Fish are excellent pets for kids, and fishkeeping can teach them the importance of responsibility. To set your kids up for success, introduce them to hardy fish that are more forgiving to aquarium mistakes.
You can start them up with a 10- or 20-gallon tank with two to three fish. Over time, your kids will learn about the nitrogen cycle and other aquatic processes. Some of the best fish species for kids are:
1. Neon Tetra
Neon tetras will capture the excitement of your kids as they are a colorful shoaling species. They are easy to care for, which will help your kids to learn the basics of fishkeeping.
Neon tetras display a silvery-blue appearance and a distinctive bright red stripe. They average at around two inches and will thrive in a small tank.
To experience the full beauty of this fish, keep a school of at least three or more and watch them swim around in their iridescent colors.
To spice it up further, equip the aquarium with different-colored LED lights. Your kids will be fascinated by the group of glimmering fish swimming together and darting around the aquarium.
You can keep up to 6 neon tetras in a 10-gallon tank since they do not get very big. Neon tetras are a great community fish, and you can add more species as your kids gain more experience.
A hang on back filter or a sponge model will be enough to maintain a suitable environment for them.
Neon tetras love the hiding spaces created by plants, and you can include broad-leafed varieties like anubias. You can also add floating plants like Vallisneria and Brazilian pennywort.
Neon tetras live on an omnivorous diet, and there is an abundance of the kind of foods that you can give them. You can offer flakes, pellets, and live foods.
Guppies make excellent beginner fish for kids. They can tolerate a range of environments, and they have proven to be exceptionally hardy in the aquarium.
Guppies add vibrant hues to a fish tank, and you will be spoilt for choice, considering that there are almost 300 guppy species with different colors.
They are nicknamed Rainbow Fish, because males tend to have lots of colors. On the other hand female guppies barely have any colors.
You can rear guppies in a 10-gallon tank, as long as you maintain the right conditions. The fish appreciate a temperature range of 75-82ºF and a PH range of 6.0-8.0.
Accessorize the aquarium with live plants and rocks. A dark substrate is ideal because it contrasts well with the colorful bodies of the guppies.
Guppies can easily breed in your tank, so keep one gender when starting out. The fish will live comfortably in a community tank with other peaceful species.
Guppies are omnivores, and high-quality flakes should form the base of their diet. They will also welcome live and frozen foods like bloodworms and shrimp.
3. Molly Fish
Mollies fish are another colorful species that complement a beginner tank well. They are fascinating to watch and will co-exist peacefully with other calm fish.
Mollies are indigenous to Central and South America, where they inhabit freshwater streams. Wild mollies have been recorded in brackish water, but it is advisable to house them in freshwater aquariums.
The most common mollies in the market are the short-finned variety and sailfin mollies. Shortfin mollies are smaller, and they can live in a 20-gallon tank. Sailfin mollies thrive best in backyard ponds, and they can reach up to 5 inches.
Mollies thrive in a well-lit tank with a lot of plants. They will graze on any algae in the aquarium and help to keep it clean.
If your aquarium has no algae, you can provide spirulina flakes or small quantities of boiled spinach. Live food like daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp also make good foods for mollies.
4. Platy Fish
Platies are quite popular in the aquarium trade because of their peaceful temperament and stunning colors. Beginners with low experience can keep platies successfully, which is why they will make excellent pets for your kids.
There are countless hybrids and breeds within the species, and you can get platies with green, yellow, white, red, and blue colorations. They will reach a maximum size of three inches, and the male platies are slightly shorter than the females.
Despite their small size, platies are incredibly active, and you should give them at least 10 gallons to swim around. They have become incredibly hardy in captivity, but try and change 25% of the water every two weeks.
You can use common plants like duckweed, Java Moss, and Hornwort but ensure that there are open areas for swimming. Platies like weak currents and temperatures between 70-75 °F.
5. Swordtail Fish
Swordtail fish are perfect beginner fish due to their low maintenance. It is closely related to the molly fish, and it is easily confused with platies or guppies.
There are plenty of hybrids of the swordtail fish, which has resulted in a variety of their colors and patterns. Their name is an ode to the sword-like shape of their fins.
You can rear swordtails in a 20-gallon tank since they grow to about four inches, including their tail.
Be careful with the gender ratio as males can harass and stress females. Keeping males together will also result in a battle for dominance.
Swordtails thrive in densely planted tanks that should be covered since they are active jumpers. You can install a filter but ensure that you change at least 20% of the water every week.
Swordtails will appreciate a diverse diet of frozen and live food and also dry food.
6. Corydoras Catfish
The calm and gentle nature of the Corydoras catfish makes them an excellent beginner fish. Native populations of the fish have been recorded across lakes and streams in South America.
