I’m just going to cut to the chase and tell you the answer … YES fish do make great pets for the whole family and especially for kids.
Pets in general though are a big responsibility. They often live for a long time and so it’s really important put the effort in when selecting your pets to get something you can manage. No one wants to see animals treated badly, ignored or disposed of and it’s a wonderful chance to teach your kids the value of life and for them to be responsible for some of the ongoing care of your pet. We recently added some fish to our family for this reason.
As a child and a teenager I kept fish of various types and I found them manageable, very relaxing to watch and engage with and so I wanted to share some of those things with my own family. The kids were very excited about getting a pet again and they been involved in the whole process of setting things up and selecting the individual fish.
Here are a few things to consider if you are thinking about keeping fish:
Fish are very contained pet … Clearly they can’t run around the yard mess up the house but they do acquire a bit of ongoing care to keep their own environment clean and healthy. They are a very relaxing and enjoyable pet to watch and they’re surprisingly interactive in some cases. It’s possible that certain fish may reproduce too and it can be interesting working through that with your children. In the grand scheme of things they are not very expensive and supplies are very easy to come by.
Fish tanks are usually made of glass and so they need to be good quality from a reputable dealer … They come in all shapes and sizes and there are some awesome, modern looking tanks available. Regardless of what you see in the movies, small bowls are not appropriate places to fish. Apart from the tank you’ll also need to consider a lid, light, gravel, a filter, plants and ornaments and most likely a heater if you plan to keep tropical fish.
Once you have your tank it is important to set everything up and get it running for a good week or so before introducing a few fish. Fish tanks work better if fish are added over time rather than everything put in on day one. Tap water contains chlorine and other chemicals that can harm fish however you can buy water conditioner in a bottle to help with this.
We have chosen to have 2 different places for our fish. A small pond type setup in a fake concrete barrel outside for some goldfish and a small 50L tank for some tropical fish upstairs. That size tank is a very manageable first setup for a beginner or family trying out fish keeping. Ours has a built in filter and light.
Types of Fish
There are a huge number of different species of fish that are suitable for keeping at home but the biggest groupings are the saltwater and the freshwater fish. Almost everybody keeps freshwater fish because it’s cheaper and much less technical to keep the water and environment right.
Some fish are suited to cold water but most of the fish in a pet store are tropical fish and these will require a special water heater for most places in winter. Be sure to check that you have all this before selecting your fish.
As always, speak to a professional aquarium dealer about the best fish for your setup … They’ll be able to tell you the adult size of each fish, their lifespan and any special treatment that they may need. It’s too much to cover here but if you measure up your tank they will also be able to tell you how many fish will be suitable and manageable for you.
You will need to do the research about how to best care for your particular fish species but some general rules are that it is mostly about maintaining the water quality, feeding the right foods at the right times and just looking at your fish make sure they stay active and look healthy.
Most places recommend removing around 20% of the water each week and replacing it with fresh water. This helps maintain the balance in the tank and keeps it clean … the easiest way to do this through a siphon tube into a bucket.
Fish generally eat a few times a day and often not as much as you would imagine so be sure to read the directions carefully and try not to overfeed your pets. When you go away you may have to ask someone to come and feed your fish and there are some products available that may suit such as feeding blocks.
Overall fish are excellent pets that require only a small amount of work each day. They are great for kids and an easy first pet to teach them about being consistent and responsible with animals.