Tell me about aquariums...

I’m thinking about getting an aquarium for Aaron’s room. He really enjoys looking at the fish swimming around, and I think it’d be good for him as he gets older to help take care of something.

What is involved in setting one up, and what kind of fish are suitable for something like this? And, finally, how much work is involved in keeping one going? And am I even asking the right questions?



I’d say, if you have friends you really, really hate but you have to be nice to them, give their kid an aquarium.

Find yourself an aquarium store or a pet store, and they’ll have some kind of cheap setup. The process is slow, you’ll want cheap fish (freshwater, not saltwater) and plastic plants to get started. It’s not really much maintenancel, but it’s a headache. It’s not much maintenance compared to a hamster or puppy, but it’s a lot of maintenance compared to a poster of Spider-Man.

It’d be daily feeding; weekly or bi-weekly change of filter, vaccuuming the gravel, and adding new water; and then occasionally pulling out a dead fish.

I was given a really nice aquarium for xmas a long time ago. What a pain in the ass it was. We had to get a hospital tank for when the fish got the ick, a maternity tank for when the babies came…and cleaning the tanks was NO FUN.

We ended up giving them away.

You’re better off getting a couple of goldfish in a bowl. Way easier.

But they’re pretty!

A little waterfall filter to tinkle in the corner of the room, little fishes floating around with such grace and beauty. I remember reading somewhere that owning an aquarium lowers your stress.

A 10 gallon aquarium with a few 10-cent “feeder fish” (instead of the $2.99 fancy ones), and a water / filter change change once every other week or so and you’re set. Just make sure to never change all the water at once.

I have seen you talk about Aaron before but I don’tknow how old he is… I just want to say one thing about in-room aquariums. Make sure it is affixed firmly to a good wooden, or solid metal stand, because I am sure the last thing MsRobyn wants to pick up is 20 gallons of water and gravel all over little Aarons room…

But I will say that Mrs.Phlosphr and I thought without children as of yet, do have a very large fish tank in our living room. 90 gallons with live plants and the lot inside. I doubt any child could pull that over, but a small 10-20 gallon tank is possible. So Just be careful Robyn thats all.

I am sure a well kept aquarium with some neet little guppies would be great way for Aaron to lol to sleep or sta awak watching them till he falls asleep. I know my sister has a wonderful set up for my 3 year old nephew and 18 month old neice…


Hands down.

I’ll chime in.
I had one when I was about eight, 10 gallon. Angelfish, mollies that ate their babies, swords, all died within a short time (6months?) But I remember it as a learning experience and that’s probably why we have a tank today.

For starters, as everyone has said, keep it simple. Plastic plants and cheap, hardy fish. They will die. This is not a bad thing. It helps teach young’uns about death in an easily manageable manner, and prepares them for the real thing.

Internet reasearch is a must, but the thing that will be the biggest pain is water changes. Clean water, and the right ph value is what keeps freshwater fish the healthiest. You want to get a big pot of tap water, put in some anti-chlorine drops and a spoonful of aquarium salt and leave it out for a few days before changing about 20~30% of the water almost weekly. The filter as often as necessary but you can sometimes rinse out the one you have and go another few days, keep in mind the little guys are swimming around in their waste and a lot of little bacterias will be there too.

This is a pain, especially for kids.

A lot depends on the fish…goldfish are very hardy and the 12 cent feeders can grow to enormous sizes if you take care of them. But they poop and foul the water a lot quicker than, say some little neons. We have two dwarf puffers right now and they are just SOO cute.

It’s easy to get too ambitious and get too many fish - typically a new one will come home. be introduced, and suddenly your other fish are sick and die. This makes you want to give it up.

The tank usually needs some “settling” for a few weeks to allow the bio-cycle of bacteria, poop, air. etc to stabilize. Once that happens and you change the water regularly you can go a long time with no trouble.

I suggest a small beginner tank, a few fish, and all the internet research you can do. It can be a nice hobby, but they’re animals, and once you agree to take care of them then that’s a big responsibility.

Good Luck.

get a betta or two. it will start you off easy and they don’t require a lot of “stuff.” just a bowl or vase, water, gravel, fish, and a small bottle of food. no electricity or pumps or heaters. if aaron likes fish as he gets older you can add a tank then.

keep in mind one betta per container.

I like rocking chair’s idea the best. Aaron is six months old, and while he’s deeply fascinated watching fish swim, I don’t know how long that’s going to last. So I think the fish-in-a-bowl idea will be great for now.


One option is to get the type of tank I have, it’s an Eclipse System 12 (12gal). The really nice thing about this tank is the “Bio-Wheel” this feature makes water changes less traumatic, and the tank more healthy in general. The wheel is essentially a waterwheel that fills up with the beneficial bacteria that keep the ammonia levels down. I was able to change all the water in the tank at once (a BIG no-no, I have since found out) without killing the fishies. It’s kinda pricey, around $70, I think, but I find caring for the fish to be VERY easy with it.

Other helpful tools, an algae mitt to clean the glass, a siphon/gravel cleaner item (I clean the gravel while draining water for water changes) and that’s about it!

