by TFH Magazine on December 15, 2011 at 9:52 am
In my last entry about giving fish as a gift, I recommended giving only the hardware for a fish tank and waiting to obtain livestock. If you do want to give actual fish on the holiday, you could cycle the tank beforehand, keeping it hidden. Either way, wait until there are no ammonia or nitrite readings from water test kits, and there is only a small amount of nitrate (up to 20 ppm), before adding any fish or other animals.
Once the tank is ready for animals, talk with the child about what type of fish or invertebrates they want. Review the different things that must be taken into consideration before choosing what animals will go into a tank: the tank size, the size of the fish, their temperament, their habitat, any special needs, etc.
It is best to have a plan before going to a pet store. One way of making things easier is to have the child pick a “must have” fish, the one that they want most, and, as long as that fish is appropriate for the tank that you have, you can pick tankmates from there. Feel free to talk with the store employees as well; they often have a very clear idea of what fish work well together and, more importantly, which ones don’t. Be sure not to purchase too many fish at one time—the newly established biological filter can be easily overwhelmed if too many fish are added at once. However, you can decide which fish you will come back for at a later date.
Since this is a brand-new tank, you can treat the entire aquarium as a quarantine unit. If you choose to add fish later, however, you will have to set up a separate (often smaller) tank to quarantine the new additions. After coming home with your new acquisitions, help the child acclimate the fish to your water. Have them float the bag containing the animals in the tank water to equalize the temperature. Then slowly add new water to the fish’s container, allowing them to get used to the new water parameters.
Now is the most fun part—carefully add the fish to the tank and watch them explore their new environment! Be sure to check for any seemingly aggressive interactions, any signs of disease, or other issues, and have a hospital/quarantine tank on hand if any action is necessary. But other than that, you and the child can enjoy the tank together for years to come!
And to help them keep learning about all different types of fishkeeping, improve their skills, and expand their hobby, be sure to get them a gift subscription to Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine.