Fish for Kids: The Benefits of Fish as Pets

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fish and kidsDo your children have pets? Do they take an active role in its well-being and its care? There have been many studies on the positive benefits of children having pets. Not only does owning a pet provide social, health and educational benefits to children but current research provides evidence that owning pets also affects positive attitudes toward wildlife (Prokop and Tunncliffe, 2010).

A new category on Wildlife Fun 4 Kids will highlight different pet options for your children. We’re going to start small. If your child doesn’t own a pet, you might like to consider fish.

We decided to get a fish tank about three months ago and it has been a wonderful experience, both for the kids and myself. There’s something beautiful about seeing your children’s noses squished up into the glass of a fish tank, it’s just so adorable.

What you need to keep fish

  • A fish tank- start with a really easy setup like this
  • Gravel
  • Plants and other accessories
  • A filter – This one reminds me of the filter in Finding Nemo
  • Heater  and thermometer (for tropical fish)
  • Aerator
  • Fish food
  • A good water testing kit and water stabilizers. I use Sechem Stability and Prime for my stabilizers.
  • Cleaning products
  • Net

pet fish

Our whole fish tank ended up being more expensive than we thought it would be. We bought a second hand fish tank with a filter and aerator at a market for $30 (two foot long), which was a bargain but by the end of set up it cost us approximately $150 (not including fish). So, make sure that you do your research and get a tank that suits your price range.


Fish tank set up

Firstly, no matter what tank you decide to buy, you’ll need some patience. After you’ve set up your fish tank and added water, you’ll need to let it sit for up to two weeks before adding the fish. The filter needs to build the good bacteria that will help it to dispose of fish waste. If the fish tank’s not ready, the fish can die from ammonia poisoning.

Make sure you discuss the maintenance of the tank with your children too. Although fish live in water, a fish tank does need to be cleaned once a week, 10 % of the water needs to be replaced and it’s a good idea to use a gravel cleaner. Children may not be able to clean the tank depending on where your tank is situated. If it’s on tiles, then you should be fine if they spill some water but if it’s on the carpet, it might better a better idea for parents to do it until a child is a bit older.

Also, don’t forget to discuss what could happen if the fish are overfed. Ammonia levels will sky rocket and your fish might die. Why not design a chart that lets each person in the family take an active role in taking care of the fish each day.

 Feeding fish

 The benefits of children keeping pet fish

  • The concept of animals living in water and not being able to breathe air amazes children. Having a fish tank is a perfect opportunity to learn about fish and understand their gills and behaviour. It can also lead to learning about all animals that live under the water too.
  • Fish come in an array of different, size colours and shapes – perfect for extended learning.
  • Children will learn how to take care of fish and feel a sense of accomplishment every time they do so.  Keeping fish builds responsibility.
  • Owning a fish tank is a stress reducer. Watching the fish swim peacefully through the water and the bubbles floating to the surface can really relax you.  If you have a child that’s rather emotional, this might be a nice place to sit them if they are feeling a little overwhelmed or overtired.
  • Children may have the added excitement of seeing one of your fish having babies. Miss Possum was so excited to see 12 baby guppies swimming and hiding around the plants. We watched them grow and she loved and learnt from the experience.

There are plenty of benefits to keeping fish but of course it is one of the least hands-on pets. You can’t touch them, you can only watch. It’s important to keep that in mind if you decide this pet is for you.

Do you have fish at home or at school? What do your children like about them? Have you noticed positives of keeping fish as pets?

More information

Don’t want fish? Why not try sea monkeys, mealworms, snails or crickets!

*Prokop, P and Tunnicliffe, S. 2010. Effects of having pets at home on children’s attitudes toward popular and unpopular animals. Anthrozoos 23: 21-35

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  1. says

    Great ideas to think about Penny…many i hadn’t thought of! We had a huge fish tank and a goldfish pond at our last house and they are such lovely things to watch…very relaxing and often funny!

  2. Callen says

    What I love the most about this article is that you actually discuss cleaning! The key to a successful and healthy tank is time to cycle before adding fish (or being very watchful of ammonia and nitrite levels during the 2-4+ weeks!), weekly cleaning, and good food. It’s not just about tossing fish into a tank and hoping for the best.

    My unborn child will likely be a fish nut just like it’s mommy!

    • Penny says

      Callen, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. When I was a teenager, I went through a bit of a fish frenzy. I learnt so much about them and loved the experience. I then went to uni and had to give it up. Ten years later (with three children) and I am feeling the joy of having fish again. I love it so much. I think I’ll always have a fish tank in my house now.

      My husband needs to worry about be buying more. I so want to breed my bristle nosed catfish! So glad there’s other fish nuts like me out there!

  3. says

    Fish are about the only pet we could have. My girls were given a “Magic Fish” set for Christmas – have you ever seen them? You are given little shrimp eggs that you have to hatch and then fish eggs that you have to hatch and feed the shrimp to. Anyway, they were so excited but neither the shrimp or the fish hatched. Maybe we should try again with fish that aren’t magic.

    • Penny says

      I think they are our Sea Monkeys. Miss Poss loved them. They lasted the longest ever, I think it was around four months! It’s a shame yours didn’t hatch. We had to be rather careful with the water if I remember correctly. Fish might be a better option for you. Our fliter just died (my fault) and so I had to rush out and buy another one before my lovely fish died. Luckily, I got one just in time.

  4. says

    We had fish…but….the turtles ate them 😀 We have two little turtles, Frankie and Squirt which the kids love. At the moment I take care of most of the cleaning because (and I know some people would argue otherwise) I think they are just a little too young at the moment. But they do enjoy feeding them and talking to them, oh and having lots of pats too 😀 … We also have two snakes…. but that’s a whole other story 😀

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