For many aquarium-lovers, the fascination with keeping a fish tank starts at a young age. The colors, sounds and movements happening in a fish tank spark curiosity in children of all ages. Unlike other pets, which can require lots of upkeep and space, a fish tank can provide all of the emotional benefits of pet ownership with a little less hassle.
A fish tank in a toddler’s room is a great idea. Not only are fish tanks visually engaging, but they are a great learning tool for young children. Observing the fish in their habitat can lead to some great questions and exploration of underwater life. Toddlers will also learn social and motor skills by helping to care for the fish- with some help from adults. Caring for a pet is also a great way to inspire confidence and a sense of responsibility in children.
Of course, while the child might be the one asking for a pet, it’s the adult who will be the primary caregiver. This is especially true for toddlers or other young children. It’s important to keep this in mind when investing in a fish tank for your toddler– they might be asking for a reef tank out of Finding Nemo, but is that something you will be able to maintain? As with all aspects of aquarium keeping, be sure to take on what you are sure you can manage. Life with a toddler can be demanding, so we will be looking at some low maintenance fish tank options for a toddler’s room. If you are a seasoned fish keeper who would love to go the extra mile for a complex setup, that is of course also fine! It is all up to personal preference and comfort level.
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Fish Tanks for Toddlers
There are plenty of fish tanks and kits that are marketed as being kid-friendly. Many of these options are super small, very cute, and decorated with every cartoon character imaginable. Before you reach for that Paw Patrol fish kit, keep in mind that the smaller the fish tank (or worse, fish bowl) that you get, the more cleaning it will require. Small tanks hold less water, which means it gets dirtier faster.
Many of these smaller fish tanks also don’t have room for a proper filter, such as “betta bowls” or other tiny options. Having a filter is not only recommended for keeping the maintenance of your fish tank down, but it’s also super important for the health of your fish. If you do not have a filter, you will have to be cleaning the fish bowl multiple times a week to keep the fish healthy- though rarely is a fish bowl large enough to keep a fish energetic and happy. Skip the fish bowl, and get a tank with a filter.
Larger fish tanks are much easier to maintain once they are established, often only needing partial water changes every few weeks. Although they are often more plain looking, they can be very affordable and allow you to customize your setup to your own preferences. To get started with a basic fish tank for your toddler, it’s recommended to get at least a 5 gallon tank. 5 gallons is the minimum required space for the smallest fish, and is still small enough to fit nicely on a shelf. It is also recommended to opt for a freshwater aquarium instead of a marine tank, which require extra equipment and care. Don’t forget to also provide a filter, a light, some gravel or substrate, and any tank decorations that you enjoy!
Best Fish for Toddlers
Many people envision goldfish as the ultimate beginner fish for your tank. While they are a hardy fish, most people don’t realize that they grow to be quite large, and need a minimum of a 20 gallon tank. They are also notoriously messy fish, and produce a lot of waste- not the best fit for a low maintenance toddler fish tank.
There are certain qualities to look out for when searching for a low maintenance fish.
- Hardiness: When shopping around for a child-friendly fish, it is most important to pick something that is hardy. Hardiness refers to how well a fish can survive sub-optimal conditions. If your child forgets a feeding, or the water temperature fluctuates, you want to make sure that you have selected a species that will be able to handle it without issue.
- Size: Depending on the size of your tank, you will probably want to choose fish that are on the smaller side. Smaller fish allow for more space in your tank, so that you can have a small fish community. You also don’t want to accidentally purchase a fish that will outgrow your tank and become unhealthy.
- Temperament: If you plan on keeping more than one fish, you’ll want to make sure that the species you are selecting is peaceful. If you’re not careful, you could end up with an aggressive fish who might attack and injure their tank mates.
Luckily, there are plenty of great species that fit the bill. Here are a few species that would be well suited to a fish tank in a toddler’s room.
- Bettas: Bettas are very popular fish because they are very beautiful to look at. Bettas come in every color of the rainbow, and can have distinct tail shapes that drift elegantly through the water. Bettas are solitary fish and are best kept alone, so they are a good option if you have a 5 gallon tank. If you have a larger tank and are looking for multiple fish, do not choose a male betta. They are very territorial and can be aggressive to other fish. Female bettas have been known to coexist peacefully with other fish, provided they have enough space to roam. Bettas are tropical fish, and do best when their tank is kept heated. Otherwise, they require very minimal care.
- Platies: Platy fish are a great choice for a toddler’s aquarium. They come in a variety of colors, are very peaceful and grow to a size of about 3 inches, suitable for a smaller aquarium. Platies come in many different varieties, such as the Half-moon, Comet and Swordtail platy. It is worth noting that these fish are known to be jumpers- so make sure your fish tank has a secure lid!
- Neon Tetras: Neon tetras are another popular choice of fish for beginners. These tetras are small- around 2.5 cm long- and are schooling fish that should be kept in groups of 3 or more. They are easily recognizable by the shining, bluish stripe that gives them their ‘neon’ title. Keep in mind that more fish means more waste, so be sure to invest in a good filter to keep things running smoothly.
- Guppies: Guppies are a great fit for a toddler’s aquarium. They come in any color combination imaginable, are peaceful, and very small. Several guppies can be housed in a smaller tank, or they can be a great addition to a larger community tank with other non-aggressive species. Kids will love the variety of colors that these fish come in, and they are a joy to watch. Guppies are live-bearing, which means they give birth directly to offspring instead of laying eggs- and they are very prolific. Be sure to have a plan in place if the baby fish start to get out of hand.
Safety Considerations for a Toddler Tank
There are many items that can be considered dangerous for a toddler, especially if they are left unsupervised. Fish tanks are a great opportunity for young children to learn more about wildlife habitats and pet care, however a fish tank is still a piece of equipment. Similar to lamps, electronics and wading pools, it is an object that could be a potential safety hazard to a young child.
It is extremely important to take safety precautions when adding a fish tank to your toddler’s room. All electric wires and plugs should be safely out of reach. The tank itself should be secured on a shelf or table where the child cannot reach it if unsupervised. All chemicals, food and other fish care items should be stored safely away where they will not be ingested. Remember, a toddler can’t be the primary caregiver for a fish tank- all interactions must be supervised by an adult.
A fish tank is a great addition to a toddler’s room. Compared to other pets, fish are uniquely suited to almost any living space. Observing pet fish and caring for their habitat establishes confidence, builds skills and fosters a sense of curiosity in young children. Fish tanks do require maintenance, which will fall to an adult in the household- so a low maintenance tank with hardy fish is often the best option. It is worth taking the extra care to research your tank and fish species beforehand to insure a positive experience for you and your toddler.