Dog owners and cat owners are lucky — they get to cuddle with their lovable fur balls on the sofa as they watch TV. Aquarium owners don’t really have that luxury. Well, technically you could cuddle with your fish on your sofa, but I don’t know why you’d want to. Fish feel… well, weird. They’re cool and kind of slimy, which provides a novel experience for mammals like you and me that are accustomed to other warm-blooded creatures. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the experience is unpleasant, but I probably wouldn’t want to pet fish as much as I’d pet, say, a dog or a cat. Still, it’d be nice to have that option.
Have you ever been to a public aquarium that had an open-top touch tank? You know the kind: kids and parents swarm around the flat, low aquarium as a supervisor shares interesting, kid-friendly facts about the tank’s inhabitants. Starfish, stingrays, and other aquatic critters casually go about their business as people reach down to stroke their slimy hides. If you visit one of these aquariums and listen closely, you can usually hear a chorus of “Eww!” or “Cool!” as kids discover the texture of stingray skin for the first time.
There really isn’t any reason why you wouldn’t be able to create a touch pool in your own home as well. Yeah, I know it sounds a little bit weird, but who cares if it’s unorthodox? There are plenty of aquarium owners who love to pet their fish — in fact, some pet owners specifically select fish species that love human contact.
If you plan to build a touch-friendly tank, then there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. The first detail is the most obvious: the tank can’t be too high. A tank that opens up at around waist level will allow you to easily take in the aquascape from above and reach down into the aquatic world. You might want to make the aquarium higher or lower based on whether or not you have kids. The lower an aquarium is, the easier it will be for children to access it.
Kids absolutely adore touch tanks. Giving your children access to a touch tank could help foster scientific curiosity. Getting your kids more engaged with the world is definitely a good thing, but you might want to look into college saving plans if you accidentally create a budding marine biologist.
Don’t fill your tank with creatures that like to nibble on fingers. Vicious varieties of sharks, eels, crabs, poisonous fish, and similar species are all no-nos. But you don’t just want to avoid the bad species — you want to actively seek out good species. Horseshoe crabs, starfish, stingrays, and other slow-moving species are ideal for touch tanks because they’re easy to catch. Small, fast-moving fish will typically swim away from your hand like their lives depend on it.
There are also a few species of fish that are friendly with humans. Puffers and oscars have been known to eat out of their owners’ hands, so you can easily transform feeding time into bonding time with these amiable fish.
Touch tanks have special considerations when it comes to room placement. First of all, you need to keep in mind that touch tanks have a tendency to make the surroundings wet. You should probably keep towels nearby so you can wipe off your hand after touching your fish, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend placing a touch tank on a carpet. It will be much easier to clean up stray drops of water on a hardwood floor.
So, there you have it: three simple tips that can help you create a touch tank in your own home. Would petting your fish be unorthodox? Certainly. But would it be wrong or a bad idea? Psh. Don’t let convention stop you from getting the tank of your dreams. Thousands of pet owners unabashedly pet their fish during feeding time or when they’re feeling particularly cuddly. Don’t miss out on these slimy bonding opportunities!