When the tank starts to look a bit dirty, I:

take out all the ornaments
use the siphon to drain about a quarter of the tank, cleaning the gravel in the process
clean the ornaments with VERY hot water
draw fresh water at roughly the tank temp, adding anti chlorine chemicals
add back the fresh water (use a big plastic cup) and ornaments
change the filter

This takes about an hour, total time, and I only have to do this once a month, maybe. I’ve kept the number of fish pretty low (9 little fish), which probably helps a lot, and I don’t have goldfish (I hear they’re very dirty).

I spend very little time caring for these fish. easiest. pet. ever.

Get a twenty or twenty-nine gallon tank to start. The larger amount of water is more stable so the fish live longer.

Get tough fish at first. Guppies (all colorful males) and a catfish, maybe a cherry barb, but start with 5-7 fish at most. Neons are fragile.

Add a few drops of nox-ich or stress reducer every PARTIAL water change. Better safe than sorry.

Feed less than you think you need to.

Cheesesteak: Use hot saltwater, heavy in salt, to clean your ornaments. It’ll kill the algae and make it easy to remove. Rinse very well before putting them back into the tank.

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break and just watch the fish swim around. It’s like one of those Japanese sand gardens, it lets you relax your head a bit.

Pet stores have aquarium starter kits. They should include everything you need.

Get the following, either in a kit or out:

  • A 10- or 15-gallon tank
  • A top for the tank with a light (comes with starter kits)
  • Some gravel (come with some start kits but not all)
  • A pump/filter (comes with starter kits) - preferably Aquaclear brand, very simple and hardy
  • A water heater - preferably the ones that look like test tubes. Cheap and simple.
  • A fish net
  • Some plastic plants and a few rocks. Buy these at the pet store.
  • Fish flakes
  • A little thermometer; you can get some that stick to the tank
  • Two 5- gallon buckets

Don’t buy any fish. Yet.

Find a sturdy place for your tank - a 15-gallon tank weighs 150 pounds - and set it there. You need access to an electrical socket. Put the gravel in the tank and fill it with water.

Set up the pump. It should come with a few filters. This is pretty easy; it comes in about five plastic parts. The filters should not have to be changed every week; every month or two is more like it. Set up the heater, which just clips to the top of the tank and hangs into the water. Safety tip: the cords from the pump and heater should either run UPWARDS to the power supply, or should run down, then go back up to the power supply.

Set up your plastic plants and your rocks in attractive styles and let the pump run for a few days. Try to arrange your rocks and such so that there are places for fish to hide. Fish like having safe places. Fiddle around with the heater until the water is stuck around 78 degrees.

After a few days, go get some fish. Small freshwater fish. Try to find a store that is actually a tropical fish dealer, not a generic pet store. Ask the salesman for 4 to 6 fish that are hardy and have pleasant dispositions. Do not get one fish of 6 different breeds; get 4 fish of the same kind, or 2 of one kind and 4 of another. Fish like being around the same kind of fish. Tell him you are starting a new fish tank; he will know which fish are best for new tanks. He will give you some fish. Make sure you have fish food.

You will be given your fish in plastic bags of water. Go home and place the bags in the tank and leave them for 15-20 minutes. Then cut a hole in the bags, let in some of the water, and leave them for 10-15 more minutes. Then let the fish out into the tank. Turn the light off for a little while; they find it less frightening.

Feed them twice a day. You should feed them enough that they will eat it all in two minutes. For 4-6 fish that’s VERY little food.

A 15-gallon tank might handle up to 8-10 very small fish. If you get that many, you may want to get an air pump with an airstone. Ask at the fish store. It’s easy to set up.

Every week have your kid pour some water into one of your 5-gallon buckets. After the water has sat for 3 days take a bucketfull of water OUT of the tank, get rid of it, and pour in the new water you’ve had sitting around for 3 days. (The purpose of the wait time is to get rid of chlorine.) Do this once every week or so. Make it a routine.

Your fish should thrive (e.g. live longer than six months, maybe.) If the tank gets dirty you may be feeding them too much. Don’t be afraid to go a day without feeding them just to let the tank catch up. Hungry fish are happy fish. Get a little brush for the sides of the tank. From this point on, just add more stuff as the need dictates and the tropical fish store people tell you you need. Get your kid to do the hard stuff.

I don’t know if it’s still being manufactured, but check with your local pet store to see if they sell the Living World Tropiquarium, made by Hagen. This makes a great starter tank; the heater, filter and lights are all fully integrated, with no exposed parts, and the whole system runs off a single power cord.

In terms of size, this tank is just about right for a kids’ room (not too big, not too small), and the fact that it has no exposed equipment will probably make you feel much more comfortable about the whole thing. The only downside is that it’s made from acrylic rather than glass, so care has to be taken not to scratch the inside of the tank while cleaning it.

Definitely go with plastic plants; many of them are hard to tell from the real thing unless you look very closely. As for fish, guppies and neon tetras are what I started out with, and the fact that they’re colourful and easy to look after is what makes them so appealing to kids. You can always move onto other types of fish later, once you become more confident about your fishkeeping skills.

I’ve actually been using near-boiling water to kill the algae, then I rinse or scrub them off with a brush. I might try the saltwater thing next time, couldn’t hurt!