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Chad Love: Why Your Kid Needs an Aquarium

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July 13, 2009

Chad Love: Why Your Kid Needs an Aquarium

By Chad Love

The fine-looking fellow in the photo below is called Mr. Hawgmouth.  Mr. Hawgmouth resides (temporarily) in a five-gallon aquarium in my office,  along with several other small bass, various and sundry baitfish, tadpoles, water beetles, and crawfish, all of which were caught in a local creek by my son and me.


 
About two seconds after this photograph was taken, the mosquito fish to Mr. Hawgmouth's lower left swam a little too close to Mr.  Hawgmouth, whereupon Mr. Hawgmouth got a tasty lunch and my son and I got  the kind of interactive lesson in predator-prey dynamics you just can't replicate on television.
 
If you have a child and want to introduce them to the outdoors, I know of no better portal through which to do  that than the front glass of a native fish aqaurium. 

It's like having your own personal Discovery Channel, but with the benefit of knowing you're in charge of the programming. Just  throw on some old clothes and a ratty pair of sneakers, grab a net or a  pole and go fishing or wading. Show me a child who doesn't like  that and I'll show you a child who needs to have their Playstations, their  cell phones, and their Bratz dolls thrown in the dumpster where they belong.
 
Never before have we had a generation of children so  utterly disinterested in the natural world. I mean the real flesh-and-blood natural world, not the Pixar version. What's more, I have very little hope that on a societal level it's going to change any time. It just 'aint gonna happen.

It's up to us as parents to do what we can to change that on the individual level. You have to have a personal interest  in nature before you can give a damn about it. Putting a net in a kid's hands is a great first step toward that, as well as a great first  step toward ultimately putting a rod or a gun in those same hands.
 
So if you've never considered setting up a native fish aqaurium with your kid(s), then please do. Just think of it as boot camp for a rich, fulfilling life.

But first, a caveat: Do check your state's wildlife regulations before setting off on a collecting expedition with net and/or kiddie pole and worms. Every state has different laws concerning  the collecting and keeping of native fish and you don't want to unintentionally give your children a lesson in the consequences of violating wildlife laws.

Comments (24)

Top Rated
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from Sick STi wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Great article. I had considered doing this with my old fishtank, but it leaked and was thrown in the garbage. I have a little one coming in December, and I am terrified of him or her becoming a video game zombie. I enjoy video games as much as the next guy, but I want my kids to enjoy the outdoors as much as I did when I was young. Maybe I'll have to pick up another fish tank in the future, and do the same with my little one.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from TJ wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Catfish take to aquariums very well. Concerning your tadpoles, when they look like frogs with tails either let them go or buy one of those little plastic floating islands to crawl out on or they will die.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Had a fingerling smallmouth bass in college. Spent the year watching him/her inhale guppies. Was a good lesson in the way a smallie attacks a baitfish--always head first. Would have been even better with a wee one watching. -D

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

I was just discussing this topic at my buddys auto repair shop this morning. Seems that a patron,who mentioned she and her boy friend fish a lot, have an aquarium with a largemouth, catfish, bluegills and crappies.

When they go fishin' they drop different baits into the tank to see what the fish are hungry for. Lastnight they dropped worms,crickets,minnows and shrimp into the aquarium buffet.

The catfish went crazy for the shrimp and ignored everything else on the menu.
So, shrimp it was ... later in the evening when they came home, catfish with hush puppies was their main course!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from salmonquest wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

I've never considered this for my aquarium but what a great idea. One thought "wild" fish often contain parasites, fungus, and various other diseases. Often when you get a new fish it's a good idea to put it in a smaller aquarium in quarantine until you are sure it's clean or apply a fungicide etc.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

An old college roommate of mine had an aquarium full of cichlids and a couple algae eaters. For chuckles he dropped in a "blue lobster" which is a kind of crayfish. Anyhow, the crayfish sysematically hunted down and ate all the fish in the tank. It was sort of surprising to me because I'm used to using live crayfish for bait. I wonder if wild crayfish prey on bass fry?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

"Show me a child who doesn't like that and I'll show you a child who needs to have their Playstations, their cell phones, and their Bratz dolls thrown in the dumpster where they belong."

