Classroom Pets

Evan Baldonado

By Evan Baldonado
(Founder of AquariumKids)

Teacher's pets. No, I'm not referring to teachers favoring certain students -- I am talking about teachers keeping animals in their classrooms.

From hamsters to goldfish, many of us have had classroom pets as part of a “hands-on learning experience” at school. Teachers keep these animals in an attempt to foster their students’ interest in biology and the natural world, but this well-intentioned plan often backfires as the teachers are not prepared to properly care for these animals. While I believe that teachers decide to keep classroom pets with the greatest intentions, I know that the way in which classroom pets are usually kept is cruel.

For starters, many animals which are chosen as classroom pets are virtually impossible to care for in a classroom setting. These animals include goldfish (they can grow quite large and require 25+ gallons of water each) and crayfish (which require 20+ gallons of water each and can be cannibalistic) amongst many other animals. Almost all classrooms are not equipped to properly care for these animals, so attempting to do so results in death [for the animals] and heartbreak [for the children].

Keeping animals in inadequate conditions in a classroom fails to properly educate children as was the original intent. Instead, it teaches improper animal husbandry that can turn students away from biology for an entire lifetime. Someone I know quite well was in a 4th-grade class that had pet goldfish and was saddened as more of them died every single day due to the inadequate conditions in which they were kept. Luckily, this traumatic experience did not destroy their love for animals, but it definitely could have.

Yesterday, one of my friends was suddenly burdened with having to adopt eight classroom crayfish as her sister’s teacher was planning to “feed them to the raccoons” otherwise. The teacher had kept these territorial crayfish together in a cramped tank, showing her students how the crayfish “cannibalized each other.” When she unceremoniously pawned the poor crayfish off on my friend and her family, her only words of advice were to feed them goldfish pellets and keep them in the “two tiny containers like 1/2 a gallon each” that she provided.

Despite these two examples, pets can be great for the classroom environment and can intrigue students while teaching them about biology as well. The major issue is that the pets that are being chosen are not suitable for the classroom. Instead of choosing goldfish, crayfish, or other unsuitable pets, I would recommend that a teacher choose to keep the following:

All jokes aside, there actually are plenty of animals that can be kept in a classroom that can provide fun and education for students with relatively little maintenance required. As this is an aquarium website, this article will only cover aquatic animals:

While I have only listed three kinds of animals above, they are definitely not the only animals that can be kept in a classroom environment with relative ease. Everyone should thoroughly research any species prior to obtaining them to ensure that they will be able to properly care for them.

Overall, there are much more suitable alternatives to the common classroom goldfish and classroom crayfish. These other animals would do a much better job of educating and inspiring students. Teachers, I strongly urge you to be responsible and to choose appropriate classroom pets.

Thanks for reading this exploration into classroom pets (published 4/4/16)! For more information, please browse around! Feel free to contact me at evanb [at] aquariumkids [dot] com with any questions.

What do you think of classroom pets? Have you had any before? Let's start a discussion in the comments section below:

Evan Baldonado

By Evan Baldonado
(Founder of AquariumKids)

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