Children and pets seem to go hand in hand. Some parents are often reluctant to give in to a child’s desire to have a dog or cat because of the daily care they require.
But, many will give the green light to a fish tank.
While fish still require a level of care, many parents are more likely to agree to a fish tank because it is contained and doesn’t result in 5 a.m. wake-up calls to be taken out!
With that said, you still need to know what you’re doing if you decide to get your toddler fish. You can’t just fill a tank with water, put the fish in and throw in some food flakes and expect to walk away.
If you do, you may find some fishy friends taking a swim at the top of the tank sooner rather than later.
If you’re considering buying your child a fish tank you need to do your homework when it comes to safety, set-up and which fish are more kid-friendly than others.
When you set-up the right size tank properly with the right fish, your child can take on some of the other responsibilities as they truly learn what it means to be a pet owner.
- What You Really Need To Know
- 5 Big Benefits Of Keeping A Fish Aquarium At Home For Kids
- Aquarium Safety And Small Children
- Setting Up Your Child’s First Tank
- Best Fish for Kids
- Fish Tank Recommendations
- Good Starter Aquarium Kits For Kids
- Fun Aquarium Decoration Ideas Your Kids Will Love
What You Really Need To Know
Your child asked for a fish tank and you obliged.
Don’t just run out to the pet store and grab a tank and a fish. You need to keep several things in mind if you want your child’s experience to be a good one.
If you don’t take your time and do it right, your child may have a not-so-pleasant experience, turning them off to the idea of being a pet owner for life!
You need to consider if your child is old enough to have an aquarium (remember, if he’s a little bit older he can help to take care of the fish and gain responsibility), whether you should purchase a reef tank or freshwater aquarium and where the tank should go.
You also need to keep in mind the time it’s going to take to maintain and whether you have that time in your schedule, as well as a list of items you’ll need.
How Old Does My Child Need To Be To Have Their Own Aquarium?
While all children develop at different rates, there are some basic things to keep in mind if you’re considering an aquarium for your child.
If your child is around the age of one or two, you may consider getting a “shelf pet” like a fish or hermit crab in a small tank rather than purchase an entire aquarium set-up.
These pets are contained and require little care. This is a great way to introduce the idea of a pet.
At this age, you may not want your child to actually do anything to take care of the pet, but they can watch you and you can explain what you’re doing.
When kids hit the Kindergarten age, typically age five, you can consider a larger aquarium. At this point, they can manage some of their own tasks and may be ready to start caring for fish.
As they get older you can add more fish (perhaps you may need a larger tank) and the tasks they are responsible for.
Many times if a child can demonstrate he or she can handle taking care of a fish or other smaller pet, mom or dad will be more likely to give in to getting a larger pet.
Should My Child Have A Reef Tank Or A Freshwater Aquarium?
If this is your child’s first experience taking care of fish you’ll want to opt for the freshwater aquarium tank.
A reef tank not only contains fish, but also corals and other marine life. This means you need to make sure everything in the tank can co-exist well together.
This is a lot to take on for you especially considering the fact that you’re also trying to teach your child how to take care of fish and a tank.
With a freshwater aquarium, you still need to be aware of the different fish you’re mixing in the tank, but you don’t have all of the other “accessories” to worry about.
With a freshwater aquarium, you need to maintain the proper pH levels so the fish will thrive as well as maintain the right water temperature. You should also replace at least a quarter of the water in the tank at least once a month to keep the tank clean and healthy.
These things besides basic feeding and tanking cleaning are enough to keep you busy without the additions that a reef tank brings along with it. As your child gets older and can take on more responsibility you may consider switching over to a reef tank.
Where Should I Put My Childs Fish Tank?
You don’t want to put your child’s fish tank just anywhere, especially if you want the fish to survive. Common sense will tell you to avoid putting the tank on the edge of a ledge or shelf.
As I’m sure you know, kids are accident prone and may be more likely to accidentally knock the tank over. This won’t end well for the fish or for your child.
You also don’t want to put the tank on the floor where kids and anyone else could run into it. Also keep the tank away from any direct sunlight to avoid algae growth and away from any doors. Fish do not like the sound of opening and closing doors.
