Most parents with young children feel a certain amount of reluctance to bring home a little kitty or puppy for the kids … very young children tend to be rambunctious with each other and don’t realize the fragility of small animals. There’s a difference between a three year old tumbling around on the floor with his four year old sibling and a three year old using the little kitty as a pillow! There’s also inherent dangers in the little animal using his natural survival instincts to ward off a child – kitty may take a swipe with his claws, while Rover may decide to take a little nip.
Nonetheless, kids have a great deal of natural curiosity of the animal kingdom. Setting up a gold fish bowl is one safe way to teach kids about pets and pet care. The gold fish bowl doesn’t require extensive equipment. The bowl and a little food keeps everyone happy. Gold fish are fairly sturdy creatures and young kids can begin to learn that they need to provide some care and develop some respect for the needs of other living critters. With appropriate supervision, toddlers learn not to overfeed their little creatures and watch them thrive.
By the time those toddlers have learned about the goldfish needs, they’re ready to graduate to a more complex fresh water fish environment – a 5 or 10 gallon fresh water aquarium is an ideal transition to your kids knowledge of animal life. Unlike the gold fish bowl, the fresh water aquarium can accommodate a dozen or more little fish, with different habits, along with additional requirements for care. The new and larger aquarium becomes an exciting project for youngsters. Both you and the kids have acquired confidence in their ability to take care of this more advanced foray into the world of animals.
The equipment required for a fresh water aquarium is minimal: a 5-gallon to 10-gallon tank, a hood, filtration system, pump and lighting is about all you need for this project. Shop the classifieds and garage sales for used aquariums. You’ll find some real bargains there. If you’re buying a used fresh water aquarium setup, be sure the tank has no leaks or cracks. An acrylic aquarium is a safer bet than one made of glass, as the chance of breakage is eliminated.
Before you purchase any fish, you’ll need to create a habitable environment. This phase involves thoroughly cleaning the tank, whether new or used. Rinse the aquarium well with fresh water several times, scrubbing down the sides and bottom, to clear out any dust or algae. Now it’s time to pay a visit, with the kids, to your local aquarium shop. You’ll need aquarium gravel sufficient to cover the bottom to a depth of two to three inches. As with any aquarium, the fresh water aquarium occupants need to have some plants in which to hide or doze. For the beginning aquarium enthusiast, plastic plants are preferable to live plants, requiring little maintenance. When it’s time to clean the aquarium, it’s an easy matter to remove, clean and replace the plastic plants. Let the kids pick the plants, along with a few ceramic accessories, such as a bridge or little ‘house’, which in addition to being decorative, provide additional hiding spots.
Take these goodies home and let the kids help set up the fish in their new fresh water aquarium home. Install the filtration system and place the rocks on top. Set up the pump. Place the ceramic figures, distributing evenly around the aquarium. Fill the tank with water, leaving a couple of inches leeway at the top. Now put your plants in place, seating the ‘roots’ firmly in place, well into the layer of rock. Turn on the pump and be sure everything is in working order.
Now, back to the aquarium store. Ask the staff for advice on the most durable of fish which are also compatible house mates. Get a can of appropriate food. Bring the fish home and let ’em loose – gently. Put the hood on and turn on the light. Your fresh water aquarium is a success! The kids will be transfixed and their imaginations growing!