Best pet fish for kids. Our fish tank

Best pet fish for kids? 5 beautiful breeds to select from

Choosing the best pet fish for kids or beginners can be a bit tricky if you don’t have the experience. It will be easy to choose a Goldfish or Angelfish which look beautiful and are widely available, but they are not easy to take care of. There are far simpler breeds that you can introduce your kids to.

Our best pet fish when we were kids

As children, my brother and I always wanted to have our very own pet and we had our hearts set on bigger things, like a dog, a cat but my parents wanted us to start small. They told us if we could keep and take care of fish for a whole 6 months we could get a bird. To us that seemed like a fair trade.

So, on a bright sunny Sunday morning in 1990, we made a family trip to Russell Market in Bangalore. We had a lot of questions for the smiling old aquarist about how to select our first fish. He answered them patiently (I am including the questions we asked below – they will be very helpful in having a conversation with your child) and we went home with 6 pairs of guppies and fish food.

Since then, I have kept and bred many varieties of fish in fishbowls, fish tanks, water troughs, and small ponds. When I had my three children I found that these little beauties were a great way to introduce them to the animal world, and teach them the responsibility of taking care of other living beings..

In this article, I hope to share with you the 5 best pet fish for kids – how to understand them, what to feed them, about fry (fish babies, not food!), and I have also created a rating system for you to make a considered choice.

Table of Contents

1. Choosing the best pet fish for kids – A List of Questions
2. Fish care tips
3. Guppies and Guppy care
4. Platys and Platy care
5. Mollies and Molly care
6. Zebrafish and Zebrafish care
7. Neon Tetras and Neon Tetra care
8. Best pet fish for kids – Rating Chart

Choosing the best pet fish for kids – A List of Questions

This is a list of questions that has helped me time and again to help people choose the best pets. This list not only works for choosing the best fish, but also can be modified to choose any other pet.

  1. Does the fish need a lot of care and how much time?
  2. What kind of care and food does it need?
  3. Does it need a companion or is it okay being alone?
  4. Do they breed and how often do they breed?
  5. Do they lay eggs or have live babies?
  6. What kind of care and food do the babies need?
  7. What if we don’t want babies, what should we do ?
  8. Do females and males look different from each other?
  9. What kind of illnesses is it prone to and what is the first aid that should be on hand?

Fish Care Tips

Before we select the best pet fish for kids, lets understand some basics which apply to taking care of any pet fish you have

  1. Fish are sensitive to temperature and sound
    So ideally we would suggest that you find a place away from direct sunlight, away from the air conditioner and definitely not under a fan. If you live in a part of India where the temperature drops really low you might need to provide a heater for your fish or at least for the colder seasons of the year. Fish are sensitive to sound vibrations so putting them close to a television or your music system will upset your fish immensely. 
  2. Clean water is very important
    As we know all animals poop and so do fish. The thing with fish is that they poop in the same water that they live in. It is important to know that this poop releases ammonia into the water and disturbs the pH of the water and when the levels are very high it will result in very sick fish and in more serious cases death. So it is necessary to clean the water in their tank at regular intervals to make sure it is not chlorinated and the pH levels are right based on the type of fish you are keeping.
  1. Not all fish get along
    Some fish live in shoals or schools and some are loners. Some can coexist happily with other fish but some do not. So be very careful with what kind of fish you would like to populate your tank with. 

Moving on to the main part of choosing your fish. There are many beautiful colours and breeds to choose from. But if you are a beginner you would like to start out with fish that are hardy, adaptable and easy to maintain.

Guppies and Guppy Care

List of CharacteristicsGuppies are…
Size of adult2 inches at the most
Life span2 to 3 years
BreedingHave live babies
Care levelBeginner
A quick look at Guppies
Best pet fish for kids - #1 Guppy. Male guppy characteristics. Guppy Care.
A male guppy – with a short body with vibrantly coloured long tail fin

Understanding the Guppy


These fish are perfect for any beginner. They come in many colours and the males can exhibit anything from a single coloured tail to many colours. They can be striped or spotted. These fish are small and very active fish. They are peaceful, easy going community fish and stay very well with mollies, platys, neon tetras and zebra danios fish. 