Since these are all the places and situations you should not put your tank, are there any good places to put one?
Look around your house for a space that’s high enough that the kids won’t knock over the tank, but also low enough that they can still enjoy seeing the fish.
Look for a place that’s relatively quiet (there are virtually no quiet places around the house when you have kids!) and one that doesn’t get a lot of heavy traffic.
The location is going to be different in everyone’s home, so the trick is to find the spot that fits these requirements in your own home.
What Are The Most Important Things I Need To Do?
When you have a fish tank you can assume the basic tasks; feeding, cleaning, and water changes. But it’s not as easy as just throwing some flakes in, wiping down the tank and adding new water.
For each task, you need to take certain steps to make sure you’re doing it right to help your fish thrive.
While the type of food you feed your fish and the amount may vary depending on the kinds of fish you have in the tank, there are some basic things to keep in mind.
- Always feed small portions as to not overfeed your fish. If the kids are helping to feed the fish it may be best to give them the amount over letting them add the food.
- You also want to feed once or twice a day.
- Again, this will be dependent on the type of fish you have and the fish’s needs. When you feed, spread the food around. You don’t want to dump it all in one place.
It’s important to clean the tank regularly to keep it free of algae and anything else that could harm the fish.
When you’re getting ready to clean it make sure you have an algae scraper, razor blade, bucket, towel, paper towels.
- You’re going to want to clean the inside glass first with an algae pad.
- Use the razor blade to scrape off anything that won’t easily come off when you scrub.
- If you have any accessories in the tank you’re going to want to take them out next and clean them separately. Once you do this, it’s time to clean the gravel next by using a water siphon to vacuum away the debris.
- You’ll want to tackle the inside of the tank next along with any lights. It’s best to use vinegar or cleaners designed to clean tanks. Do not use regular glass or lime cleaners.
- You will also need to clean the filter. It is recommended to wait two weeks after you clean the tank to do so. If you do it at the same time you run the risk of triggering an ammonia spike because there aren’t enough good bacteria left to get rid of the toxins.
The amount of water you change and the frequency will depend on the size of the tank. Typically ten to fifteen percent of the water should be changed every week.
Get the old water old by siphoning it. Add the same amount of fresh water back in that you just took out.
For tasks like cleaning and water changes, it’s best to not let the kids be too-hands on. You don’t want them to get hurt. Cleaning and water changes and kids spell a big mess!
5 Big Benefits Of Keeping A Fish Aquarium At Home For Kids
There is no denying that children will learn a lot if they have a fish tank. They will learn about the fish itself, how to feed it, and what makes it unique. You could certainly teach them about fish from a book, but there’s nothing like seeing and experiencing it first-hand.
Stimulates imagination and creativity
Did you ever wonder what fish think? Why they do the things they do? Children certainly do! Having a fish stimulates imagination and creativity by letting them imagine what a fish may be thinking and why they do what they do. Anything is possible!
Fish are Fun
As your child is imagining what the fish is thinking and doing, watching the fish is just pure fun! It’s fun to come up names for the fishes and watch them grow and do their thing.
Increases sense of responsibility
Did the fish get fed today? When was the last time the tank was cleaned? These are both things your child can keep track of to help teach responsibility. If the fish isn’t fed properly or the tank is not cleaned, the consequences won’t be so good. That leads us to our next point.
Helps with negative emotions
Let’s face it; no matter how well you take care of your fish, it will eventually die. Children need to learn that death is a fact of life. Having a fish will help them deal with the negative emotions that go along with losing a pet. It will also help them to rebound and move on when something sad happens.
Is It Safe To Have A Fish Tank In A Child’s Room?
There is not a “one size fits all” answer to this question. It all depends on the size of the tank, where the tank is located, and how old your child is. Should you put the tank on a shelf above your child’s bed?
But, can you put the tank on a shelf that poses no risk of falling down? Maybe.
Look around your child’s room and see where there may be space and if that space is adequate. If you’re comfortable adding it in, do so. Some children find watching the fish swim relaxing. This could make for a good soother if your child has trouble falling asleep.
