New Classroom Tank

  • #1
HI Fishlore community!

I am starting my year as a first year teacher on Monday and I was awarded a $125 grant to set up a freshwater fish aquarium in my classroom. I'd love your help and input. I currently have a 10 gallon and a 5 gallon at home so I have some experience.

First, equipment: While $125 sounds like a lot, we all know it's not much when it comes to fish tanks. I was given a 7 gallon bowfront glass aquarium I'll be using, with a whisper internal filter. I have chemicals covered. So I'll need to buy a heater, lights sufficient for low light plants, light timer for weekends, automatic fish feeder (do these actually work?), and other odds and ends. Anything else?

I'll set the tank up on top of an unused elementary school desk. Will it be strong enough, do you think? I feel comfortable sitting/standing on it so I assume it'll be ok.

Also, the fun part - stocking! I have extra red cherry shrimp that I'll stock with. Some kind of micro fish - lemon eyed tetras, Ember tetras (I don't love that they're red, I'm looking for something different in color), CPDs are cute but expensive, what do you think? Also I know it's tight but I'd like to do a small shoal of cories, as the kids love them. How about 6 pygmys or 4 pandas? There's a lot of bottom swim space because it's bowfront.
  • #2
If your tanks at home are already cycled, you can put some of the filter media into the new filter. If you want to stock with some Cherry Shirmp a cycled tank is very important.

Why don't you try a betta? A single male will be great with the shrimp in that tank size, and you can add 1-2 Nerite Snails as well. However, you'll have to monitor the Bettas temperament.

IMO, smaller schooling fish like Ember Tetras should be kept in a minimum tank size of 10 gallons.
  • #3
If your tanks at home are already cycled, you can put some of the filter media into the new filter. If you want to stock with some Cherry Shirmp a cycled tank is very important.

Why don't you try a betta? A single male will be great with the shrimp in that tank size, and you can add 1-2 Nerite Snails as well. However, you'll have to monitor the Bettas temperament.

IMO, smaller schooling fish like Ember Tetras should be kept in a minimum tank size of 10 gallons.
I think a small school of about 6 ember tetras would actually work quite well in a 7 gallon, I think that, with some extra plants added to the tank over a period of time, it would be suitable for them.
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  • #4
A betta isn't ideal for the classroom. While they're wonderful fish, because they're so solitary, kids get attached to them and fish die unexpectedly. A minI ecosystem is better, so kids aren't attached to one single fish, if that makes sense.
  • #6
What are the dimensions??
  • #7
Actually why don't you do an all invert planted tank? So easy low light and easy beginner plants would be great! With Black Blasting sand will make the red cherry shrimp stand out!
  • #8
I suggest that you stay away from the automatic feeders. They are not reliable. It's possible that the food could gunk up from moisture, or dump too much/not enough food. The fish can go a weekend without being fed, and can even go up to two weeks without feeding. If your vacation is any longer than that (summer), just take the fish home with you.
  • #9
I'd get a few endlers, probably 4 and do your RCS.
  • #10
What about ChilI Rasboras? Or maybe Harlequin Rasboras?
You can't do Harlequin Rasbora in a 7g. I've got them in 60g, they're pretty big and very active.

If go for cpd with your shrimp, your need to be fairly well planted though I believe add they're shy fish. Endlers are beautiful as well

I wouldn't go with any corys, it wouldn't be enough room and you couldn't do nice group of them.
  • #11
No cories. They need a 20 gallon minimum
  • #12
Hello fellow teacher - some tips based on experience.

If you can, use some money to get a larger tank - at least a 15 or 20. A 7 gallon shouldn't hold more than 2-3 fish. That will bore kids. Get the tank against the wall somewhere stable. Desks can be good, or not. It depends on how they were made.
No heater. This is very important with kids. Electricity, water and kids don't mix well. You can be the best teacher with the best classroom control, but you do not know who is coming in and what problems they may have. I coordinate getting tanks into schools, and almost every teacher (especially elementary ) who has ignored that has found a plugged in heater out of the water - very dangerous.
I would get a feeder, but only use it on xmas holidays, etc. Not weekends.
The fish should be nondescript and easy to replace quickly.
Understock. You are guaranteed at least one feeding mishap per year. There will be a mad water changing crisis.
Locate your water sources. Most classroom tanks die because of a lack of water changes once the world explodes into full normal kid-mayhem. There is so much going on, and the water source is so far...

