So your kids really want a pet, but you’re not sure you are up to dealing with a dog or cat. Maybe a hamster or a pet rat would do, but then again, how about a pet that can live up to 25 years, is very low cost-wise, you can go off and leave it for a couple of days and it’s still happy?
Both you and your kids can enjoy it and it takes a minimum of care. It can’t go on walks or play with you, but it can provide entertainment.
Goldfish fit that description perfectly. Kids and adults both enjoy watching goldfish swim gracefully and calmly, accentuated by an occasional flip of the tail or an amazingly quick maneuver when feeding.
Why goldfish rather than some other fish? Mainly because they are the easiest to take care of. They don’t require an aquarium because they can live in any reasonably temperate water, they don’t need water that’s continually oxygenated and they won’t outgrow their home.
If you want them to get bigger, put them in a bigger container and they will grow, but you don’t have to and they will be content.
Goldfish do better when there is more than one of them, but probably the biggest problem you will have with them and kids is that kids want to feed them; it’s fun to watch them eat.
Overfeeding won’t hurt your fish because they will only eat as much as they need, but too much food in the water makes it murky and dirty so it will have to be changed more often. When you buy the fish, ask for instructions on how to introduce them to their new home.
Ongoing maintenance is fairly simple. Once a week or more often if necessary, scoop out about half the water and replace slowly it with room temperature water. If you use tap water, let it set overnight before using.
There will come a time when the water will be too murky or algae will begin to grow and you will need to make a complete change of water. Fill a small container with enough water from the bowl and put the fish in that for a few hours.
All but the very youngest of children can learn to carefully scoop the fish with a net and move it. Have them take out any rocks or marbles and decorative pieces and rinse the bowl.
You might want to do the scrubbing yourself if your kids are very young. Use a commercial cleaner made for fish, then rinse everything.
When all is done, let the kids replace the decorations then fill the bowl with water. Let it set overnight to 24 hours then return the goldfish to his clean home.
A warning: Goldfish do die, usually in the first few weeks after buying them, so prepare your kids for that possibility. Sometimes it’s due to owner mishandling, but sometimes it just happens.
Be prepared to buy another one right away, but thoroughly clean the bowl the first one died in, just in case it was a disease that could be passed on.
Once the family gets past the first year with pet goldfish, expect it to live far past the days when your kids have grown up. Twenty five years is a long time for a pet!