Having an aquarium can be great stress release for adults. For children, it’s more about the fun and excitement of fish.
The Capital Cichlid Association (CCA) is presenting AquaMania 2013 this weekend at the Gathersburg Hilton. The two-day event is set to bring together not only members of the club (200 in all) but to introduce more people to the aquariums and fish, CCA board member for chair of AquaMania Matt Quinn said.
“We also try to bring in kids and families, too,” Quinn said. “We have our Aquarium Beautiful competition (which pits competitors against each other with aquarium designs). We have activities that are free for everybody right there in the lobby of the Hilton. Right now, we have about 30 tanks in the Aquarium Beautiful competition that are going to be set up by different people. They’re either nano-tanks, which are really small ones, medium sized or large ones.”
One of the bigger promotions of the weekend is the ‘Give a Kid a Tank,’ competition.
“Kids have been sending in responses to the question, ‘Why do I want a fish tank setup?’” Quinn said. “We’re going to choose the top 10, and those kids are going to get to set up and bring home an aquarium. We’re going to give them a class on how to take care of it and introduce them to the club so they’ll know where to go if they have any questions.”
The competition has a lot to do with the decline of local pet stores, Quinn said.
“When I was a kid, just about every shopping center had a pet store,” Quinn said. “You know, a little mom and pop pet store. That’s where you went to learn about keeping fish tanks. A lot of those stores have closed. There are just so many other things for kids to do today.
“One of the things that has been really important to us as a club is attracting new members, especially younger ones. So the idea here was we really want to work with the community and do things that educate the next generation.”
The CCA received a donation of 15 tanks. Instead of giving the tanks to the children of the club members or to people they knew, the group decided to open it up to children they didn’t know.
“We’ve gotten quite a few entries,” Quinn said. “Every kid who enters, whether they’re chosen as one of the 10 that get to set up or not, we have five more setups that we’re going to raffle off to those kids, and every kid that comes is going to get some kind of a prize and they get to learn more about fish tanks. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The contest was open for children ages 7 to 14. Quinn said he believes that’s a good age range to start learning how to take care of fish and how to properly maintain an aquarium.
“Most of the entries we’ve received have been closer (in age) to 7 than 14,” Quinn said. “Part of this is parental permission. The other part of it is really learning about the basics of keeping fish tanks. If you know the basics, then taking care of it is really pretty easy.
“I’d say most of the entries we’ve gotten have been from 9 and 10 year olds. That’s just perfect because they’re starting to take a little bit of science in class. They’re probably reliable enough to walk the dog and feed the dog. So yeah, fish are pretty easy to take care of.”
Whereas taking care of a dog or cat can be time consuming and some times a little difficult, Quinn believes having fish can teach children so much about a variety of different subjects. Plus, they can be healthier.
“For one thing, you don’t have the allergy issues,” Quinn said. “For kids, (the fish) are pretty forgiving animals. If you get things set up right ... fish are pretty easy to take care of. You can go away for the weekend or often times a few days and not even have to worry about feeding them.
“All that’s required, really, is doing a partial water change … maybe rearranging the plants, cleaning the algae off the glass, and that’s really about it.”
Having children around the age of 10 also provides levels of education to go along with what they’re learning in school, according to Quinn.
“The opportunities to learn, though, are really tremendous,” Quinn said. “Everything from chemistry, learning about the pH of the water, to biology, where you’re learning about the bacteria that eat the bad stuff that the fish produce and turn it into something less toxic. You’re learning about geography because a lot of the fish come from places that are exotic and tropical like Central America and South America and Africa – even Asia.
“There’s a lot to learn there, and it’s also a great opportunity to learn about responsibility. The fish will die if you don’t do anything to them, but just something simple like changing some of the water once a week or once every two weeks makes all the difference in the world.”