fish), Neon Tetras, or Plecos and here’s why.
Goldfish: Goldfish are one of the most incorrectly kept fish. They require large aquariums and shouldn’t be kept in tropical aquariums, making them a poor choice for a kids aquarium. They also get quite large which means in order to keep more than one, you need a very large aquarium. A common misconception is goldfish can live in bowls and don’t live very long. Goldfish, when properly cared for, can live for 30 years! Most people think they don’t live very long because they are kept in the wrong conditions and unfortunately die sooner than they should.
Bettas: I did not include bettas simply because they are generally not a very active fish. Kids may lose interest in a fish that just hangs out in a corner of the tank. Also, because of their long fins, you need to be careful with the type of fish that can be added with them to make sure they don’t get their fins nipped.
Neon Tetra: Neon tetras are a colorful active interesting fish that stay small, so you might be wondering why I didn’t include them in the list. Neon tetras are actually very sensitive to PH changes and other fluctuations in the water. This makes them susceptible to disease and death in your aquarium, generally something you want to avoid with kids aquariums. They do much better in larger more established aquariums.
Pleco: Plecos, sometimes called algae eaters are not suitable for most home aquariums. They have a very specialized diet of algae which unless you have a large tank, there may not be enough food for them. Also, they get very large, and will eventually require a large aquarium. People usually buy them thinking they will eat all the algae in their tank and keep it clean, but if they do eat all the algae then they will starve. If you really want an algae eating fish, an Otto Cat is a great alternative and stays small. Since I’m talking about algae eating fish, you also may see a Chinese Algae Eater when looking at fish, do yourself a favor and avoid this fish. They eat algae when they are very young, but as they get older they will actually attack other fish.
I hope this helps give you some good guidelines on what’s involved with setting up a kids aquarium. If done right, you can have an interesting, easy to care for fish tank that will keep your kids interested in fish for years to come. If you found this article helpful and would like to know other tips and tricks, including the secrets most fish stores won’t tell you, please join my mailing list.
Fish images provided by Wikimedia Commons