Freshwater fish make the perfect pets for children, especially those who have not had fish before. This is because freshwater tropical fish take little work, once the tank has been set up properly. Children are able to learn responsibility for another creature, without the pressure of an expensive animal that mom or dad will bear the brunt of care for. Not only that, but freshwater fish do not make near as many messes as a puppy or kitten, and they smell far better than a hamster or other rodent!
Keeping fish is a good way to teach children about the cycle of life. Older children are less likely to get as significantly attached to a fish as they would to a dog or a cat. When the fish die, which they will from time to time, it is a great opportunity to teach children how to deal with loss, on a less emotional scale. Keep in mind that when a fish does die, it will be harder on the child than you expect. You may have to have a fish funeral, and the child might have a mourning period. This is good, as it teaches the child how to deal with grief.
The most obvious choice for a fish for a child is a goldfish. Goldfish are inexpensive, so if your child makes a mistake, you are not out much financially if the fish dies. Goldfish also do not require a heater, as they are cold-water fish. If you are buying a fish for an extremely small child, this is a great idea because you will not have to mess with an electrical heater in the water, which can cause electrocution if not handled properly. Keep in mind, however, that goldfish need a fairly large aquarium, as they grow up to twelve inches. Many parents go out and buy a tiny fish tank for their children, and put a few goldfish in it. This is a bad idea, as the fish will not be healthy in a small tank.
Kids like to have variety and color in their fish tanks, so they may not want a tank with just gold fish in it. If you decide to go with tropical fish, have your choices made before heading to the fish store. There are many colorful tropical fish that require much more care than a child will be able to provide. By having your choice made before heading to the store, you can avoid an argument.
Setting up a tank should not be left to the child alone. Make sure your child, depending on his or her age, has a part in the set up process, but adult supervision should take a part in setting up the tank. This is because an improper setup is one of the main reasons that new fish die in a brand new tank. Help your child to properly set up the tank.
Avoid the temptation to buy your child a tiny tank. The smaller the tank, the harder it is to maintain a proper balance of chemicals in the water. If you can afford it, go for around a twenty-gallon tank, even for a child. If not, try not to go smaller than ten gallons. A ten-gallon tank is a good size for a child to clean, but it is also large enough to provide a fairly stable environment for the pets.
Help the child to set up the environment, but encourage the child to choose the decorations. This will help to instill the idea that the tank and the fish are their pet and their responsibility. Once the tank is filled, make sure you de-chlorinate the water.
When you go shopping for your child’s fish, try to steer them towards hardy fish, such as danios and barbs. The more hardy the fish, the less likely they are to get sick when put in a brand new tank.
Live bearing fish, such as guppies, platies, and swordtails, are excellent choices for children. These fish are colorful, and live well together, so your child can have a variety of fish in his or her tank. Live bearing fish are astonishingly hardy as well. Your child will have fun picking out a favorite amongst all the colorful guppies! Keep in mind that you will need some females in the tank, not just males. The females are not as colorful, but they are a necessary part of the tank.
Here are some common starter fish. Small barbs, like the tiger barb, gold barb, and rosy barb are good, but keep in mind that they may be nippers. Tiger barb are notorious for nipping. The larger tetras, like the head and tail light tetras, red eye tetras, red minor tetras, and Buenos Aires tetras do well also. Most danios and rasboras also work well as starter fish. If you are looking for live bearing fish, consider going with platys or guppies. Most of these fish can survive the first tank cycle without dieing.
Keep your starter fish in your tank for a month or so. Observe them closely, and monitory the chemical quality of your tank. If all appears to be good, you are ready to add some more tank mates. Research which type of fish will live well with the ones you already have.
Carefully teach your child how to put the new fish in the tank. Help them know how much food to feed the fish, and how often. Once they get the hang of feeding the fish, you can step back and allow your child to enjoy their new pet. The great thing about fish as a pet for children is that they do not suffer to terribly if they go a day or two without a meal. If your child forgets to feed the fish, they will be fine, as long as the get fed eventually. Fish really are the perfect first pet for children!