Vibrant and sleek, calmly drifting along, circling the mini-treasure chest...could there be a more peaceful pet than an aqua pal? "Fish are beautiful to watch and naturally therapeutic," says David Boruchowitz, the editor-in-chief of Tropical Fish Hobbyist. Here's how to set up an aquarium the whole family will enjoy:
Consider the tank size It's true that if you're just starting out, a large tank can seem like a lot to deal with. But there are advantages: If the filter clogs or the heater breaks, the water will remain stable much longer in a spacious model, giving you a chance to fix any problems.
Plan ahead Think about buying freshwater fish -- they're easier to maintain than saltwater ones. But first get the tank ready: Ask a pet-store employee (or read a fish-care book) for tips on pretreating the water, setting up a filter, and creating the healthiest environment for your future finned friends.
Pick a swimmer who's a winner Small, peaceful fish are best, like neon and cardinal tetras, cory cats, gouramis, and zebra danios. (Goldfish need more attention.) An aquarium light enhances fishes' colors, but don't leave it on all the time -- it can encourage algae.
Feed frugally Whatever food your fish get (ask the salespeople at the store for advice), whether it's flakes, pellets, or freeze-dried or live treats, don't overdo it; uneaten bits make the tank dirty. Your kids can still handle feedings -- just help them measure out the right amount.
Go with the flow You'll need to change at least a fifth of the water in the tank every week; it's even better if you change half. But don't take out more than that -- it'll disturb the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria that keep your fish healthy.