If you are an aquarium enthusiast with children, at some point the love/obsession of the hobby will rub off on them. When it does and they ask for their own aquarium, there are a few things to consider. Here's some of the questions you may face and some suggestions about the best way to tackle them.
How old should my child be to have their own aquarium?
I say there is no age limit for children having their own aquarium. Our second child had a 10 gallon tank in his room as an infant and the sound of the water bubbling through the filter soothed him to sleep. If you keep an aquarium in their bedroom as they grow into toddlers, make sure it is high enough and in a secure spot so they can't play in it or shake a stand over. Very young children are often mesmorized with watching the fish go back and forth in the water. As kids get older, they can become more involved with the care of the fish, plants, and water. If you teach them the names of species and reasons for certain maintenance, they will take pride in the hobby and their tank and enjoy sharing it with others any chance they get.
Should my child have a reef tank or freshwater aquarium?
If you are anything like our household, we have a few of each type of tank. If your child has a preference, one choice doesn't have to be that much more expensive than the other. Once you have decided reef or freshwater, buying a used tank can save money as well. Nano tanks and stands are small and very self-maintaining for a reef tank, because the lid has the proper lighting built in and a filtration system is all included in the back of the tank. You can gift fish, plants, decorations, live rock, and some frags, depending on the type, to your child's tank. Once setup is complete, you can go to the fish store and then have your child pick one or more new fish for the environment they helped design. Even if you purchase everything new, involving your children in the decisions about their tank is what's important. I would not recommend a reef tank to a younger child because many of the corals or fish can be toxic.
What size tank is best for my child?
The best tank size for kids is usually a 10 or a 20 gallon tank. This seems to be true because they don't take up a lot of space, they can have a filter, and kids can help feed the fish and clean the water easier because they aren't massive in size. Tanks smaller than 10 gallons are delicate because there is so little water. Any imbalance can be life-threatening for its inhabitants. Gold fish bowls may appear cute, but without a filter are difficult to keep clean. Tanks larger than 20 gallons are feasible options for children, but will take up much more space, especially if you plan to put the tank in their bedroom.
Where should I put my child's fish tank?
The most important thing about placement of your child's tank is to make sure they will see it often. If it is not in their bedroom, put it by the kitchen table, or in the living room so they can enjoy it and help take care of it as well. Do not put it in a window where it will receive direct sunlight because this will cause rapid growth of algae. The algae will grow as a green scum on the glass on the inside of the tank and give you the daunting task of working to keep the tank clean.
Passing on your knowledge about aquariums to your children is a great learning experience. Children grasp this hobby very easily and tend to love it as much as us adults. So, have fun and enjoy the quality time with your kids!