fish tanks for kids survey

Fish Tanks for Kids Survey: Trends and Tips

In this Fish Tanks for Kids Survey, we surveyed 547 parents who purchased an aquarium for their child to learn more about demographics, time and money commitments, favorite fish species and decorations, and primary benefits and drawbacks of their decision. 

Purchasing a pet, such as a dog, cat, or fish, is a common way that parents try to teach their children responsibility and concern for another living creature. Parents who are hesitant to make a large time and money commitment to a dog or cat might be more comfortable starting off with a fish tank. We created this fish tanks for kids survey to: (1) better understand the reasons why parents choose aquariums, and (2) help parents who are evaluating an aquarium purchase by providing more information about expected cost and time commitment.


Fish Tanks for Kids Survey: Key Findings

  1. Day-to-day maintenance costs for aquariums for kids are affordable. 78.6% of parents report spending $25 or less per month.
  2. Overall, fish tanks for children are affordable, especially when you consider the average costs for other pets like dogs and cats. 80.5% of parents spent less than $300 to get the aquarium started.
  3. The time investment in aquariums is generally low. 68.7% of parents report spending four hours or less per month on the aquarium.
  4. Aquariums are an intergenerational hobby. If you grow up with an aquarium, you’re more likely to purchase one for your child. 70.7% of parents who purchased an aquarium for their child had an aquarium when they were growing up.
  5. Families who have aquariums tend to have multiple tanks. 71.6% of families who purchase an aquarium for their child have multiple fish tanks in the home.
  6. Aquarium owners are more likely to have multiple types of pets. 65.2% of parents who purchased an aquarium for their child have also gotten other pets for their kids. Dogs, cats, small rodents like hamsters or gerbils, and reptiles are the most popular aquarium sidekicks.
  7. Although an aquarium is often purchased for a child, the parent usually doesn’t intend for the child to be primarily responsible for the tank. 70.8% of parents don’t intend for the child to be responsible for the fish tank
  8. Some parents purchase only the best equipment, tanks, and fish for their children. 3.5% of families spend over $1,000 to start their kid’s tank.
  9. Smaller aquariums (20 gallons or less) are the most popular tank sizes for children. 1-4 gallons (5.9%), 5 gallons (17%), 10 gallons (27.2%), 15 gallons (6.7%), and 20 gallons (14.8%) compromise 71.6% of tank purchases.
  10. Most (52.6%) aquarium purchases occur when the child is between four and ten years of age. Aquarium purchases sharply decrease as children approach teenage status with only 6.2% of purchases for children over the age of 16.
  11. Bettas (32.9%) and guppies (27.4%) dominate as the most popular species of fish for kids. Neon Tetras (16.6%), Mollies (14.2%), and Angelfish (7%) are also popular choices.
  12. Not all aquariums end in happy stories. 15.4% of children are responsible for killing at least one fish during their fish-keeping experience.
  13. Most parents cite “teaching responsibility” as the primary reason for getting a fish tank for their child. Lots of parents also cited fish tanks as “something else to look at besides a screen” and an “educational way to spend time together.”

78.6% of Parents Spend $25 or Less Per Month on Maintenance

fish tanks for kids survey - monthly cost

Aquariums require a lot of equipment such as tanks, lighting, substrate, and filters. While cheaper than most pets, setting up an aquarium can be pricey, especially if you were initially envisioning just a bowl and a goldfish. Properly setting up an aquarium where your child’s fishy friends can thrive does cost money.

But once these initial costs are incurred, we were curious about the ongoing maintenance costs of a fish tank. If a parent made the initial investment, are aquariums actually an affordable pet on a monthly basis?

We found that 78.6% of parents spend $25 or less per month in maintenance costs. 43.7% of parents spend less than $10 a month. So once you get over the initial spend, aquariums are a cheap pet, especially compared to dogs and cats.

Because of this monthly affordability, aquariums offer a good entry point for children into the world of pets for a minimal investment. Because of this low barrier to entry, we often see fishkeeping listed as an optimal first pet experience for kids. Fish are an affordable way for your child to gain experience taking care of another living creature while not breaking the bank. Fish also won’t shred your furniture, exhibit behavior problems, or need additional training, keeping long-term time and money costs low.


80.5% of Kids’ Aquariums Cost Less than $300

fish tanks for kids survey - starting cost

How much does it cost to set up an aquarium for your child? If you’re considering purchasing an aquarium, you’re probably wondering how much you need to budget. We wanted to understand the initial investment that parents are making in their kid’s aquariums to help other parents evaluate if an aquarium is a good choice for them.

Aquariums are relatively affordable as far as pets go. 80.5% of kids’ aquariums cost less than $300. 

For parents who are evaluating different pets, aquariums are definitely at the cheaper end of the pet spectrum. Purebred dogs, for example, can cost several thousand dollars for a puppy. Even adopting a dog from the local shelter will run several hundred dollars, not to mention a decade or more of veterinarian and food bills. Your average freshwater aquarium for adults can cost about $500 so it makes sense that kid’s aquariums are on the less expensive end of the range due to the smaller tank sizes, less elaborate planted tank set-ups, and common fish selections like goldfish, neon tetras, angelfish, and guppies. 


68.7% of Parents Spend Four Hours or Less Per Month on Aquarium

fish tanks for kids survey - monthly time commitment

Maintaining an aquarium takes time and effort. You need to factor in weekly water changes, water testing, daily feedings, siphoning gravel, and more. Because parents are typically bearing the majority of the responsibility for these less flashy elements of pet care, we were curious how much time parents spend on children’s tanks on a monthly basis. Is the care minimal enough to be considered “worth it”? Or do parents feel overloaded with another creature that needs their time and attention?

We found that 68.7% of parents spend 4 hours or less per month on maintenance. This means that on average, parents spend less than one hour per week on the tank. Depending on your point of view, this might sound like a lot of time or a small amount of time. For context, in 2019, the average amount of time spent watching television per day by Americans is 2.8 hours. Taking care of a fish tank is less time-intensive than a very common American hobby. 

But for even more perspective, we also wanted to know if the parents who purchased their children an aquarium would recommend the experience to other parents. 89.1% of parents said they would recommend or strongly recommend getting a fish tank for your children. So while fish tanks do add more work for parents, it is generally perceived to be time well invested.


70.7% of Parents had an Aquarium When They Were Growing Up

fish tanks for kids survey - intergenerational hobby

Do children with aquariums grow up to  purchase aquariums for their own kids? Does fishkeeping have an intergenerational element of appeal? We hypothesized that parents would be more likely to purchase an aquarium for their child if they themselves had grown up with one. 

70.7% of parents who purchase an aquarium for their child also had an aquarium growing up.

History appears to repeat itself with fishkeepers. If you’re exposed to the wonders of fishkeeping from an early age, you’re more likely to want to recreate that magic for your little wonders. And if you’re also exposed to, or involved in, the regular maintenance of aquariums as a child, it is less likely to seem intimidating when you’re an adult. Learning is more challenging when you’re a busy adult who is set in their ways, so trying to learn about the nitrogen cycle and maintaining a closed ecosystem with living creatures might feel more complicated than it is in actuality. 


71.6% of Families have Multiple Fish Tanks in their Home

fish tanks for kids survey - multiple fish tanks

It’s a common joke in the aquarium world that you can’t just have one tank. You start with one tank, with a few species, and you’re hooked. Aquarium keeping is an open-ended hobby with endless permutations of tank sizes, fish species, plant species, and tank mate combinations. Because of this, we wanted to explore if families who purchase tanks for their children also have other tanks in the house, or if they’re strictly purchasing a tank for kids and that’s it.

71.6% of families have multiple fish tanks in their homes. A fish tank for a child is fun but the parents also apparently want their own tanks.