YES!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from s-kfry wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

I looked into doing this but in Colorado it is illegal to extract wildlife of just about any kind (except small crawfish for some reason)from a stream and transport it home. Apparently we can purchase native fishes from hatcheries but they're not close so we settled for an assortment of tropicals for the time being.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Good article. I couldn't agree more. I did this when my kids were little. They learned a lot & had fun at the same time. We went through many generations of crawfish, a snail population explosion, a largemouth bass that kept the floor wet & the kids busy feeding him, and many other adventures.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

In Florida, having an aquarium like that will get you a fine and jail time not to mention confiscation of tank, animals and property. Mr. Hawgmouth, while teaching kids is an excellent idea, is a game fish and highly illegal to have.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

You can catch or buy an oscar and put it in an aquarium. Then give your kids the same lesson with feeder goldfish plus your children get to see the color show with all the gold shimmering scales floating. Put a few rocks in that the goldfish can hide under and watch the Oscar play cat and mouse with them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Great Idea Chad, but sadly also a salutary lesson in how poor a match to human life as it's lived in the vernacular, the laws of this world are.
Sadly I'm forced to agree that we do need legal restraint to protect wildlife from halfwits, but its a sorry day when those laws also prohibit dads 'n' lads from keeping native species in the home.

Modern life is rubbish
SBW

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from bluecollarkid wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Get a "Jack Dempsey"... I had several aquariums as a kind and raised all manners of tropical fish. Tigers, sharks, and Jack Dempsies are all predatory fish I learned. The Tigers hunted down and consumed the other fish in the tank then turned on each other (even the red-finned shark). The Jack Dempsey ate three goldfish twice his size and attempted to bite my father's finger off one day when he was attempting to scrub the tank (bit him bad enough to draw serious blood and make a serious gash, for a fish, in his finger). We used to drop lives worms in the tank and minnows to watch him hunt.

I also had terrariums and a cactus garden. What a wonderful world we live in, it's a shame Chad is right and most children today show no interest in it and therefore experience very little of it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

We caught some minnows and a crawdad and put them in my daughter's aquarium w/ her goldfish. Bad idea, the minnow attacked and ate a goldfish's eye, the crawdad killed one, didn't last long. The store-bought fishies just couldn't hack it w/the wild ones.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ken.mcloud wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

for those people in states banning such an aquarium...

why?

How does putting the fish in a tank do any more harm than eating it? or keeping a tropical fish?

Heck even if you were worried about someone running an unsanctioned boot-leg hatchery operation **rolls eyes** why couldn't you just limit the number of fish? or prohibit their sale?

How does the law distinguish between aquariums and other fish storage vessels like a bait tank or live well?

or do the fish and game agents just get to use the 'ol "I know one when I see one" excuse?

Perhaps there's something I'm missing, but this sounds like an exceedingly stupid law.

...I wonder if its on the books here in NY?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Man, I had no idea there were so many states where what I consider a rite of childhood is against the law.

In Oklahoma we can stick just about anything we can catch in an aquarium, even game fish. The only catch is gamefish are technically supposed to be caught on a hook and line rather than netted, but I doubt there's a warden in the state of Oklahoma who'd give a damn about an eight-year-old catching a few crappie and bass fry for their native fish tank using a dip net.

In fact, my original inspiration for setting up a tank with my son was an article in an old issue of our state game and fish magazine, a magazine that's published by our wildlife department.

I'm with Ken on this one, it seems a tad counter-intuitive to ban the collection and keeping of native fish species while saying it's perfectly fine to import, sell and keep non-native species that if introduced have the potential to wreak ecological havoc.

I dunno, maybe states should concentrate on that instead of worrying about the apparently insidious threat that children with dip nets pose to our game and fish laws...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

In Colorado, there are private hatcheries that are not as far off the beaten path as you think. I'm friends with a pond builder who has a few ponds setup as well as fish tanks with purchased gills, crappie, bass, catfish, steelhead, browns......if only we had a way of contacting other bloggers I'd hook it up for ya S-Kfry, and others.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

In general, fish have a really rotten survivorship curve with maybe 50% of the population dead within 15% of the lifespan (that's why there are so few really big, old fish.) A few local specimens removed to a tank can't possibly impact the fortunes of the population at large.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

I think it's illegal to be normal and well rounded now.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

