5 Best Pet Fish for Kids

In This Article

Neon Tetra

Pet fish are fun, interactive pets that will provide years of enjoyment while learning basics of pet care and responsibility. And kids of any age can participate in caring for fish, from daily feedings, routine cleanings, and even water quality assessments as they get older.

The best fish for kids are those that do not require a lot of space and are tolerant of beginner fish keeper mistakes. This mainly includes water quality issues with a new tank.

Keep in mind that fish are living animals and should never be sacrificed as a “trial” or “practice” pet. Fish are not low maintenance and will require just as much care and time as any cat or dog. Before bringing a pet into your home, seriously consider how much time and space you have for a new pet, regardless of if the animal species.

1. Neon Tetra

Neon tetra fish
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With a fast splash of bright red and neon blue, a school of neon tetras is the best option for beginners, including kids. You will need at least five individual fish to make up a school but can have a large tank with a couple dozen if you prefer. These quick-swimming fish are very active and love exploring various decorations in your tank.

Neon tetras make excellent pet fish for kids because they are easy to care for and you can easily have multiple fish, even in a smaller tank. If you are limited on space, even a 5-gallon aquarium can handle five to eight neon tetras easily. Expect your neon tetras to live five to eight years.

2. Goldfish

Goldfish tank
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Goldfish are the most common pet fish for kids; however, they are frequently kept in tanks that are much too small for them, leading to frequent illnesses and death. To help your kids’ goldfish survive, expect to keep at least one fish per 20 gallons of water. You can also expect your goldfish to live up to 20 years or more, so ensure you’re willing to take on such a long commitment.

There are many varieties of goldfish, including:

  • Long-bodied comet goldfish

  • Calico shubunkin

  • Oranda

  • Ranchu

  • Black moor

Long-bodied goldfish are recommended for kids over fancy varieties like oranda and ranchu because they have considerably fewer health concerns and can tolerate issues with water quality much better. Be sure to feed them a high-quality, low-protein pellet to ensure good health without overstimulating growth.

3. Betta Fish

Betta fish in tank
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Another common pet fish for kids is a betta fish. Male betta fish, with their bright colors and long flowing fins, need to be kept in their own tank due to their aggressive nature. Betta females, with duller colors and shorter fins, may be able to be kept in a group or with other peaceful community fish, but some can also be aggressive.

Never keep any fish in a bowl or vase, especially a betta. Bettas require at least a 5-gallon tank with a low-flow filter and a heater. Being tropical fish, they will do best on multiple small meals a day of a high-quality betta pellet. With good care, betta fish will typically live three to five years.

4. Tetras

Tetra fish
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Tetras are small tropical community fish, so you can mix various species with other peaceful tropical fish. There are even varieties of tetras called GloFish® that will glow under black lights or blue LEDs. These glowing varieties have been modified to contain brightly colored jellyfish DNA to bring out these pigments.

Glowing or not, tetra fish are easy to keep and enjoy a wide range of tank decorations. They easily take a small tropical pellet and can tolerate a wide range of water quality. Expect your tetras to require care for their five-to-eight-year lifespan.

5. Guppies

Guppy fish
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Guppies come in lots of colors and are easy to keep. The average life of a guppy is two years, so if you’re not looking for a long-term commitment, guppies are the best fish for you.

However, many pet parents will start with just one or two guppies that suddenly becomes an entire school. Since they are live bearing fish, you may adopt a pregnant mom without realizing it and suddenly have a dozen (or more!) offspring to deal with. If you do not keep males and females separated, expect the circle of life to continue for many generations.

Guppies are frequently kept in a school of at least four to five individuals. Mixing various varieties of guppies will produce a variety of colors and patterns. They will do well in a small tank but tend to be very messy fish, so guppies require at least a 10-gallon tank.

Overall, a fish is a wonderful pet for kids. They are highly interactive and provide years of enjoyment and enrichment for both your child and their new pet. Keep in mind that you may be doing most of the daily care for younger children, but they will grow into their roles following the example you provide of quality pet care.

Featured Image: Yuliya Apanasenka/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Jessie Sanders, DVM, DABVP (Fish Practice)


Jessie Sanders, DVM, DABVP (Fish Practice)


From the love of animals and the underwater world came the most unique and amazing veterinarians on Earth, Dr. Jessie Sanders. Dr. Sanders,...

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