Aquarium Fish Guide

Fish are the perfect starter pet for kids. Here are four of the easiest ones to care for.
By Michelle Crouch
Feb 02, 2015




Feb 02, 2015

If a furry animal is too much to take on now, consider fish: They’re small, inexpensive, and relatively easy to care for, yet they still teach responsibility and are fun to watch. Preschoolers can feed fish with supervision, and school-age kids can keep their new pet in their room. Ready to take the plunge? Start with these varieties recommended by Dan Johnson, DVM, an exotic animal veterinarian in Raleigh, NC, and Sean Fitzgerald, owner of the Fish Nook in Acton, MA:


Betta fish
(Siamese fighting fish)
life span 2 to 3 years

Keep ‘em happy
These curious cuties can survive in a cup-sized bowl, but vets generally recommend at least a one-gallon tank (clean it and replace a quarter of the water weekly). Sprinkle in fish food three times a week and you’re done.
Good to know
Bettas are best kept alone because, as their name implies, they tend to fight.

Life span up to 20 years

Keep ‘em happy
If you want your goldie to thrive, toss the bowl and get an aquarium with a filter. Replace about 25 percent of the water every week, and feed your pet fish flakes once or twice a day.
Good to know
Overfeeding is a surefire way to make a goldfish go belly up; offer just enough of the flakes so he can eat them all before they fall to the bottom of the tank.

Neon Tetras
Life span 5 to 10 years

Keep ‘em happy
Because tetras are sociable, get three or four and keep them in at least a 10-gallon tank. You’ll need to feed them daily and replace a gallon of the water every week or so.
Good to know
If their stripes start to fade, the fish are probably ill or stressed and may need a different diet or more companions. Consult the vet or pet store.

Life span 3 to 5 years

Keep ‘em happy
Start with one male and three females in a 10-gallon tank. Replace a gallon of water every week and add a pinch of aquarium salt. Feed platies fish food once a day.
Good to know
Females give birth to a brood every 30 days or so, and feed on their newborns. Protect the little ones with a special container that fits into the tank or take them to the pet store.


Ocellaris clown fish
Life span 5 to 9 years

Keep ‘em happy
Put one or two in a 10- or 20-gallon tank, with sand on the bottom. Change a gallon of the water weekly, then test the tank with a hydrometer and add salt or water to get the right balance of each. Feed them pelleted or frozen food once a day.
Good to know
Don’t mix different types of clownfish: They’ll battle.

Getting Started:

  • Bring a water sample to the pet store. Most will test your H2O for pH balance so you can create the healthiest environment for fish to thrive.
  • Consider a larger tank with a flter. An aquarium can be less time-consuming than a smaller bowl because you don’t have to change or clean the water as often.
  • Avoid overcrowding. Pros recommend one gallon of water per fsh.
  • Don’t overbuy supplies. To keep kids interested, let ‘em choose one or two things to put inside the tank. Come back every few weeks to pick more.

Guide to Small Pets
5 Questions To Ask Before You Get a New Family Pet

Sources: Dan Johnson, DVM, Raleigh, NC; Sean Fitzgerald, owner of the Fish Nook, Acton, MA

Photo Credit: Mijang Ka/Getty Images; betta fish: TS Photography/Getty Images; Goldfish: Don Farrall/Getty Images; Neon Tetras: De Agostini/Getty Images; Platies: Cristian Baitg/Getty Images; Clownfish: GlobalP/Getty Images

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