The states just classify them as game fish and justify the ruling by that. you can catch them by hook and line and take them home to eat over a certain size but can't catch a small one in a net to put in an aquarium. Go figure!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

Good way to get kids involved and take an interest in mother nature... instead of learning it through the TV or a video game, they get to experience it first hand. Get the kids involved because they hold the future of hunting and fishing.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawg daddy wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

i would have loved to have largemouth in a aquarium when i was young i would have fished in most of the time.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisher girl wrote 4 years 38 weeks ago

That's a great article! My brothers and I have had a couple aquariums like this. We had crawfish, little gobies, minnows and bluegill. The gobies stayed alive for about four days. The only thing alive after they died was the crawfish. Since there was only one we just let him go.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

I've kept just about every freshwater fish in an aquarium at one time or another- the only species I didn't have any success with were walleye fry. I especially enjoyed feeding them all their favorite critters. However, when you do this with wild gamefish you should be prepared to let them go after a year or two when they get too big for thr tank. My favorite, Enest T. Bass, would jump out of the water and grab worms that I dangled above the tank!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Great Idea Chad, but sadly also a salutary lesson in how poor a match to human life as it's lived in the vernacular, the laws of this world are.
Sadly I'm forced to agree that we do need legal restraint to protect wildlife from halfwits, but its a sorry day when those laws also prohibit dads 'n' lads from keeping native species in the home.

Modern life is rubbish
SBW

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sick STi wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Great article. I had considered doing this with my old fishtank, but it leaked and was thrown in the garbage. I have a little one coming in December, and I am terrified of him or her becoming a video game zombie. I enjoy video games as much as the next guy, but I want my kids to enjoy the outdoors as much as I did when I was young. Maybe I'll have to pick up another fish tank in the future, and do the same with my little one.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

I was just discussing this topic at my buddys auto repair shop this morning. Seems that a patron,who mentioned she and her boy friend fish a lot, have an aquarium with a largemouth, catfish, bluegills and crappies.

When they go fishin' they drop different baits into the tank to see what the fish are hungry for. Lastnight they dropped worms,crickets,minnows and shrimp into the aquarium buffet.

The catfish went crazy for the shrimp and ignored everything else on the menu.
So, shrimp it was ... later in the evening when they came home, catfish with hush puppies was their main course!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

"Show me a child who doesn't like that and I'll show you a child who needs to have their Playstations, their cell phones, and their Bratz dolls thrown in the dumpster where they belong."

YES!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Had a fingerling smallmouth bass in college. Spent the year watching him/her inhale guppies. Was a good lesson in the way a smallie attacks a baitfish--always head first. Would have been even better with a wee one watching. -D

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from salmonquest wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

I've never considered this for my aquarium but what a great idea. One thought "wild" fish often contain parasites, fungus, and various other diseases. Often when you get a new fish it's a good idea to put it in a smaller aquarium in quarantine until you are sure it's clean or apply a fungicide etc.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Man, I had no idea there were so many states where what I consider a rite of childhood is against the law.

In Oklahoma we can stick just about anything we can catch in an aquarium, even game fish. The only catch is gamefish are technically supposed to be caught on a hook and line rather than netted, but I doubt there's a warden in the state of Oklahoma who'd give a damn about an eight-year-old catching a few crappie and bass fry for their native fish tank using a dip net.

In fact, my original inspiration for setting up a tank with my son was an article in an old issue of our state game and fish magazine, a magazine that's published by our wildlife department.

I'm with Ken on this one, it seems a tad counter-intuitive to ban the collection and keeping of native fish species while saying it's perfectly fine to import, sell and keep non-native species that if introduced have the potential to wreak ecological havoc.