Corys will reach a maximum size of 2.5 inches, which is notably shorter than other catfish species. The small size of corys means that they can be housed in a 10-gallon tank.
They are a schooling species, and five of them will be most comfortable in a 20-gallon tank.
Another interesting fact with corys is that they are often seen ‘dancing’ in spots with strong water flow. There should, however, be areas with a weak current where the fish can rest.
Selective breeding has made cories impressively hardy, but they still require a pristine aquarium environment. You can buy test kits for your kids so they can monitor the levels of elements like ammonia and nitrates.
7. Bristlenose Pleco
Bristlenose plecos can thrive in a small setup, and they require easy care. They belong to the catfish family and are indigenous to the Amazon river system.
They have earned the nickname “suckerfish” because of their algae-eating tendencies. These plecos will assume a cleaning role in any aquarium and dutifully clear it off any algae.
Bristlenose plecos produce a lot of waste since they spend most of their time looking for food. Equip your aquarium with a sponge filter and a hang on the back model for effective filtration.
The substrate in the natural habitats of plecos consists of gravel, clay, and dirt. Use low-maintenance live plants, driftwood, and caves to mimic the wild habitats of the fish.
The plecos will welcome algae wafers, and you should use the sinking varieties since they live at the bottom of the tank. Supplement the wafers with blanched zucchini, shelled peas, broccoli, and cucumber medallions.
8. Tiger Barbs
Tiger barbs are fun, playful, and colorful, and they will make fantastic pets for kids. They display a gold hue while a black stripe wraps around the bodies.
Tiger barbs typically reach a length of three inches, and they will comfortably live in a 20-gallon tank. Keep 5 or 6 of them to encourage their schooling nature.
They are mostly seen swimming frantically across the aquarium, and your kid will be fascinated by their active behavior.
Tiger barbs love thickly planted aquariums with driftwood, rocks, and ornaments. Provide a diverse and rich omnivorous diet so that the tiger barbs can display vibrant colors.
9. Zebra Danio
The zebra danio (zebrafish) are social and peaceful, and your kid will have an easy time taking care of them.
They have a shimmering gold/silvery coloration and five blue stripes extending from the head to the caudal fin.
Danios will grow to two inches, and you can keep them in a 10-gallon aquarium.
You can use a sand substrate and include lots of live plants like Amazon Sword and Java fern.
Zebra danios will welcome an algae-based flake diet supplemented with live foods and vegetables.
Gouramis have a unique appearance, and there are multiple varieties to choose from.
Flame dwarf gouramis, for example, display a bright red color with an orange gradient, while the blue gourami glows in a bright-blue hue.
Gouramis love free-floating plants like hornwort, waterweeds or floating plans such as forbgits where they can hide in.
You can house gouramis in a 10-gallon tank since they grow to around 4 inches. Use a dark substrate to let the vibrant colors of the fish stand out.
Make sure you get gouramis that don’t grow large. You should avoid kissing gourami or giant gourami, because they will grow to a very large size
Fish You Should Not Buy for Kids
Above, I’ve mentioned some pretty hard and easy to care for fish species. Now, I will tell which fish you should avoid getting for your child:
- Betta fish
- Discus fish
- Oscar fish
Goldfish are very popular, and you might think that this fish is a good choice. Goldfish, can’t live in a small aquarium and don’t even consider putting them in a bowl. They need at least a 20 gallon tank with very good filtration, because they produce a lot of waste. Their tank needs a lot of maintenance, so your kid might not be able to care for a goldfish properly.
Betta fish are also a really popular fish, and many thing that they can live in a cup. This is completely wrong conception about betta fish. They can live in a 5 gallon tank, but a 10 gallon would be better. Betta fish can’t live with other fish, because they are aggressive. Also, bettas are very picky, and will easily die if the water conditions are not right.
Your kid might be in love with sharks, and it might be cool to brag at school about that you have a shark. Though, keep in mind that the shark you buy at the fish store are very young and very small. Freshwater shark, depending on their species, can grow pretty large. For instance, bala shark, in pet stores are sold when they are about 1-2 inches, and can grow up to 10-12 inches. They also need at least a 150 gallon tank to thrive.
Discus fish are beautiful. Though, they are very shy and sensitive fish. You should not get discus for your kid, because often aquarists with years of experience find hard keeping discus fish.
Oscar fish are easy to care for and they can survive in a wide range of conditions. The only problem is their size. Just like with sharks, they are sold as 1-2 inches fish, and they will grow to 14-16 inches in size. They will need at least a 75 gallon tank, but 100 gallon aquarium would be even better.
Fishkeeping teaches kids various life skills, and they also get to see concepts like the nitrogen cycle at play.
You should buy low maintenance fish to start them off, and add more species as they gain experience.