Momma Told Me: Choosing Your Child's First Fish Tank: An Affordable Pet That Can Last

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Choosing Your Child's First Fish Tank: An Affordable Pet That Can Last

Choosing the right tank for your child's first fish.
Momma Told Me: If I'm buying it, you're taking care of it!

At some point in your child's life they are going to ask for a pet all their own- if you're lucky, this pet will be relatively small and contained to a tank or cage. The family pet, cat or dog, is the family pet but when a child wants 'their own pet' that means they should be willing to take on all the responsibility of caring for this living creature. Ideally, your child has been socialized with pets an living things enough, by this point, that they understand at least a portion of the responsibility that comes with such a request. So, before you cave into those tear-lined wide eyes at the county fair, an take home 'Goldy,' consider a few simple tips to make those penny 'starter' fish last.
Choosing the right tank for your child's first fish.
You can get a starter tank as low as $10; especially when you consider 'children's' tanks designed for Bettas, and often covered in cartoon characters. Keep in mind that truly the only fish you should be keeping in a tank without filtration (IE 'bowl' style) is a Betta fish. While the classic concept of a goldfish in a bowl can be achieved these fish, which will surface for air, live up to 3x longer in a system with air and filtration. Don't be alarmed, the cost of your starter thank does not have to skyrocket to include these features. You can still invest around $30 for a less 'gimmicky' functional tank that includes these features and even the water conditioners and starter food necessary to let your new family member thrive. The 2.5 gallon AquaTunes fish tank we chose for Sabrina (12) included a complete tank starter kit, and LED color changer/MP3 player for about $34 retail.
Choosing the right fish for a first pet.
Now, our household already had 2 fish tanks; so why were we adding another?

Our Betta fish, Larry, has the No Clean Aquarium we featured almost 2 years ago, and requires no maintenance, aside from pouring fresh water in the top every other day, and feeding a pinch of food every night. The BioBubble we featured last Fall is a gorgeously novel tank that is truly a handful to clean and maintain and much too complex for a 12 year-old. They both house starter fish, but neither feature the hands on accessibility we desired to let Sabrina demonstrate responsibility. Keeping this in mind we choose Guppies for her fish, a step above Bettas, and a tank that was easy to access for care and maintenance. It's important to note, while we looked at and discussed fish on this trip, we did not take fish home, as a tank should be set up and functioning a minimum of 72 hours, to ideally 2-3 weeks, prior to adding fish. Consult an expert in your aquatics department for proper additives and cycling tips and even complimentary water testing. Armed with a hot pink fish net, food pellets, and a bottle of water conditioner, we headed for the most exciting part of our journey (no, not the fish-) the decorations!
fish tank decorations
Children, especially, will easily go overboard and get distracted by the tank decoration selection. If you can, as is the case with most smaller starter tanks under 5 gallons, bring your empty tank to the pet store to choose your decorations (to ensure everything fits on the floor of the tank). Most smaller schooling fish, such as guppies, will like to swim between objects and even hide; consider adding decorations that not just look pretty, but fill this need. Choose soft artificial plants that will add some taller depth to your tank, and consider a main 'center' piece which has access for bubbles and aeration. Your standard pump will have hosing to attach to any basic aerated decoration. If you are choosing a fish that has elaborate fins consider that intricate or 'sharp' ended decorations can result in nicks and tears that can make your fish sick with fin rot.
Set your new fish tank up a minimum of 72 hours prior to adding fish. The healthiest cycle will take weeks- always consult an aquatic expert when starting a new tank.
After you have bought everything EXCEPT your fish, return home. Follow the directions included with your tank, or on the packaging of each element. In general, rinse EVERYTHING with luke-warm water, even your gravel, before putting it in the tank. Make sure to install your flooring an all decorations (hook up your air pump to any filters or decor!) before adding any water. Most starter kits will include a Perfect Start water treatment to remove nitrates and balance PH, but an additional treatment often referred to as a 'Slime Coat' or Organic Water Booster will be optimal for tanks you wish to establish in as little as 3 days (longer establishing period will give your fish better chances of survival). Having a tank that has been running for a while longer before adding fish, will help natural bacterium build for your fish to thrive. You should never bring fish home and put them directly into a new tank.
Choosing your child's first fish.
Once your water has cycled and established, for a minimum of 72 hours (longer is always better- consult an expert for best results), return to the pet store to select your new friends. Most pet stores receive fresh fish deliveries once a week. Ask your pet store what day this is, and be sure you buy your fish 2-3 days after- Much like your tank needs a time to establish, fish that have recently dealt with the shock of transport and transfer will not be as strong as those that have thrived in store for a few days. Don't be afraid to specifically select fish, even in a tank of 20 or more- look for active fish that swim away from the net, and are socially integrated with schools of others. When you arrive home, remember to 'float' your bagged fish in the prepared tank for a few hours before pouring them directly into the water. This will help account for any temperature differences that could potentially shock your new scaly friends.

Now, I know you're dying to see the gorgeous tank Sabrina set up- truly, I'm jealous of it's beauty; but that will have to wait for another post!

What Daughter Says: Set yourself up for success; penny fish can be lasting family members!

12 comments:

  1. We have thought about getting a smaller fish tank for our son. He's still too young to maintain it himself, but I would like something easy to take care of since I'd be the one cleaning it, haha. These all look like really cool options.

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  2. Good idea for a pet for a child. I never had pets growing up (am allergic to most dog/cat hair), wish I did!

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  3. That's so funny I came across your post today! My daughter just tried to tell me she's saving up for a kitten. That's great, but she's 7 and we already have a cat. I suggested maybe we could go our and get her a fish. Well-timed lady! Thanks so much for the info!

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  4. This is a great first pet for a child to take care of. We have been thinking of getting our 13 yo one.

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  5. Now I think I will have to get a fish

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  6. We literally just went through this yesterday. We got a super cute tank and lovely new Beta Fish names Moonlight.

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  7. I love how soothing a fish tank can be but don't envy the upkeep. Such a good point about waiting to actually purchase the fish!!

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  8. I love betta fish - they are so peaceful to watch swim. This is a great post full of wonderful info to make sure that both fish and child are happy

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  9. I love your tip on setting up the tank ahead of time. I swear kids must be beside themselves waiting but it teaches them the responsibility of it all.

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  10. Great idea for a pet for kids! I had a betta for years they're so pretty!

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  11. Love this post! Growing up, I always had fishtanks, and I still do now as an adult. These are good tips, great photos.

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