Aquariums represent a lot of choices in terms of plants, decorations, and types of fish. Children are often attracted to bright things and fun decorations, which means kid’s aquariums often have bubbling treasure chests, scuba divers, black and neon gravel, and highly colorful species like glofish. This style might work extremely well for a child but not all adults gravitate to this style as well, hence the propensity for multiple tanks in a household. 


65.2% of Families have Other Pets for their Kids including Dogs, Cats, Small Rodents, and Reptiles

fish tanks for kids survey - other pets

Are aquariums a one-and-done pet-keeping experience, or do aquariums function as a gateway for more types of pets? We were curious if parents who took the plunge and purchased an aquarium for their kids would also take the plunge on a bigger commitment pet like a dog or cat. Or would parents be overwhelmed by the additional work involved in maintaining an aquarium and be less likely to get another pet, especially a higher intensity one?

We found that 65.2% of families have other pets for their kids. Dogs (52.9%) and cats (38.3%) dominated the other pet category.

Not surprisingly, families with pets tend to have more than one pet. Two-thirds of aquarium-owning families have other pets. All of these pets add additional work to the parents, yet there is clearly a strong preference for filling a home with a variety of species and showing different forms of caring for another creature. Noted benefits of pets for kids include improved impulse control, social skills, and self-esteem, with opportunities to learn life lessons around birth, death, bereavement and respect for other living creatures. Because of these benefits, it’s not surprising that parents often feel that the increased workload is worth the effort. Additionally, parents also experience the social and emotional benefits of pets, making it a net-positive experience for the entire family. 


70.8% of Parents Don’t Intend for the Child to be Responsible for the Aquarium

fish tanks for kids survey - responsibility for fish tank

Parents cite teaching responsibility as the primary reason for purchasing their child an aquarium. If this is the motivation for purchasing the aquarium, we wondered if that translates into day-to-day care of the tank. Fish tanks require knowledge and skilled effort that might not be possible for a child, depending on their age and maturity. Do parents purchase fish tanks intending for their child to be responsible? Or is the purchase more focused on the softer elements of care, such as learning to care for another living being and witnessing different elements of the circle of life?

To our surprise, 70.8% of parents don’t intend for the child to be responsible for the aquarium. This is despite most parents citing teaching responsibility as a primary driver of the choice to get their child an aquarium.

Most parents are not expecting full responsibility from their kids, especially around the more difficult tasks such as reading water tests, water changes, and general cleaning and upkeep. Kids can still be involved through tasks like feeding, keeping an eye on the fish to make sure they’re healthy, and noting if they see any issues with the tank or equipment. As the kid grows up, responsibilities can expand in ways suitable to their age. In this sense, aquariums can offer an evolving form of responsibility, suited to the children. So while it appears there is a paradox in the data – parents cite responsibility as the primary driver but most parents don’t expect their children to be responsible for the tank – there are still plenty of age-appropriate ways that children can learn and experience responsibility with aquariums, while not being primarily responsible for the fish.


3.5% of Families Spend over $1,000 to Start their Kid’s Tank

fish tanks for kids survey - high-end starting costs

Aquariums can be high-tech works of art loaded with fancy equipment such as CO2 injection systems to create lush, aquascaped environments. They can contain rare species of fish that fetch hefty prices. We wanted to understand how common large financial investments are in tanks for children. Are any parents dropping several thousand dollars for their kid’s tank? 

The answer is that the vast majority of parents aren’t spending a fortune. Only 3.5% of families spend over $1,000 on a new tank.

Aquariums are often the first pet for a child so there are a lot of unknowns with the purchase. Will the child retain an interest in their pet after a week or a month? Will they respect their pet? Will they try to take good care of it? Because this is often the first dabble with responsibility, parents smartly keep their initial costs low. This is also good news for parents who are likely eager to keep costs down.


