Getting your children into fish keeping
First and foremost it is important that setting up an aquarium for your children is not done on a whim and that both your children and yourself understand that there is an on going commitment to providing a happy and healthy habitat for your new fishy friends.
It is also at this point that you need to consider the age of the children and what tasks they are going to be able to safely undertake with your new aquarium, letting a toddler loose with a water testing kit is neither safe nor practical but for an older child, with adult supervision it can be very educational.
If you are already a fish keeper yourself, it can be difficult not to go in too "heavy" with your children, a middle ground should be found between making sure they are aware of the fundamental basics but not to confuse them with to much science, remember you want to make this fun for them !
So lets start by taking a look at equipment.
If there is one piece of advice worth taking out of this article then it is this - try and avoid "novelty" fish tanks, now this is easier said than done as these are the most appealing to your children in the pet store, however, in reality, they are more often than not totally unsuitable and you will be required to replace it with a proper tank in the not too distant future. Try and encourage your children to make your tank look nice by adding live plants, bits of bogwood, stones etc etc, encourage your children to create as natural environment as possible for your new fish rather than going for a plastic skull with bubbles coming out of its nose in the middle of the aquarium, more often than not these ornaments will cost more than the items required to create a more natural-looking aquarium.
Most pet stores will do a good quality starter kit which will include the aquarium, filter and heater, these are often a good starting point, it's always a better idea to start with a smaller aquarium but when doing this you need to consider which fish are going to be able to live happily and grow to there full adult size in this aquarium, if your children show lots of interest you can always upgrade to a bigger tank further down the line.
I can hear everyone shouting now, "Goldfish" however considering the size of the aquarium we are normally looking at in these situations, more often than not the humble goldfish isn't the most suitable candidate. Small tropical fish like Neons, Cardinals and other tetra are small, colourful and more often than not more suited to get things going. When choosing your fish it is now that you can talk to your children about stocking density (explain why you can't put 500 Neons in a 60L tank, even though they are tiny) and also that the adult size of the fish needs to be considered, that 1" Pleco they are screaming for could end up 2ft+ in length.
Make sure they understand the nitrogen cycle
In our opinion this is the first thing anyone looking to keep fish should understand, it can be explained to children with relative ease using something like the image shown here, it's always a good idea to talk to the children about this before going off to buy the aquarium, this way they will understand that you need to take the aquarium home and let the cycle complete before going back to the store to get the fish.
This is where you step in! You need to make sure that the aquarium is accessible for your children, but somewhere it, and your children activities with it can be monitored, putting the aquarium in a bedroom is strongly discouraged as much as they may tell you they won't mess- THEY WILL!
Check that the aquarium is made of approved glass or acrylic and is impact resistant and that all plugs and sockets are out of reach or covered. It's a good idea to get your aquarium with a hood, that extra bit of security against hands, fingers, crayons or bits of your dinner.
Try and avoid glass cabinets (normally at head hight for a little one !) and keep all medicines, test kits and food out of reach at all times.
Keeping fish can be a great experience for the whole family and can give a common bond between yourselves and the children and can often lead to a lifelong love affair with aquatics, the better the understanding you and your children have from the off the more successful you are likely to be. You can find hundreds of useful articles on our blog that will help, but most of all have fun!
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