Many parents believe that maintaining a home aquarium and caring for fish, in general, is too time-consuming and complicated for kids, but the truth is that fish are some of the easiest pets to look after.
Essential Tips When Teaching Kids to Look After a Home Aquarium
Fish are a safe pet option when you have allergies, and they’re the perfect companion for those of you who don’t have enough time to look after a puppy or kitten.
What’s more, studies have shown that fish are actually great for child development, and they have great educational value. Keeping an aquarium inside the house can teach kids interesting things about aquatic life and kindle their interest in biology.
One study conducted by the National Aquarium in collaboration with the University of Exeter also found that fish help children (and not only!) cope with negative emotions such as stress and anxiety.
If you feel like looking at fish gracefully swimming makes you forget about your worries, you’re not alone: researchers have found that viewing aquariums can improve your mood and lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
And that’s not all. A home aquarium can stimulate your child’s creativity and teach them about responsibility from a very early age. An aquarium is not just beautiful to look at but also a responsibility.
To keep your fish healthy and expand their lifespan, you need to clean the tank regularly, respect a certain feeding schedule, and keep the right water conditions.
All of these things can be a bit complicated and age-inappropriate for a child, so does this mean that you should postpone getting an aquarium until they grow up?
Not necessarily. Children can actually help you look after the aquarium and learn a few important lessons about responsibility along the way. That being said, you have to follow a few safety rules and make sure that the tasks you give them are age-appropriate.
Can Children Safely Look After an Aquarium?
The short answer is yes. Children can safely look after an aquarium, and this is actually good for their long-term development.
Now, here’s the long answer: children can safely look after an aquarium but, when asking them to help out, you should take into account their age and explain to them from the very beginning that fish are quite unique pets with different needs to dogs, cats, and other animals.
To us, some things about fish care may sound obvious, but children can end up hurting them while having good intentions.
If you’re not sure that your child is old enough to help out with aquarium-keeping, here is a small guide to help you out:
Ages 2 to 4: as you may have guessed, small children cannot actively help with maintenance, but an aquarium can still have great educational value because your child can learn the difference between fish species by looking at their shape and color.
Ages 4 to 6: at this age, your child can understand how fish move and how much space they each need in the aquarium
Ages 6 to 9: your child is now old enough to understand the signs that a fish is ill or point out when the algae at the bottom of the tank have grown. With supervision, they can even monitor the water temperature to see when it needs changing.
Ages 9 to 14: under your supervision, your child can do more complex tank maintenance tasks and differentiate between the needs of various fish species. They can even help you choose new accessories for the aquarium, set them up, or build things such as underwater castles and hidden entrances.
Top 3 Aquarium Maintenance Concerns
Looking after an aquarium can be a great team-building exercise for the entire family. However, to make sure things go smoothly, you should follow a few organizational tips.
- Streamline the cleaning schedule. Everyone should know how often the tank should be cleaned and whose turn it is to clean it. When assigning your child to aquarium cleaning, make sure there’s always an adult around. This isn’t a difficult task, and even smaller children can help with it, but they do need adult supervision to avoid injury.
- Make sure everyone has information on overfeeding. It can be tempting to give a lot of food to fish more often than they need to, but as good as your intentions might be, overfeeding raises ammonia levels and reduces fish lifespan. To avoid this, make sure everyone has a guide on the recommended feeding amount and have them tick a box when they’ve fed the fish so that the other family members know.
- Sharing responsibilities. In a family with one aquarium and multiple children, dividing maintenance responsibilities can be tricky. One way to make it fun is to design a chart that shows that tasks need to be done daily, weekly, and monthly, and who is in charge of what. To make it age-appropriate, you can download a colorful PDF template, edit it, merge pages with the tools from this site, print it, and place it right next to the aquarium.
What Aquariums Are Safe for Kids to Be Around?
Although fish, in general, make good pets, some species are better than others for kids. And we don’t just mean the bright and colorful ones that are fun to look at.
Most parents want to postpone the difficult conversation about pet deaths when fish go belly up, which is why you might want to look at the more resilient species, such as Siamese fighting fish, goldfish, Gourami, Danios, and the neon tetra.
But, no matter what you choose, the fish aren’t shouldn’t be overcrowded and, if you get more than one species, they should be compatible.
As for the aquarium itself, a 20-gallon tank is usually recommended, but you can go smaller if you don’t have enough space.
Acrylic is better than glass because it doesn’t chip and doesn’t distort the image, and you should make sure that the top of the tank isn’t easy to remove by children.
Some other articles you might find of interest:
Learn more about these sought-after fish breed this 2021:
Betta Fish – What Are They And Whether Should You Get One
Are you looking for freshwater aquarium ideas?
25 Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish For Beginners in 2021
Match your aquarium and freshwater fishes here:
Colorful Freshwater Fishes for Your Aquarium – Appearance, Behavior, and Compatibility