I dunno, maybe states should concentrate on that instead of worrying about the apparently insidious threat that children with dip nets pose to our game and fish laws...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

I think it's illegal to be normal and well rounded now.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawg daddy wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

i would have loved to have largemouth in a aquarium when i was young i would have fished in most of the time.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from TJ wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Catfish take to aquariums very well. Concerning your tadpoles, when they look like frogs with tails either let them go or buy one of those little plastic floating islands to crawl out on or they will die.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

An old college roommate of mine had an aquarium full of cichlids and a couple algae eaters. For chuckles he dropped in a "blue lobster" which is a kind of crayfish. Anyhow, the crayfish sysematically hunted down and ate all the fish in the tank. It was sort of surprising to me because I'm used to using live crayfish for bait. I wonder if wild crayfish prey on bass fry?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from s-kfry wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

I looked into doing this but in Colorado it is illegal to extract wildlife of just about any kind (except small crawfish for some reason)from a stream and transport it home. Apparently we can purchase native fishes from hatcheries but they're not close so we settled for an assortment of tropicals for the time being.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Good article. I couldn't agree more. I did this when my kids were little. They learned a lot & had fun at the same time. We went through many generations of crawfish, a snail population explosion, a largemouth bass that kept the floor wet & the kids busy feeding him, and many other adventures.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

You can catch or buy an oscar and put it in an aquarium. Then give your kids the same lesson with feeder goldfish plus your children get to see the color show with all the gold shimmering scales floating. Put a few rocks in that the goldfish can hide under and watch the Oscar play cat and mouse with them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bluecollarkid wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

Get a "Jack Dempsey"... I had several aquariums as a kind and raised all manners of tropical fish. Tigers, sharks, and Jack Dempsies are all predatory fish I learned. The Tigers hunted down and consumed the other fish in the tank then turned on each other (even the red-finned shark). The Jack Dempsey ate three goldfish twice his size and attempted to bite my father's finger off one day when he was attempting to scrub the tank (bit him bad enough to draw serious blood and make a serious gash, for a fish, in his finger). We used to drop lives worms in the tank and minnows to watch him hunt.

I also had terrariums and a cactus garden. What a wonderful world we live in, it's a shame Chad is right and most children today show no interest in it and therefore experience very little of it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

We caught some minnows and a crawdad and put them in my daughter's aquarium w/ her goldfish. Bad idea, the minnow attacked and ate a goldfish's eye, the crawdad killed one, didn't last long. The store-bought fishies just couldn't hack it w/the wild ones.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ken.mcloud wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

for those people in states banning such an aquarium...

why?

How does putting the fish in a tank do any more harm than eating it? or keeping a tropical fish?

Heck even if you were worried about someone running an unsanctioned boot-leg hatchery operation **rolls eyes** why couldn't you just limit the number of fish? or prohibit their sale?

How does the law distinguish between aquariums and other fish storage vessels like a bait tank or live well?

or do the fish and game agents just get to use the 'ol "I know one when I see one" excuse?

Perhaps there's something I'm missing, but this sounds like an exceedingly stupid law.

...I wonder if its on the books here in NY?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

In Colorado, there are private hatcheries that are not as far off the beaten path as you think. I'm friends with a pond builder who has a few ponds setup as well as fish tanks with purchased gills, crappie, bass, catfish, steelhead, browns......if only we had a way of contacting other bloggers I'd hook it up for ya S-Kfry, and others.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

In general, fish have a really rotten survivorship curve with maybe 50% of the population dead within 15% of the lifespan (that's why there are so few really big, old fish.) A few local specimens removed to a tank can't possibly impact the fortunes of the population at large.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

The states just classify them as game fish and justify the ruling by that. you can catch them by hook and line and take them home to eat over a certain size but can't catch a small one in a net to put in an aquarium. Go figure!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 39 weeks ago

Good way to get kids involved and take an interest in mother nature... instead of learning it through the TV or a video game, they get to experience it first hand. Get the kids involved because they hold the future of hunting and fishing.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisher girl wrote 4 years 38 weeks ago

That's a great article! My brothers and I have had a couple aquariums like this. We had crawfish, little gobies, minnows and bluegill. The gobies stayed alive for about four days. The only thing alive after they died was the crawfish. Since there was only one we just let him go.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

I've kept just about every freshwater fish in an aquarium at one time or another- the only species I didn't have any success with were walleye fry. I especially enjoyed feeding them all their favorite critters. However, when you do this with wild gamefish you should be prepared to let them go after a year or two when they get too big for thr tank. My favorite, Enest T. Bass, would jump out of the water and grab worms that I dangled above the tank!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kim wrote 4 years 40 weeks ago

In Florida, having an aquarium like that will get you a fine and jail time not to mention confiscation of tank, animals and property. Mr. Hawgmouth, while teaching kids is an excellent idea, is a game fish and highly illegal to have.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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