Difference between the genders

The male and female can clearly be distinguished. The males have a short body with vibrantly coloured long tail fins and dorsal fins while the female is  more rounded and has a larger anal fin.

Guppy Care

Guppies are pretty easy to look after and can tolerate beginner mistakes. Feeding time is a good time to see if any of your guppies are sick or not doing so well, which is when you should separate the sick one into a separate tank to isolate it from the others. They are comfortable with their space being sparsely populated with water plants and some light decor.

What do guppies eat?

Guppies are omnivores so they will happily live in your pond eating the larvae of insects, insect eggs and the algae but in an aquarium they are happy and healthy with the simple store bought micro pellets.

Feed them 1 – 2 times a day ensuring that they have consumed all the food from the first time. 

Breeding guppies

They are live bearing (give birth to live babies called fry) and breed incessantly. So if you don’t want to over-populate your tank it is perhaps best to get only males or separate the males from the females. Personally it is always a lovely feeling waking up in the morning and finding a whole bunch of  wiggly baby guppies and we think it is a great teaching moment for your children. 

These fish do not care for their young and can prey on their own young. So fish out the fry and keep them separate till they are big enough. It has been researched that because of so much inbreeding, guppies can develop congenital issues like crooked spines and shortened life spans. So try and see if you can sell your guppy fish to your local  aquarist in exchange for another set of guppies to add more diversity to the gene pool

Platys and Platy Care

List of CharacteristicsPlatys are…
Size of adult2.5 – 3 inches
Life span2 to 3 years
BreedingHave live babies
Care levelBeginner
A quick look at Platys

A group of Mickey Mouse Platys. See the Mickey Mouse-shaped dots near the tail. The female is seen with its pregnant abdomen.

Understanding the Platy


Platys  have flattened, short bodies with fan-shaped tails and triangular heads. Even though they are very small they are very active fish. They look cute and inquisitive. They have a very easy going attitude and get along with any fish. They come in a huge variety of colours: yellow, orange, blue, white and red. They also  come in many different patterns.

Types of Platys
  • Wagtail – black fins and tail
  • Variegated – black blotches on the body
  • Twin bar – two black edges on the tail
  • Tuxedo – black on entire back half of the body with a different colour on the front of the body
  • Mickey Mouse – spots just before the tail that look like the Mickey Mouse symbol

Difference between the genders

Platy fish can easily be differentiated. Males are smaller than females. The male has a modified anal fin. 

Platy Care

The platy fish is low maintenance and easy to look after. They can live easily in a water tank with sparse vegetation, a beautifully decorated aquarium, or evena water trough in your yard. Try not to keep them in fish bowls because they need more space to swim.

What do platys eat?

They need a varied diet consisting of flakes, spirulina flakes, live and freeze dried foods. They like algae and will do well in an aquarium with plants. They also eat larvae and small crustaceans. Spirulina being high proteins help in growing them faster so be sure to feed the fry with spirulina flakes too. 

Breeding platys

Breeding is easy, you don’t have to do anything. The best ratio to have is one male to every three females. Having too many males will lead to aggression in the courting of males and the female can get heavily stressed out. The female can have anything up to 30 live babies and like the guppies and mollies they may eat their young. Best thing is to separate the fry from the main tank till they are large enough. 

Mollies and Molly Care

List of CharacteristicsMollies are…
Size of adult3.5 – 5.5 inches
Life span3 to 5 years
BreedingHave live babies
Care levelBeginner
A quick look at Mollies

Best pet fish for kids #3 - Molly, A male Molly with its prominent sailfin. Molly care. What do mollies eat?