Ideally, fish larger than 2 inches. Kids are like adults - they find it easier to put a personality onto a slightly larger creature than onto a tiny one. If you stay with the 7 gallon, a paradise fish and nothing else would be my call. It's colourful, hardy, cold tolerant (down to 6c) and very sociable.

Once families know you keep fish in the room, you can suddenly have mts issues. People unload tanks on you, and tell you to take them home if you can't use them in the school. So far, I have been given 2 40s, a 65, and a 55, plus a bunch of 10s and hopeless 2 and 3 gallon betta killers. I didn't distribute the latter, but I have been able to supply a few local classrooms with nice tanks.
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  • #13
Thank you everyone for your advice and support!

I'll begin buying today and my plan will be:
- Keep the 7 gallon (bigger just isn't feasible in my very small space, and water damage is a serious concern)
- No heater - thanks, Navigator, I wouldn't have thought of that safety concern! If (when) it gets very cold in my room in the winter, I'll add a temporary eheim with an automatic shut off feature and be very clear with the safety concerns with my kids
- Dark purple gravel for high color contrast with the plants and stock without the hassle of sand
- Live, low-light plants, like java fern, moss balls, anubias, and a handful of frogbit I can bring from home
- Invert tank with live plants - I'll start with just inverts - yellow neocardinia, amanos, nerites, and perhaps a ramshorn if I can find a very colorful one (I'm not too concerned with a tank take-over by snails because I'll be skipping feeding 2x/week)
- Later, once the tank is established, I'll add in a small schooling fish. Maybe CPDs, but they're quite pricey with a short lifespan (I have them at home), so we'll see
- I'll buy a safety plug intended for bathroom and outdoor use, coupled with drip loops of course, for added peace of mind against electricity disasters
- A small locked box to keep the fish food and the more dangerous chemicals, like Prime because you never know who's wandering in and out of your room before and after school

Anything else I'm missing? Any other tips or ideas to help teach 3rd-5th graders about ecosystems/water chemistry/etc? I'm a math teacher, and plan to use the critters in some of our projects.
  • #14
Here's a few ideas for teaching elementary school kids about ecosystems/water chemistry/math (granted I'm barely much more than a kid myself, being an incoming college student )
  • Have your students calculate the wattage needed for the heater (for winter)
  • Have your students dose out the amount of Prime needed for the tank
  • Introduce them to concepts like scientific names, the nitrogen cycle, and selective breeding
  • For a challenge, have your students calculate the size of the tank and see if the manufacturer made a mistake (of course, leave behind a few hints like "you can split up this shape into a partial circle depending on the tank, and a rectangle" and definitely give them the conversion from square inches to gallons)
  • If you want to go even more difficult, have your students use their calculations to determine how many fish the tank can comfortably accommodate (give your students a few options for fish species like endlers, ember tetras, neons, zebrafish, or rosy minnows and hand them some stocking rules based on species like "Species A needs x square inches per fish", "Species B needs 5 friends to feel happy", "Species C likes this temp better", or "Species D needs a tank this long to be able to swim properly"-throw in a few species that are clearly inappropriate for the tank so your students can practice evaluating information)
  • #15
This may already have been part of your plan. But what about slowly adding critters to the tank, let the kids learn about them individually. Start with one critter. Then add another.. gradually and consistently teaching them how to introduce tank mates and how they affect the 'community' tank. IE instead of a tank that is there, ready, and all set up, you show them the complete process step by step so they can appreciate each aspect of it. If that makes sense. Kids at this age love to be part of the decision making process.. maybe let them pick/vote on which creature should come next, which plants to add next etc?
  • #16
With that small of a tank, you could teach thermodynamics by using lights to help keep the heat up. They could be turned off mostly during the day if you are using a cool water fish, like the cpd's. Put them on a timer for evnings/nights.
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  • #17


Here's step 1! It has rocks, hardscape, lights, yellow Sakura shrimp, and one small nerite. Soon I'll add a black background, amano shrimp, java fern, frogbit, and Anubias.

And rules. Lots of rules.
  • #18
Since you do have lights, you should consider putting in WINDELOV java ferns and maybe some java moss for the inverts, they love plants like that. I'm sure the kids would be interested in aquatic plants too.
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  • #19


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