Our New Classroom Pet!

Saturday, February 11, 2017
My first year teaching, I bought my own 10 gallon fish tank and set it up in the room. It actually was a wonderful thing- the students loved it and we had some really great conversations about fish, and life/death and caring for another thing. I took it down when I went on maternity leave and put it in my daughter's room. In the years since, I have not set up another fish tank in a classroom-mostly just too expensive, or I knew I wouldn't be staying too long.
This year, however, I was donated a large fish tank and decided to set up another fish tank!

My initial thought was that I would get a turtle frogs or lizards, but my classroom is a trailer outside of the main building, and they usually turn the heat off at night. Plus, I needed a class pet that could handle being left alone for several days at a time over long weekends/holidays. I finally settled on fish-tough enough, can be left alone for several days (or at least you can leave food for them) and nice to look at.

Here are the different steps to setting up the tank:
1- empty tank- cycling- only has water, filter, substrate- and heater
2- plants- they sat for about a week without  fish
3- fish! we got to vote on what would go into the tank, and final tally was gouramis, tetras and mollys. (I would like to add an algae eaters once the tank is a little more established)
4- final set up

Drawbacks- wrong size EVERYTHING! oops! I got the hood replaced, but the stand will just have to do! The decoration did not sink.. womp-womp!

I also set up Fish Central- where the students can look at the different levels of pH, ammonia, nitrates and nitrites and tell if we need to adjust. I am also going to create a log of what is going on in the tank-births, deaths, etc.

They have really loved getting into the project-especially voting for fish! The final verdict was mollies, tetras and gouramis.

Even though it has only been a week or so, having this fish tank has been really great as a way to communicate and connect with my students. It is always amazing what you find out about them- hobbies and interests and just their life in general. I find that, especially with my older students and short semesters, I tend to focus on them as students and forget that they have an outside life. In the few (school) days I have had it, I have had some very real conversations with them, and it has been really nice.

I have a second empty tank and have been trying to decide what to do with it- maybe hermit crabs?
Do you have classroom pets, or have you been considering one? Any good suggestions for a hardy pet? Tell me about it in the comments!


  1. I love pets in the classroom it is a great lesson focus and teaches children a lot about responsibility. I used to have pet snails in my class but I hated the way they moved!

  2. Wonderful ideas for anyone thinking about getting a classroom pet!

  3. I've never had fish but we had class hermit crabs for a few years and they were so easy to take care of and the kids loved them!
    Enjoy the fish!!!

  4. This is a great idea for anyone thinking of getting a classroom pet. Thanks.