Understanding the Molly


Mollies come in a wide range of colours and sizes. The famous Black Molly is very special because there aren’t any other species that comes close to the velvety dark black colour. There are albino mollies with white colours and red eyes and you will find orange, brown, silver, white, spotted and even gold mollies. There are also balloon mollies, moon-tailed mollies and more. 

Mollies are not aggressive and are a peaceful species. There are certain triggers that can cause aggressive behaviour, like a crowded tank.

Mollies are highly social fish and like to travel in groups. So if molly is your chosen fish, keep more than a pair.  Preferably more females than males, as males can get aggressive and create a stressful environment for the females.

Mollies have big personalities. Each one is different.  It is a lot of fun to watch them and tell the difference between their personalities. 

Difference between the genders

Mollies are very easy to tell apart. The males are usually larger than the females and have a sailfin, which the females do not. Their differences are more clearly distinguishable during pregnancy when the females fatten up and develop a dark spot on the base of the anal fin. Males are thinner and more compressed than the females, while females have rounder abdomens.

Molly Care

They survive very well in a pond. Mollies in an aquarium do well in one that has plants . They get along well with guppies, Neon tetras, zebra danios

What do mollies eat?

Mollies are omnivores though they are big time plant and algae eaters. To ensure best results feed them on spirulina pellets or flakes at least twice a week  and on other days store-bought micro pellets. If they are kept in a pond they will feed on algae and insect larvae.

Breeding mollies

Mollies are very easy to breed. When you see the male chasing the female you know the female is ready. She picks and chooses her own mate. Mollies give birth to live babies that look exactly like them.

It is not uncommon for the mollies to eat their young. For best survival rate take the fry out into a separate nursery aquarium and feed them on store bought flakes.

Zebrafish and Zebrafish Care

List of CharacteristicsZebrafish are…
Size of adult2.5 – 3 inches
Life span4 to 5 years
BreedingEgg layers
Care levelBeginner
A quick look at Zebrafish

Best pet fish for kids #4 - Zebrafish or Zebra Danios. Zebrafish care. What do zebrafish eat?
A zebrafish with it’s striking stripes

Understanding the Zebrafish


The Zebrafish or Zebra Danio is easy to spot because of its very distinctive horizontal stripes. Blue-purple horizontal stripes run from gill to tail and the body resembles a torpedo. The different varieties of zebrafish are the albino, golden, veil-tailed, and long-finned Zebrafish as well as a popular leopard variety. The Zebrafish is a very peaceful, and beautiful looking fish who will be a welcome addition to any community tank and has a playful nature and is highly  adaptable. They are schooling fish and do well if kept in numbers above 6. They look magnificent as they zip gracefully from side to side.

Difference between the genders

Both sexes look alike, but the females are usually larger. Males are a bit smaller and more slender than females. Male zebras seem to have a more torpedo-shaped body, while females tend to have a larger belly. A female’s belly balloons when it fills with eggs.

Zebrafish Care

Zebra danios love swimming. Try getting them longer tanks where they are at their best and you can enjoy these delightful, flowy fish. Most zebra danios like to stay around the surface so having tall plants to try and recreate their habitat is good. Keep a lid on the aquarium to prevent them from jumping out.

What do zebrafish eat?

Zebrafish are not fussy, they eat pretty much anything from plants, algae, and larvae. They will be happy with the store-bought flakes and some frozen or dried invertebrates.

Breeding zebrafish

Zebrafish can be easily bred in captivity though it does require more work than breeding guppies, mollies and platys. You will need a separate breeding tank. You will have to isolate the female and the male, which you will do by looking at the large rounded belly, full of eggs of the female and the slim,  torpedo shaped body of the male.

You will then place them in the breeding tank which has a little substrate, dimly lit and enough plants for the eggs to fall and stay on, some might even fall on the below substrate but that is okay. The male will begin his courtship and it won’t be long before she starts spawning.

