So your child has gotten into the habit of persistently reminding you that he or she wants a pet. Or, you decided that you would like to give your little one a companion animal, in order to have a friend and learn responsibility. However, you don’t have the time to deal with the hair, noise, housetraining and all the other aspects that form part of caring for some pets. Fish can be great first pets, and prepare your children for pets who take a bit more commitment to care for.
Just a fish?
Fish might be ‘easier’ pets, but they do deserve proper care! As with all pets, you have to be sure to do your research beforehand, so you will be able to provide everything your new friend needs. Also, keep in mind that you as the parent are the one who needs to make sure that the fish is well cared for. Children can be fickle, forgetful or lose their enthusiasm when it comes to the new animal. A good idea is to have a family meeting in which every member’s chores in taking care of the fish are clearly established. You as parent then still need to ensure that these chores have been done.
When choosing a fish as a first pet, you need to look at hardy breeds that are easy to care for. Here are some suggestions.
The danio is a tough and energetic fish. He enjoys to actively swim around, and therefore needs a tank in which there is plenty of space to swim and turn around. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to patterns and colours. Danios live in schools and will do best with some tank mates – so you will have to consider getting at least six of them.
With his beautiful long, flowing fins the betta, also known as the Siamese fighting fish, is the top choice for many. Unlike the danio, the betta is not a schooling fish and he prefers his own company. He will also like some hiding places in his tank. Male betta can be aggressive and end up fighting (even killing) each other, so it’s better not to keep them together.
The guppy, with his fancy tail fin, is another extremely popular choice of pet fish. The guppy is a hardy fish and not a fussy eater. They are happy to live in pairs, but be aware that you will possibly have babies if you have a male and female together. They are able to live with same-sex partners, and also do well living with other peaceful breeds of fish.
The black skirt tetra
The black skirt tetra is a schooling fish, but calm and peaceful. This is another breed who will enjoy hiding places such as rocks and plants, as it will give him a sense of security. A resilient breed who will accept and do well on most kinds of fish food, the black skirt tetra is one of the easier fish breeds to care for.
How children can benefit from keeping fish
- While fish can be easier to keep than dogs or cats, they can still play a role in teaching your child responsibility. Being part of the fish’s care can give your child a sense of accomplishment, and also teach him or her respect and to appreciate other living creatures.
- Fish are great educational tools! They are very different from us, being able to breathe under water. Watching the fish go about his daily business is sure to pique your little one’s curiosity. This gives you the perfect opportunity to teach him or her all about animals who live under water.
- We live extremely stressful lives, and this goes for our children too. A fish tank in the house can have a soothing effect – on both children and parents!
- Often losing a pet fish is a child’s first experience with death. While this is never easy to go through, it could also become a valuable learning experience for your child.
Getting them involved
Owning a pet is always ultimately the parents’ responsibility. But, after you have done your research and are armed with knowledge, you can let your children make the decisions, while guiding them in the right direction. This will improve their decision-making skills, and they will have a great time being ‘in charge’! Decisions they can assist with include selecting the fish, as well as choosing food that will be good for him, where to put the tank and how to decorate the tank. And choosing a name for your fish is great fun!