If there is no room, keep the tank in a more common area where more people can keep an eye on it.
The Potential Hazards
If you are leaning towards adding a fish tank in your child’s room, you need to be aware of the potential hazards that exist.
If the tank contains lights or anything else that requires electricity you want to make sure the outlets are not where kids can yank them out of the wall.
Invest in an outlet cover or try to move the tank where kids can’t reach any outlets. You want to make sure any cords involved with the tank are grounded. Use drip loops to avoid letting the dripping water run into an electrical outlet.
If you are putting the tank on a shelf in your child’s room, you want to make sure the shelf is stable and is not high enough that it can crash down.
You want to be mindful of any water leaks from the tank due to cracks in the glass or other issues. If water leaks on the floor, kids can easily slip and fall.
Also, if water leaks near an electrical outlet, you’re setting yourself up for some dangerous consequences. And if the water leaks, the fish are obviously in danger.
If you notice a leak it’s important to get the fish into a container of water where they are safe.
How To Childproof Your Fish Tank
No matter where you decide to put your child’s fish tank, it needs to be childproof. Kids can be pretty crafty when it comes to getting into spaces they shouldn’t.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
Lockable aquarium hoods & cabinets.
This may be an option depending on where you are displaying your aquarium. You could get a glass cover for the top of the tank and then try to attach a latch and key. But, the glass cover should be enough.
Many of these covers lock in place. Even if your child tries to get the top off, by the time he actually tries to do it, you would have noticed and stopped him. You could also search for a cabinet that locks to avoid the tank from falling.
Child-friendly aquariums & equipment.
Once you decide to get fish you’ll be able to find aquariums that are child-friendly. Many are clearly labeled “child-friendly” and are made of acrylic and not glass, so if it should fall there will be less of a danger. If you are getting a glass tank, know that it can easily shatter if dropped.
When there are plugs around children you want to make sure they are all protected and hidden. You’ll want to invest in covers that cover the entire outlet when something is plugged in.
Colorful for visual impact.
Kids are visual. They like to see things as well as touch. Make your tank as visual as possible by adding colorful lights. Just be sure that they won’t harm the fish.
Setting Up Your Child’s First Tank
Now that you know the dos and don’ts that go along with your child’s first fish tank, it’s time to set it up. Follow these steps for success:
Choose the right fish.
There are some fish out there that just aren’t kid friendly. You want to choose ones that are not only easy to maintain but also not aggressive.
We’ve got 5 great ideas below.
Select your equipment.
Besides the fish, a tank, and water, there are several other things you’re going to want to have with you when you set up the tank.
A filter, some gravel, a top or cover, a towel, food, and a heater (depending on the fish), are all things to consider.
Cycle your tank.
You’ll need to cycle your tank (run the tank without fish) when you first set it up in order to establish a bacteria bed in your biological filter to remove the toxins the fish create.
For a closer look at how to cycle your tank properly, check out this video
The process is something you need to see and hear explained in order to fully understand it. You’ll typically want to cycle your fish for at least a day before adding any fish.
Unpack and release your fish.
When your tank has been properly set up, it’s time to release the fish. Before you bring the fish home you want to double check the water temperature and levels to make sure it’s ready for the fish.
When you get the fish home, pour the bag over a net with a bucket underneath it. You don’t want to empty the bag with the water inside into your tank. Carefully release the fish in the net into your tank.
Easy weekly and monthly maintenance.
Keeping up with tank maintenance will keep your fish healthy and living longer. Weekly you’ll want to remove any algae and use a gravel vacuum to get any waste at the bottom of the tank. Every two weeks you should test the pH level, ammonia, and nitrates. Monthly tasks include changing 25% of the water and testing the hardness of the water.
Fish like to be fed every day just like we do. The number of times you’ll need to feed the fish will depend on the type of fish. Every day you’ll also want to take a look to make sure the filters and heater are working properly.
Best Fish for Kids
If you walk into a pet store and start looking at fish you’ll get overwhelmed at just how many exist. Furthermore, which ones are best for toddlers?
