Well, congratulations. You've arrived at the stage of parenthood where your child wants a pet. Like, really wants one. GULP. Luckily, you've talked them down from a St. Bernard, but they're still tiptoeing around in the world of large tropical fish because hey, fish are really cool, some have fins, and fish flakes are super tiny. And while all of this may be true, you also know that most fish don't have a great track record of staying alive for very long — especially when children are their primary caregivers. So is there a low-maintenance pet that isn't a fish? Because even though I have conflicting feelings about The Cosby Show, I'll never forget that hilarious episode when Rudy's fish died and Heathcliff insisted the family give him a proper burial (down the toilet).
If welcoming a new family member of the animal variety becomes your reality, I've got a few suggestions of low-maintenance animals other than fish that might be a fit. Additional things to consider when deciding on your future pet is your family's schedule, who will be around to feed this delightful little creature (not it!), and if your child is really ready for this new responsibility, because in addition to fun, this is also a learning opportunity for your child. Good luck on this new adventure. Now you just have to decide on a name.
The Budgerigar (or "Budgie" for short) is a type of parakeet that is considered by many to be a great "beginner bird," and is so popular he ranks right behind dogs and cats on most-loved pet lists. This parakeet is small, playful and relatively affordable to keep, and most fun of all, is quite smart and can mimic human speech if trained properly. A few things to keep in mind: Budgies require more than just birdseed to eat. Veterinarians recommend a diet that includes pellets and fresh fruits and vegetables including leafy greens. They also need exercise, so flying time around your home is essential every day. Just don't leave any windows open! As with any small animal, children should be watched at first to make sure they're treating the animal with care and understand that this living thing is not a toy.
2. Guinea pig
Okay, guinea pigs are cute. And cuddly. And can be a lovely child for a pet, but there are a few things to consider when deciding if a guinea pig is the right pet for your family. First, they have a five to seven-year life span, so be prepared for that commitment. They also typically do better with a friend... so are you down with two guinea pigs instead of one? These little critters need space to roam around, so a large cage is best, as is the space to keep it. They also need vitamin C, as interestingly, they do not manufacture it on their own (most owners put a vitamin C tablet in their guinea pig's water source). Before buying from a store or breeder, check your local shelter or Pet Finder.
3. Leopard Gecko
This popular "beginner's reptile" is known for its beautiful patterns and for being a quite docile and slow-moving pet (i.e., low maintenance). A 15 to 20-gallon tank with some hiding spots should work fine, and geckos dine on a variety of crickets, waxworms, or mealworms, which can be purchased at your local pet supply store. However, with a typical lifespan of 20 years, be prepared to be the primary caregiver for this gecko once your child is out of the house. My children know this creature could never set a toe inside our house (I am not what you would call a lover of reptiles), but if your family is, this could be the perfect new addition to your family.
Best for children over the age of 8, hamsters can be a sweet little pet for a child. However, they are nocturnal, so if your child is a light sleeper (presuming hamster would be in their room), this is something to keep in mind. Make the hamster's cage a fun place to be with a hamster wheel, tubes, and toys, as hamsters like to play. While they don't require a ton of care, a balanced diet includes store bought seeds and treats, and a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins for a balanced diet, along with regular fresh water. They have a life span of about two years, though, so maybe don't get too attached. Also, please remind your children: hamsters require a gentle touch and may be startled by sudden movement and loud noises.
5. Ant Farm
Go with me here for a minute. For the child who is fascinated by bugs or insects, an ant farm is kind of the perfect pet (or pets). You'll want a farm with a large viewing area so your little one can watch ants do what they do best — make tunnels and march around, probably two by two. Best part? Ant farms are available for under $20 on Amazon.