Aquariums under 20 Gallons Account for 71.6% of Kid’s Aquariums

fish tanks for kids survey - tank sizes

Somewhat counterintuitively, the size of an aquarium is inversely related to the difficulty of keeping it. Larger aquariums are often easier to keep stable, as there is more water to dilute any potential water parameter swings. Smaller tanks seem like they would be easier to manage but they’re actually more volatile because of their smaller water volume. However, larger aquariums are more expensive, and the equipment required to maintain them is also more expensive. When purchasing an aquarium for a kid, parents are faced with a difficult choice – what is the ideal tank size that is large enough to remain somewhat stable but small enough to remain affordable, especially for a first pet?

71.6% of parents go for smaller tanks – 20 gallons or less. 10 gallons (27.2%) was the most popular choice, followed by 5 gallons (17%) and 20 gallons (14.8%). Nano tanks of 1-4 gallons made up 5.9% of purchases.

When starting a new fish tank, the common advice is to start as large as your space and wallet allow. While larger tanks seem intimidating, they’re easier to manage in the long run with less monitoring of water parameters required. Children’s fish tanks seem to generally take the opposite approach, with smaller tanks dominating purchases. This will have a two-fold effect – more frequent maintenance required with an increased likelihood of water parameters going south. Parents who purchase small tanks, especially those under 10 gallons, need to be aware of this propensity towards fluctuations if they want to maintain a healthy environment.


52.6% of Aquarium Purchases Occur when the Child is Between Four and Ten Years of Age

fish tanks for kids survey - most popular age for first tank

What is the sweet spot for getting a child an aquarium? Are toddlers too young and teenagers too cool for aquariums? Is there an ideal age in terms of a child’s ability to absorb life lessons that aquarium ownership can teach? We wanted to know if there is a purchasing pattern that suggests when parents think their kids are ready for an aquarium.

Over half (52.6%) of aquarium purchases occur when the child is between four and ten years of old. The most popular age is five to seven (21.2%), closely followed by eight to ten (19.9%). Aquarium purchases sharply decrease as children approach teenage status with only 6.2% of purchases for children over the age of 16. Infants under the age of one account for roughly the same percentage of purchases as teens, at 6.8%.

Most aquariums are purchased for kids who are graduating from toddler tantrums and beginning to develop their sense of independence and autonomy. By giving them small doses of responsibility during these formative years, parents are helping to develop their children’s confidence and self-esteem. Infants are too young to grasp the key benefits of aquariums, toddlers are probably already keeping their parents very busy, and teenagers have latched on to peer approval as their primary means of social navigation. 


Bettas and Guppies Dominate as the Most Popular Species of Fish for Kids. 

fish tanks for kids survey - most popular fish species

What are good first fish species for kids? Do goldfish dominate? What about all of the Bettas in cups at chain pet stores? Do they ever make it into kids’ tanks? 

Bettas (32.9%) and guppies (27.4%) dominate as the most popular species of fish for kids. Neon Tetras (16.6%), Mollies (14.2%), and Angelfish (7%) are also popular choices.

Surprisingly, goldfish weren’t at the very top of the list. Only 9.2% of parents reported purchasing goldfish for their kids. This could be due to a number of factors – goldfish are high bio load (waste) fish, meaning they require frequent water changes and stronger filtration systems to stay healthy. Bettas are a popular first choice because they are best kept solo and can thrive in smaller tanks. They need more space than the tiny water cups at pet stores but they can easily thrive in a few gallons. Guppies are also a popular choice because they’re easygoing and entertaining fish with small bioloads that can be kept in small groups, oftentimes with offspring resulting, which is exciting for the kids.

All of the popular fish species are common in local aquarium stores, meaning they’re cheap and readily available, further adding to their continued popularity.


15.4% of Children have Killed at least One Fish during their Fish-keeping Experience.

fish tanks for kids survey - dead fish

In an ideal world, children would take perfect care of their fishy friends. However, children can be impulsive and do things that subject their fish to lethal circumstances, like taking the fish out of the tank to “pet” it, dumping all the fish food in the tank, and adding “snacks” like chocolate bars in the tank for the fish. While these actions might be intentional on the kid’s part, they’re not malicious. However, they can result in the untimely death of a fish.