Let’s take a look…
#1 Betta Fish
Care level: Easy
Max size of fish: 2.25 inches
Temperature range: 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit
pH range: 6.5-8.5
Betta Fish come in so many colors that your child is bound to find one in his favorite color. It is actually one of the most popular fish in the U.S. The Betta Fish is also inexpensive which is great for you!
Care level: Easy
Max size of fish: 1.5-2.5 inches
Temperature range: 64-77 degrees Fahrenheit
pH range: 7-8.2
Platy Fish are also kid-friendly because of their colors. They come in red, blue, and sometimes even gold. But, don’t confuse them with the goldfish. They’re also very active so kids will enjoy watching them swim around.
Care level: Easy
Max size of fish: 6 inches
Temperature range: 74-84 degrees Fahrenheit
pH range: 6-7.5
Angelfish are peaceful and enjoy swimming around the tank. So, this could provide hours of enjoyment & entertainment for your kids!
Care level: Easy (they’re also inexpensive fish which also makes them popular)
Max size of fish: 2.5 inches
Temperature range: 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit
pH range: 7-8
Guppies are also colorful fish that are peaceful. They are tiny so you want to make sure they don’t get in a tank with other fish that are too large because they could end up as dinner.
Fish Tank Recommendations
Besides knowing which fish are best, there are also other basic recommendations to keep in mind. Here are some of the most popular questions people ask when it comes to fish tanks for children.
What is the Best Size Tank for Kids?
A 20-gallon tank is often recommended because the smaller tanks don’t offer the proper room and filtration for kids to take care of fish properly. If you really want them to get the full experience and learn how to take care of fish the right way, a 20-gallon tank is the way to go.
This way the fish have enough room to swim and feed. Kids can truly observe them and also have room to decorate the tank. If you don’t have room for a 20-gallon tank you could also go with something 10 gallons or larger.
Acrylic vs. Glass: Which Is Better For Kids?
We all know that if a glass fish tank falls or cracks it’s not going to end well for anyone involved. That’s why many people opt for acrylic tanks. But, they also have their pitfalls. Before you decide which way to go, take a look at the pros and cons of each.
- Weighs less than glass
- Easier to move around
- Harder to break
- Scratches easily
- Requires a stand to support the bottom of the tank
- Harder to clean
- Cheaper than acrylic
- Allows light in better
- Can support more weight
- Can break and shatter easily
- Heavier to move and lift
In the end, it comes down to preference. If you want a lighter tank that won’t shatter, go for acrylic. If you want one that’s easier to clean and sturdier, glass may be your better option.
Good Starter Aquarium Kits For Kids
If you’re ready to buy an aquarium for your child, consider one of these starter kits.
This one is a favorite because it’s easy to maintain and provides great lighting. It’s also big enough to add decorations.
This is a good choice for kids as a starter aquarium because it has a five-gallon capacity so more than one fish can call it home. It also comes with everything you need to get started.
Kids will love it because they can see the fish on three sides of the tank.
Fun Aquarium Decoration Ideas Your Kids Will Love
If you want to make the idea of getting an aquarium even more fun, add decorations. Choosing a kid-friendly theme is always a good idea. Here are some suggestions:
Disney aquarium decorations.
You’ll find Disney aquarium decorations in just about any theme. If you really want to stay with the fish theme you can choose “Finding Dory” or “Finding Nemo”. There are also plenty of princess themes to choose from.
Little Mermaid fish tank. Go under the sea with Ariel and the gang with this theme. This is another favorite bound to put a smile on your child’s face.
Star Wars fish tank. May the force be with you and your fish. Let Yoda, Darth Vader, and other favorite characters call your fish tank home.
Pirate ship & skulls. If your child is into pirates, ships and skulls would make a great addition to your tank. Any of these decorations can be found in your local pet store.
This is a really great article on how you can make your own custom aquarium decorations using some of your children’s toys.
When it comes to finding the right fish and aquarium for your children, keep this guide in mind.
Always ask questions if you’re out shopping and just don’t understand something pertaining to the fish.
Remember, having an aquarium is supposed to be fun! Keep this mind as you make fish a part of your home!