Keeping Tropical Fish As Classroom Pets

If you are an elementary school classroom teacher, you may find it beneficial to teach the children in your class the responsibility of taking care of pets. Tropical fish are wonderful pets for teaching about how an ecosystem works, while giving the children brightly colored pets to admire daily. Here are some basics to help you set up a tropical fish tank of your own inside your classroom.

Materials You Will Need

  • A 20-30 gallon fish tank
  • Non-iodized salt
  • Two Buckets
  • Gravel
  • Under-water filter
  • Air pump
  • Air tubing
  • Floating thermometer
  • Heater

Setting Up The Tank

Rinse out the fish tank using warm water and a few teaspoons of iodized salt. Using soap to clean out a tank could kill the fish if remnants are left behind. Place the tank in an area where there is an electrical outlet nearby. Look for a spot away from direct sunlight or heat sources. 

Fill a bucket with clean water to be used inside the tank. It will need to sit out for a full 24 hours to allow it to aerate before placing in the tank. Fill another bucket with the gravel you are using in the tank. Rinse it with warm water and sift it out to place inside the empty tank. Place an under-gravel filter in the tank and then cover it with the cleaned gravel.

If you know someone who has an established fish tank, ask them for about a cup of their gravel from their tank. Organisms in established tanks will embed on the gravel, killing bacteria from the water you place inside. This will help keep your water clean. If you do not have established gravel, your water will be murky for several weeks as it goes through the cycle of bacteria and organism growth. Add the cleaned water to the tank.

Adding Decor

Hook up the air pump to the air hoses and place them inside the tank along the side. Place a heater inside the tank and monitor the temperature. Tropical fish usually need temperatures to remain between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the pump and heater run for a full day so the water becomes clean and so the temperature stays constant. 

At this time, add a few rocks or decorative pieces to the tank. You can add fish when the temperature is at the right level. Start off with a few guppies or sword tail fish. Add a few snails to keep the gravel cleaned. Visit a tropical fish store like Neptune's Tropical Fish for help with picking the right kind of fish.

Taking Care Of The Tank

Every two weeks, remove a third of the water from the tank and place water that has aged in a bucket for two days in its place. Make sure to feed your fish daily. Anything not eaten within five minutes should be removed with a small sifter. Add some algae plants to the tank after it has been established for a month. After these are added, you can decrease the amount of water being switched to about a quarter of a tank, as the algae will help keep water clean.

You can add a few more tropical fish after the algae is added, expanding the collection of pets. Let the kids take turns checking the temperature and feeding the fish. You can help them with the water change-out.