The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Fish in Kids’ Rooms or Small Spaces

Girl looking at the fish in her small bedroom.
Fish can be the perfect companion in small spaces.

Fish are often held up as the perfect pet for those trapped in tiny apartments or for those desperate for a pet of their own in a crowded household. Small tanks can be an excellent way to keep an animal companion while also not taking up more than a few square feet of space on a desk or a dresser. However, fish are still living creatures, and there are a few steps, tips, and tricks to keep in mind before diving headfirst into setting up an aquarium in your apartment or child’s bedroom.

Cost of the System

The first aspect to consider when looking at acquiring a new pet is, unfortunately, finances. The good news is that starter costs on a small aquarium setup are far from exorbitant; a five-gallon tank can be acquired for about $15, and a small filter for such a tank is available for even less. The cost to stock the tank with fish, substrate, and plants will vary widely depending on the plants and fish you choose, but a basic starter species is unlikely to break the bank. However, ongoing maintenance costs (food, water treatments, replacements, and repair costs) should be factored into future budgeting. This is an important step in deciding if a fish is right for you and your family.

Placement of the Fish Tank

Figuring out where you have space for even a small fish tank can be a difficult endeavor, especially in an already cramped space where it feels like every inch is taken up by other essentials. There are a few things to keep in mind when placing a fish tank. The most convenient spot in the child’s bedroom or apartment may not always be an ideal location.

Small girl looking into the fish tank in her small room.
Tanks should be placed securely on a flat surface that cannot tip over.

Homes with free-roaming animals or small children will need to elevate their fish tank out of reach using a stable surface. This will prevent the tank from being knocked off or tipped over. Additionally, owners should consider how the placement will affect the fish’s environment. For example, will placing it above a heat vent overheat the tank? Will putting it in front of the window give the fish too much light? The answers to these questions will depend on your space and the fish you are raising, but they should always be considered before diving in on a fish tank purchase.

Selecting the Fish

Selecting fish is a fun but potentially overwhelming step in the process of setting up a fish tank. Besides all the exciting colors, fins, and exotic sounding names, there are also the (arguably more important) practical considerations around cost, hardiness, and ease of maintenance.

While there are many breeds of freshwater fish that are excellent for beginners, people who are strapped for space might favor rasboras, tetras, the ever-popular betta fish, or the good old guppy- all species that can thrive in small five-gallon tanks without suffering from a lack of space. Of course, there are many other species that do well in small spaces, all with differing sets of needs. Prospective fish owners should do their research to find the species that best meets their needs.

Maintenance

It can be tempting for people who do not know much about fish to think of them as a “set it and forget it” type of pet- one that does not require much maintenance beyond the occasional water change. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Fish have needs beyond food, water, and exercise. Fish owners are in control of the entire environment, must maintain an optimal water temperature and pH balance, manage light exposure, curate the habitat (plants, cohabitants, etc.), and monitor all aspects of the tank environment. Anyone looking at a fish as a starter pet for a child should be prepared to shoulder a significant level of responsibility for the tank.

Two gold fish swimming in their tank.
Enjoy your fishy companions!

Fish are great pets for many people, especially those with limited space in their lives. With a little research and some careful planning, anyone can bring some aquatic acquaintances into their lives without breaking the bank or overrunning the apartment. With any luck, those fish will remain your colorful companions for several years to come.

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