15.4% of children are responsible for killing (usually accidentally) at least one fish during their fish-keeping experience. 

While the vast majority of these deaths are non-intentional, it’s important for parents to be aware of the risk of this situation occurring, both from the pet’s safety and the child’s mental and emotional processing that will likely occur afterward. Parents can take steps to mitigate this risk by supervising all of the child’s maintenance activities on the fish tank, including feeding and cleaning. Parents can also have straightforward conversations about the importance of not adding anything extra to the tank in order to protect the fish.


Most Parents Cite “Teaching Responsibility” as the Primary Reason for Getting a Fish Tank for their Child.

fish tanks for kids survey - primary reasons for purchasing an aquarium for a child

Why do parents purchase an aquarium for their children in the first place? Do they want to teach responsibility? Show their kids the circle of life? Understand compassion for another living creature? Recruit a small helper to support the adult parent’s hobby?

Most parents cite “teaching responsibility” as the primary reason for getting a fish tank for their child. Lots of parents also cited fish tanks as “something else to look at besides a screen” and an “educational way to spend time together.”

Aquariums are a good way for parents to get a pet for their child and teach them the beginnings of responsibility and care for another living creature, while not breaking the bank and creating the same level of work as a dog or cat requires. Aquariums are quiet, self-contained ecosystems that don’t shred the furniture nor leave their fur all around the house. They’re also easy to get the correct equipment and stock with fish by a trip to the local chain pet store or local aquarium store. Aquariums are at the top of every “first pet for your kid” list for good reason and we would expect it to stay that way.


Fish Tanks for Kids Survey: Methods and Results

The goal of this fish tanks for kids survey was twofold: First, we wanted to understand the demographics of parents who purchase aquariums for their kids. Do larger or smaller families tend to get aquariums?  What is the gender of the child for whom the tank is purchased? There is very little market data about various demographics’ relative rates of participation in this intergenerational hobby.

Second, we wanted to learn more about the time, money, and passion involved in keeping an aquarium for your kid. If someone is considering purchasing a tank, what should they expect for time and money requirements? Do parents go in believing the child will have sole responsibility for the tank? Who actually ends up taking care of the tank? What are the best parts about purchasing an aquarium for your child? What are the worst parts? 

Research is limited on parents’ decisions to purchase aquariums for their kids so we wanted to add this survey research to the knowledge base. Aquariums are a popular first choice for a kid’s pet so it’s our hope that this research helps parents better understand the resources and responsibility needed as they make purchase decisions.  

Fish Tanks for Kids Survey: Methodology

To conduct this fish tanks for kids survey, we created a 29 question survey using Google Surveys in April 2021. For each question, an answer was required except the final question, which asked for the participant’s email addresses if they were willing to answer further questions. All questions were written in English.

The survey was distributed by posting to Facebook Aquarium and Parenting groups from around the world and Reddit threads focused on Aquascaping, Planted Tanks, and Aquariums (as examples). In each post, the focus of the survey was explained and an ask for volunteers of all experience levels was made. In total, 547 responses were recorded. We are extremely grateful for the enthusiasm of the survey respondents. 

Most of the results from this study are outlined and described in this report published on Aquarium Friend–a website for all levels of aquarists to learn about the fish, plants, and equipment needed to start, maintain, improve, and enjoy your aquarium. 


Fish Tanks for Kids Survey: Conclusion

I hope you found this fish tanks for kids survey interesting. At the very least, we hope you learned more about the benefits and drawbacks of purchasing an aquarium for a kid and feel better prepared to make an informed decision if an aquarium is the right choice for a pet for your family. I’d like to thank all of the research participants for providing their feedback that made up the bulk of this research. This research project would not be possible without your contributions.

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say: What’s the most useful element of this research for you? Do you have a question about the study? Either way, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.