Fish make wonderful pets for children because they are low-maintenance, self-contained and they don’t need to be held. Owning a pet can boost social skills and foster a sense of responsibility in your child. It can also make them more aware of the needs of others because they have to respond to the demands of a pet. Avoid the most common mistakes made by new owners by not rushing to add lots of new fish and preventing your child from overfeeding their new pets.
Aquariums NOT Fish Bowls
It’s important to choose a high-quality fish tank for your new pets. A tip to remember is that you should have a gallon of water for every inch of full-grown fish. Large aquariums require less skill and are best for beginners, so don’t be tempted to buy your child something small. Forget cartoon drawings, fish should NEVER be kept in glass bowls because they cannot be filtered and the fish will not have an adequate amount of space. Glass tanks are usually cheaper but acrylic models do not chip or break as easily. They weigh less and allow a view of the fish unaffected by the distortion that sometimes comes with a glass aquarium.
As tempting as that new tank may be, don’t introduce any fish to it until it has run for a couple of days. In this time the water temperature will stabilize and you will be able to check that everything is functioning correctly. Make sure your children are educated about the nitrogen cycle and that they are aware that the waste that fish produce can be harmful if the water isn’t cleaned regularly. Special bacteria remove the waste ammonia but it needs several weeks to grow adequately. This is why it is important to start off with a small number of fish. In terms of choosing types of fish, it’s best to pick hardy, easy to care for swimmers with a longer lifespan and make sure you know what water pH they require. Avoid anything large, aggressive or that needs a lot of special care.
Children love choosing decorations for tanks and there’s nothing wrong with having a small sunken treasure chest or a couple of colored pebbles, but don’t go overboard. Try to stick as much as possible with what fish would have in their natural environments, as lots of clutter or very bright gravel might prove stressful for them.