Even though goldfish aren’t the most exciting pets to keep when there are other choices like cats and dogs, goldfish make a great starting pet for kids, especially young kids. Many families go through the dilemma where the kids want a cat or a dog and the parents do not. They don’t want the extra responsibility on their plates because their lives are too busy. Their kids swear up and down the street that THEY will take care of the cat or dog and parents, to their credit are skeptical. They know that cats and dogs take work and that after the novelty wears off for their kids, the responsibility may well fall unto them. It is for this exact reason that goldfish are a great gateway pet when parents don’t want a four-legged pet but the kids do. Goldfish are fairly easy to take of, so after a week or so, if the child chooses to shirk the responsibility of taking care of a fish (even though they promised) you can be fairly certain the same will happen with a cat or a dog.
Kids can indeed have fun taking care of goldfish but there are a few basics that both parents and kids should know. First off, the average goldfish lives longer than cats or dogs when it is well taken care of, and as their caretakers we need to commit to taking care of them for as long as they live. Although many people have done this in the past when they got bored with their goldfish, flushing your healthy goldfish down the toilet is wrong and sends the wrong message to children. Goldfish living in good conditions can live anywhere from 10-20 years to 30-40 years in some rarer cases.
When it comes to choosing a shelter for a goldfish, even though fishbowls are cheaper, it’s best to choose an aquarium over a fishbowl for many reasons. First off fishbowls are generally too small especially if you want to have more than 1 goldfish. Fishbowls are harder to clean than aquariums and there is no room to put filters and other items that will help keep the water clean and healthy for the fish. Secondly goldfish need oxygen to live and they take that oxygen from the water but the oxygen is exchanged at the surface of the water. An aquarium has a far greater water surface area than a fishbowl, which makes the extraction of oxygen and the expulsion of carbon dioxide easier on the fish. In terms of choosing an aquarium, get the largest one you can afford and don’t be afraid to buy a used one in good condition. Once the goldfish’s aquarium is chosen there are all kinds of filters, heaters and air-pumps that will help control the cleanliness and temperature of the water. Be prepared to invest a little bit of money on these items and do ask a well informed salesperson at the pet store for their advice. Expect to spend around 150-200 dollars (or much more if you intend to become a serious fish hobbyist) for all the items you’ll need for 1-2 goldfish.
In terms of feeding your goldfish, follow the recommended guidelines on the food you choose. Overfeeding is simple with goldfish as they will eat and eat and eat. You are not doing them a favour by overfeeding them and as the excess food breaks down in the water, the water becomes harder to clean and more unhealthy for the fish.
Many parents and kids become real fish enthusiasts after getting a couple of goldfish. Taking care of fish does take some learning and know-how (like knowing that goldfish CANNOT live with certain types of fish) but watching fish has always been an enjoyable and relaxing pastime. Once the whole family or the kids become responsible in taking care of goldfish, maybe then a cat or dog can become a suitable addition to the family.