As soon as the spawning is done remove the parents because danios are known for eating their own eggs. The eggs should hatch within 48 hours. The fry can then be given dry fry food that is available on amazon. Only introduce them back into the main tank when they are big enough. 

Neon Tetras and Neon Tetra Care

List of CharacteristicsNeon Tetras are…
Size of adult1 to 1.5 inches
Life span8 to 10 years
BreedingEgg scatterers
Care levelBeginner
A quick look at Neon Tetras

Best pet fish for kids. Best pet fish for beginners. #5 Neon Tetras. Neon Tetra care. What do Neon Tetras eat?
Neon Tetras are one of the most beautiful aquarium fish you can maintain easily

Understanding the Neon Tetra


Neon Tetras have a distinctive iridescent blue stripe on both sides of their body that runs from their nose to their dorsal fin. They have a red stripe on both sides that runs from their anal fin to their tail. Their abdomens are a shiny silver colour. They are calm, colourful and peaceful, making them perfect for beginners.

Neon Tetras should be kept in groups of at least six. Tetras come in many other vibrant colours and shapes including red eye, black skirt, serpae and bloodfins.

Difference between the genders

There aren’t many differences in appearance between the male and the female Neon Tetra fish. The males are slender and have straighter stripes. The females may have a slightly rounder shape which causes the stripes to appear curved.

The only time you really need to sex your Neon Tetras are when you looking at breeding them. At that point you should start feeding them a high protein diet of live food and you will see it filling up with eggs and looking more rounded than its male counterpart. 

Neon Tetra Care

Neon tetras are mostly from blackwater environments where the leaves fall into the rivers and streams and break down and release tannic acid which also makes the water look dark brown. They are not very fond of light and will be very happy with dimly lit aquariums.

Adding water plants that can thrive in medium to low light will be a good addition to the aquarium even some floating plants will create the natural habitat that tetras come from.

They are very sensitive to ammonia levels in the water so take care you have a proper filtration system.

What do neon tetras eat?

They are high energy fish and can be fed two times a day and only enough that can be consumed in two minutes. They will do well on a diet of store bought flakes or in my experience, Tetra Bits which has the correct amount of protein for Tetras. You can also feed them freeze dried shrimp which is available on amazon or really well stocked aquarists.

Breeding neon tetras

Breeding tetras is not as easy as breeding guppies, mollies and platys but they are easy to breed if you provide them the perfect environment for them to breed that is. 

Before you start breeding, provide your fish with high protein food. In the meantime, prepare a separate breeding tank, with lots of plants and very very low light. I can not stress the importance of low light any more.

The female’s belly will fill with eggs and then the male will follow the female fertilising the eggs. The female can lay anything up to 100 eggs at one time. It is good to remove the parents and then cut out all light completely. The eggs are very sensitive to light. The fry can be fed on freeze dried shrimps, flake food and should be kept in a dark light for the next few weeks.

Best pet fish for kids: Ratings Chart

Below we have put together a table that we have rated based on our experience of keeping these fish. If you have questions please feel free to type them in the comment section and we will address them.

BreedEase of CareHardinessBeautyCost / pairLifespanBreeding
Guppy5/55/54/5Rs 30 – Rs 902 – 3 yrs5/5
Platy5/54/54/5Rs 60 – Rs 1502 – 3 yrs5/5
Molly5/54/54/5Rs 60 – Rs 1103 – 5 yrs5/5
Zebrafish4/54/55/5Rs 60 – Rs 1004 – 5yrs4/5
Neon Tetra3/53/55/5Rs 90 – Rs 2008 – 10 yrs3/5
Best pet fish for kids – Ratings Chart

That’s the ratings chart! If you are looking for the best pet fish for kids, and don’t bother much about getting the most beautiful fish, you can select Guppies, Platys or Mollies. Zebrafish and Neon Tetras are significantly better looking, but require some additional care.

Which is the best pet fish for your kid?

Let us know in the comments what fish you chose, and if you have any more questions I will be happy to answer them!

Pictures credit: Pixabay

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