Compatible college companions

For some students, the hardest part of leaving home is saying goodbye to furry friends or pets. Resident students are limited to fish inside a 10-gallon or less aquarium, but even students living off campus may have trouble finding a pet that adapts to their lifestyle. Being in class all day, and sometimes night, makes it hard to own a dog – which needs constant attention and exercise – or cat – which can be an expensive responsibility.

Below is a list of different kinds of fish and animals that make perfect companions for students.

On-campus living – a look at kinds of fish that can live comfortably inside a 10-gallon aquarium.

Betta fish

Male betta fish are one of the most popular college pets. They’re easy to care for, beautiful to look at and entertaining.

The only things needed for a betta fish are a tank or bowl – absolutely no less than one gallon – chemicals to remove chlorine from tap water and balance the pH, betta food and medicine if they get sick.

As violent fighting fish, they need complete solitude, but placing a mirror outside of their tank will give their owner the treat of watching them spread their fins and display their colors. Because they can stay briefly in small containers, they travel relatively well in cup holders and are allowed on airplanes if kept in a water bottle.


A goldfish is one of the most basic pets a person can own. They often live five to 10 years in a tank, according to They don’t need a filter or heat lamp and can usually live comfortably in a bowl two gallons or larger. Adorned with stickers or drawings, their bowls are great dorm room decoration.

Though they can be social fish, goldfish can be happy alone. A goldfish should never be crammed with others in a small tank. The general rule is one gallon of water for every inch of fish.

Guppies, mollies and tetras

Guppies, mollies and tetras are group fish that get along together in most cases. They come in different shapes and colors but are small enough to fit one per gallon of water. These fish like to hide in tank decorations, such as plants, and can be lively and playful – especially at feeding time.

Be sure to get all the same gender to avoid babies, which for guppies especially, can come in large numbers.


Triops are like prehistoric sea monkeys and resemble living fossils. They can be bought in kits from most discovery or science stores and sometimes in the toy section at department stores. sells kits and has information on this unique pet.

Triops start very small, but can grow to nearly 3 inches, according to They eat fish pellets, bloodworms, brine shrimp and each other – so it’s best to get a larger tank to prevent cannibalism. Their average lifespan is only 20-90, days according to, but their three eyes make an interesting conversation piece.

Off-campus living – a look at different animals that don’t mind weird hours and little interaction.

Gerbils & Hamsters

Gerbils and hamsters are cuddly, easy to care for and cute. They don’t require much attention and entertain themselves with another gerbil/hamster or an exercise toy. A cage for a gerbil and hamster should have somewhere for the animal to hide and sleep as well as a wheel for exercise.

Gerbils usually smell less, but are active during the day, so students who want to see their pet after a long day of classes should choose a hamster.


Red ear sliders are especially popular in Florida, where they live happily in the humid environment. Their tanks – which should be no less than 10 gallons per inch of turtle – may take some money and effort to set up, but turtles require little care besides feeding them and cleaning their cage.

Unlike tortoises, they spend a lot of time in water. A turtle habitat should be full of water with a floating dock, found at any pet store. They require no interaction, are perfect for a busy student, and can live up to 40 years.

Be sure to talk with a pet store employee before assuming a tank setup is ready for a turtle.


Hedgehogs are commonly misunderstood pets. While they have sharp quills on their back, they are unrelated to the porcupine and can make these modified hairs soft enough to pet and scratch. Though quiet, shy and seemingly grumpy, they can grow to be very attached and affectionate toward their owner.

Hedgehogs are usually expensive and considered an exotic pet – so they are illegal in some states, like Georgia – but easy to care for and don’t smell. They can eat basic cat food and live in Sterilite bins. Many breeders even offer cage setup when you purchase one of their hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs are also nocturnal, so they’re awake by the time most students come home. Don’t be discouraged if a hedgehog remains curled up in a ball. Some take up to a year to get used to their owner’s scent.

Crested geckos

The crested gecko is one of the only reptile pets that does not require a heat lamp and actually prefers room temperatures. They eat live insects and fruit and prefer smaller

10-gallon cages while young (though they will eventually need something closer to 20 gallons, according to

The crested gecko is also one of the easiest lizards to handle, according to and can be very active and jumpy. Both genders can be found in various colors and designs.

Pets to avoid

Parrots (or any bird)

Parrots and most domestic birds are loud, which makes them a problem for anyone in any type of communal living. Both roommates and neighbors only separated by a wall will be constantly annoyed. Parrots also need a fair amount of space and are acutely uncomfortable in small cages.

Parrots make great pets for people who live in their own house and are looking for a lifelong companion, but for a busy college student in cramped spaces, the situation is not ideal.

Saltwater fish

Saltwater fish and other tropical fish require a lot of space, time and money – three things that college students usually don’t have. The fish alone can be expensive, but they also need large aquariums, special plants and lots of cleaning and salt control.

For people with a lot of money and time, saltwater aquariums are a beautiful home decoration, but they are not a good choice for budgeting students.

Don’t forget to check the local ASPCA and for pets to adopt before heading to the pet store.