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Fish as Pets for Children

Do you want a pet which:

Makes no noise?
Makes no smell?
Is cheap to feed?
You can leave for up to two weeks when you go on holiday?

Then perhaps keeping fish is for you!

There are three different types of fish keeping which people normally think of:  keeping goldfish in a bowl, or maintaining an aquarium (tropical or marine fish).    Click to go directly to these pages..
Gold fish in a bowl
Goldfish in a bag

Some thoughts about fish keeping:

Walking home from a fair proudly holding a fish in a plastic bag (which had probably cost 10 times more to win than to buy in the local petshop) used to be many people's introduction to fish keeping.  A goldfish bowl (typically round and glass) would be purchased, and the fish kept in there for the remainder of its life.  The fish would be fed a pinch of fish food a day, some gravel and plastic plants would be put in as ornaments, and water would be changed when it looked too cloudy and messy.  Water changes involved emptying out some to nearly all of the water, and filling up the bowl again from the tap. 

Surprisingly, fish did sometimes live quite long lives in these conditions.

Many a hobbyist fish keeper started in this way - but these were the people who started to look into the real art of fish keeping and soon learnt that even keeping a single goldfish involved a little more in the of care and consideration in order to not just give it an existence it could tolerate, but one in which it would be healthly, happy and thrive.

A goldfish in a bowl is undeniably a pretty thing to look at, and it can be relaxing watching it swim around.  As with any sort of fish tank babies and young chldren can find it fascinating to watch.  But lets think about the goldfish for a moment - take it out of the bowl, put it in a garden pond and see what happens.  In a few years you will have a fish that has grown considerably in size.  But it you leave it in that bowl it will never grow, and will remain stunted. 

Fish keeping is a compromise - fish kept in captivity may not reach their full potential as in the wild, but alternatively they could live longer and happier lives.  It is up to us, their keepers, to give them the conditions that enable this.

Keeping fish is a science.  To keep a fish healthy you need to mimic the enviroment that it comes from.  An aquarium is a miniature eco-system which you are in control of. 
Tropical fish

What children CAN do....

Fish need to be fed regularly - just the right amount and not overfed.  Most children can learn to do this, although adults do have to keep an eye that the tank is not going cloudy which is a sure sign of overfeeding.  Fish can benefit from not being fed for a few days, as they will eat the algae in the tank, and other natural substances, so a little neglect will not harm them occassionally.

What children find a little more difficult

Fish do need to be cleaned out - a fortnightly basis for a water change is probably advisable.  A younger child can take responsibility for cleaning out goldfish in a small tank, although do need supervision if you want to avoid the possibility of a fish disappearing down the sink!  If tropical fish are involved children need to be around 12 years before they can do a water change properly - and if you value your carpets!  Tropical or marine fish need to have an expert eye cast over them regularly to spot early signs or disease or anything else going wrong in the tank.  Until your child can understand how to use water test kits, for example, they will need your support to look after these undemanding pets in the way that keeps them happy and healthy.
Is your Child ready to keep Fish?

This can only be a rough guide only as it depends on your child, your household, and how much you yourself will want to be involved.

More Information

Keeping and Caring for Goldfish
Keeping and Caring for Tropical Fish
Affican Cyclid