For children, an aquarium is fantastic and magical. With only a little help from adults, the aquarium can turn into a unique educational game and an adventure that creates knowledge and lifetime memories for the entire family.

According to science, the benefits of an aquarium are seen in cognitive development, imagination and social and emotional skills. Many studies conducted by psychologists, education experts, doctors and anthropologist have shown how taking care of pet fish has many positive effects on children. Studies have also shown that watching fish in an aquarium has helped calm children diagnosed with ADHD.

5 of the most remarkable benefits aquariums have for children

1. Encourages learning

When you have an aquarium, you can encourage learning by asking your children simple questions that get them thinking:

  • How do fish breathe underwater?

  • How do fish hear?

  • Do fish drink water?

  • Do fish sleep?

  • Do fish cry?

These questions push children to look for answers, to explore.

Guided by their curiosity, children learn not only about different fish species but also about the invisible and micro components of life underwater (like bacteria, microfuana and trace elements).

Children can also learn how to maintain the aquarium. And they can start getting familiar with scientific fields: biology, chemistry and physics. There are even trade skills children could learn in more advanced aquarium-keeping such as plumbing and carpentry.

Below are more ideas on how children of different ages can learn with the help of an aquarium.

Children 2 to 4 can

  • memorize fish names and colors,

  • learn to count the fish and

  • improve their movement skills by imitating the fish.

Children 4 to 6 can

  • discover biology, physics and chemistry by figuring out how the fish move and how much space and what kind of water each fish needs.

Children 6 to 9 can

  • grow interested in the part of the world their fish come from,

  • learn about how their fish behave and reproduce,

  • identify which other species their fish could get along with,

  • notice changes indicating that a fish is ill,

  • monitor the algae's growth and

  • perform simple chemistry tests to determine the quality of the water and its temperature (under adult supervision).

Children 9 to 14 can

  • investigate their fish tank more methodically and in depth,

  • create a diary filled with their observations (like scientists do),

  • learn how to address specific fish needs,

  • find out how to improve the quality of their aquarium's environment and the way the fish tank is processing waste and

  • participate in projects such as plumbing an aquarium or building a stand or canopy.

2. Stimulates imagination and creativity

Each aquarium is a tiny world of its own - a world filled with algae; corals of various sizes, shapes and colors; castles with hidden entrances; ancient ruins; and different kinds of rocks and sand.

Children's imagination and creativity are stimulated when they have to build the fish's playground and choose and place different components in the aquarium.

Restrictions imposed by fish welfare and the way fish react encourage children to adapt their plans and come up with new designs of the playground.

Children can find inspiration by visiting large aquariums and fish/pet shops and by reading books or watching movies.

3. Increases senses of responsibility

Children who take care of their aquarium become more conscious of the impact of their actions on the fish. Recognizing a need and trying to fulfill it is an excellent social skill.

Children should be in charge of things they can handle, tasks they can achieve. Accomplishing tasks increases a child's self-confidence.

According to many experts in child education, like Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner, it is important to split the aquarium maintenance into tasks adapted to each child's capacities and skills.

Below are ideas on how children of different ages can take care of an aquarium.

Children 2 to 4 can (with adult guidance)

  • choose the fish, rocks, plants, decor, etc. for the aquarium.

Children 4 to 6 can (with adult guidance)

  • feed the fish,

  • clean some components of the fish tank and

  • create an underwater playground.

Children 6 to 9 can (with some adult guidance)

  • feed the fish,

  • monitor the fish's behavior and the algae's growth,

  • clean most components of the tank and

  • remove the algae excess.

Children 9 to 11 can (with little adult guidance)

  • feed the fish,

  • monitor the water quality,

  • clean the tank,

  • introduce and acclimate new fish and

  • eliminate any accumulated debris and waste.

Children 11 to 14 can (with little or no adult guidance)

  • clean the aquarium,

  • change the water,

  • decide which accessories to put in the aquarium and

  • help with plumbing and construction of aquarium stands and canopies.

Children need help from an adult when it comes to making changes that may have a significant impact on the fish's welfare. Examples include changing fish food and adding new bacteria or plants. Children also need adult help when working with chemicals or dangerous items.

4. Helps with negative emotions

According to scientific studies, such as those conducted by the National Marine Aquarium and University of Exeter, mere exposure to an aquarium reduces children's stress and anxiety.

Fish are the perfect friends. Children can talk to them about their mistakes without having to worry about being judged or about their secrets being revealed.

Furthermore, in difficult moments, taking care of fish can redirect children's attention and help them control and diminish anger, frustration and sadness. Experts in child education, such as Simona Le Roy, affirm that activities like pastimes, hobbies and games help children overcome negative emotions in positive ways.

5. Brings moments of magic

All children need happy, magical memories. These memories make up a child's identity. They also increase a child's confidence in their ability to be good, brave and loved.

Fish make great pets and come with activities that are beneficial for children and parents alike.

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