How to Dog-Proof Your Fish Tank: The Beginners Guide 

Posted by Robert Thomas on Sep 15th 2022

Thinking of keeping a dog and a fish tank in the same home? Learn all you need to know to keep both pets safe and happy.

 In this article, we cover some common causes of accidents between dogs and fish, and teach you the best way to prevent them.

Dogs are incorrigibly curious creatures, which for most owners is part of their irresistible charm. It can also, however, be a problem for anyone who wants to keep a fish tank in the same home with Fido. Luckily, there are a few simple steps all owners can take to prevent accidents between finned and furry friends.

  1. Try to limit the smells coming from your fish tank. Dogs have an almost unbelievably precise and sensitive sense of smell, so it makes perfect sense that they would use their nose to navigate the world. In one way, this makes life easier for fish owners, as their largely color-blind dogs won’t be hugely interested in the visual stimulation of the freshwater fish in the fish tank. They will, however, be interested in its smells, which are much harder for humans, with our comparatively pathetic olfactory abilities, to identify and eliminate. Place a solid (not mesh) lid on your tank to reduce smells, and clean the tank regularly to eliminate odor-producing bacteria and waste. Always seal your fish food and store it in a closed cabinet, out of your dog’s reach.

  2. Make sure your tank stand is sturdy and stable. Even if your dog isn’t that interested in the fish tank, it’s easy for a dog to cause an accident by bumping into the fish tank stand during a boisterous play session or intense set of zoomies. The results can be tragic for both your fish and your dog. Luckily, these accidents can be prevented by strategic placement of the fish tank stand, away from blind corners and close to the wall, in a niche or other isolated spot if possible. The best way to prevent accidents is by getting a large, sturdy fish tank stand that doesn’t wobble and can comfortably hold the weight of the fish tank.

  3. Give your dog lots of exercise and stimulating toys. Dogs are highly intelligent animals that are easily bored if they don’t have enough stimulation. A bored dog is a dog primed to get into trouble. Make sure your dog is getting the full recommended amount of exercise for their breed and age, especially in the first few weeks after the fish move in. With any luck, this will make them too tired to try any fish tank shenanigans. Additionally, engage their brains with short training sessions, food puzzles, and toys. This will keep them occupied with something other than the fish tank; the food puzzles and toys are especially good for when no humans are around to engage the dog.

  4. Introduce your dog to the fish tank slowly and carefully. Your dog will not understand what your fish tank is at first, or if they do recognize what it is, they will most likely recognize it as a thing containing prey. Your dog’s nose will not distinguish between your beautiful ornamental fish and delicious dinner fish, so don’t expect them to be chill with your fish tank right off the bat. Instead, you’ll have to do a slow introduction, the first step of which should be having your dog around the empty fish tank. Your dog will likely be curious about this big new thing in their space, but because it doesn’t have any tantalizing smells yet, it shouldn’t take long for them to get comfortable with the idea of it. Once they can hang out in the room with the fish tank without paying attention to it, you can add the water and any plants and décor you intend to have; re-introduce your dog to the tank while it’s cycling.

  5.  Always supervise your dog around the fish tank. Even if you are completely and totally confident in your dog’s ability and desire to ignore the fish tank, it’s a good idea to always have a human around when your dog is in the fish tank room. If possible, keep the door to the fish tank room closed when no one’s home, or set up a baby gate or other barrier to keep the dog out until someone’s around to keep an eye on them. If your fish tank is centrally located and your dog is very chill or very well-trained, leaving the two unsupervised together isn’t the worst thing in the world, but remember that dogs are excitable creatures and fish tanks are delicate systems. It wouldn’t take long for a potentially disastrous accident to occur.

Any time you keep two animals in the same home, there is the potential for accidents and negative interactions. With dogs and fish, however, a little care and some extra supervision is all it takes to keep your home in harmony with all its animal inhabitants.


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