I sincerely believe that every child should have a pet. Animals teach children responsibility and compassion and animals can provide endless companionship and stimulation for an enthusiastic young child. Fish are excellent pets for young children, especially if the child is living in a small apartment that doesn’t allow large pets or if the child is allergic to cats or dogs. It’s no surprise that fish far outnumber cats and dogs as the most popular pet in america — they’re easy to keep, they’re hypoallergenic, and they’re perfect for children.
Designing a custom aquascape for your child will pose unique opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, the process will provide you with a truly unique bonding moment; on the other hand, it can be difficult to balance a child’s expectations and overactive imagination with the practical limitations of aquascaping. This guide will give you all the information you need to make aquascaping a fun, interactive, and educational activity for your children.
How Young Is Too Young?
There’s no real age restriction on aquariums. A person can enjoy the beauty of a custom aquascape from the very day that he’s born until the golden years of his life. The soothing sounds of a bubbling aquascape can calm a young child and encourage a deep, restful sleep. Toddlers and young children will delight in the bright colors and captivating movements. As if the promise of a good night’s sleep wasn’t already tempting enough, an aquarium could also make your child more intelligent. Studies have found that visual stimulation can improve a young child’s development.
Your child obviously won’t be able to handle tank maintenance until he reaches the age of about eight or nine, and even then he won’t be able to do much beyond sprinkling fish food over the water every morning. You’ll have to handle the water changes and tank maintenance until your child is older.
Talk to Your Child
Nothing comes close to the imagination of a child. If you’re planning on building an aquascape with your child, you should have an open discussion with your child from day one. Asking for your child’s input will make him much more enthusiastic about the aquascape. Plus, you might be surprised by the direction that your child wants to take. You might assume that your child wants a saltwater tank with bright tropical fish, but he might prefer a lush freshwater aquarium that practically overflows with plant life.
Turn It Into a Learning Experience
One of the beautiful things about aquascapes is that they represent a complete ecosystem. You can use your aquarium to foster curiosity in your children by explaining how the creatures interact. Show them how the fish eats the food, and then how the shrimp at the bottom of the tank nibble on the leftovers. Then, explain how the plants provide oxygen for the fish in a continuous circle of life. This will remind children of the value of all living things while teaching them important lessons about the natural world.
Stick with Sturdy Tanks
A poorly-built aquarium is an accident waiting to happen. Design your aquarium with safety in mind by selecting a sturdy tank that can withstand the general wear and tear or life with a seven year old. You might want to install the aquarium somewhere secure and out of the way to reduce the odds that it gets struck in a game of tag or by an errant soccer ball.