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Best Low-Maintenance Pets for College Students

Guest Contributor

Does your college student want to adopt a pet? Pet adoption is up during the pandemic as we all spend more time working and studying from home. But what kinds of pets are best for students?

Dogs and cats are the most popular pets in the U.S. for obvious reasons. And many college kids grew up with a dog or cat (or two or three) and may really miss their pets when they go away to school.

However, these two well-loved animals require a lot of time and attention — something most college students just don’t have.

Having a pet may be a great option for a college student seeking companionship or considering a pet for therapeutic purposes. Stress is prevalent in college and a companion animal can help your student manage stress.

It’s always important to choose the right pet for the right owner and situation; the last thing anyone wants it to relinquish a pet. So, which pets fit best with the college student lifestyle?

We have carefully selected four low-maintenance pets which make great companions for college students. From the Sea Monkey® to the frog — we have you covered!

Let’s take a look…


Frogs make great companion animals and it’s no wonder that they are increasing in popularity across the United States.

The frog is a cool animal and definitely has lower maintenance requirements compared to rabbits, guinea pigs, cats or dogs.

Although the frog does require regular feeding, it doesn’t require long walks, runs or mental stimulation. All the effort goes into their clean enclosure. Additionally, the frog should not be handled due to their sensitive skin so no regular cuddle sessions are necessary.

Frogs make great pets for college students and can be quite therapeutic. Although they may love to get out of their tank and have a wander around, this “exercise” doesn’t have to happen on a strict schedule and they will not demand your attention with a bark or a meow.

It’s important to note that different species of frogs are easier to care for than others, so it’s essential to do your research before purchasing! We recommend the American green tree frog which is easy to care for with an average lifespan of only two to six years. This may seem short but it's a great characteristic when post-college life plans may be up in the air.

The Turtle

The turtle is a low-maintenance pet just right for families including college students.

Turtles don’t require much pampering or stimulation. Unlike dogs, they don’t need to be walked. And unlike cats, they don’t need to be admired 24/7! However, they do require a clean tank so this does mean extra chores.

On that subject, a turtle can thrive in a small to medium-sized aquarium. Aquariums can be expensive — we recommend investing in a second-hand aquarium from your local thrift shop or animal charity.

Although the turtle may have a slightly expensive start-up cost, ongoing costs are low. They don’t need that much food (especially when compared to an 80-pound German Shepherd). They aren’t fussy eaters and are known to be opportunistic when it comes to meal time which means feeding time can be flexible when you’re busy with college.

Turtles make cute little buddies for the dorm room or apartment as they are pretty cool to look at.

Important note: Unlike frogs, many kinds of turtles and tortoises can have long lifespans. Be sure to do your research and be ready for a long-term commitment to your new pet!

Betta Fish

There are loads of fish species in the world. Some are higher maintenance than others so it's important to do your research in regard to individual species requirements.

For a low-maintenance option we definitely recommend the Betta Fish.

Bettas come in a variety of colors, making them a fun and beautiful choice for your next pet.

Not only are Betta Fish easy on the eyes, but they are easy to care for. They only require a daily feeding and a relatively clean tank to survive and thrive. They don’t even need a water filter (these can be frustrating due to technical problems and replacement requirements).

The Betta Fish is not a “clean freak” like other fish and actually doesn’t mind if their tank gets a little bit dirty. This is a plus for college students who may get behind on chores due to exams, assignments or lack of sleep.

Being a fish, they also don’t require much room for all of their belongings and therefore make a great option for dorm rooms or small apartments.

Sea Monkeys®

Sea Monkeys® are an unusual choice but they’re pretty interesting and as low-maintenance as pets can get.

A hybrid variety of brine shrimp, official Sea Monkeys® are sold in hatching kits that have been popular since the 1950s. Super small and super easy to care for, they’re also entertaining.

The life expectancy of a Sea Monkey® is only two years meaning that, though they’re a lower commitment overall, they may not make it to your college graduation (a pro or con depending upon your plan or situation).

Sea Monkeys® don’t require much from their owners. They only need to be fed once or twice per week. They also don’t need much space due to their tiny size and small tank and they won’t demand your time, attention or affection.

Ready to Choose a Pet?

Pets can be a good way for college students to reduce stress because caring for another being is therapeutic. Pets help us feel less alone, too.

It’s important to consider both the short- and long-term time commitment you’re able to make before welcoming a pet into your life, which is why pets like a turtle or Betta fish that require minimal care are excellent choices for busy students.

Whatever pet you choose, make sure to develop a relationship with a pet store nearby or a good online resource so that you have supplies and advice at the ready.

We’d love to hear what pet you choose!

Johnathan David, editor-in-chief, Everything ReptilesJohnathan David has a degree in wildlife conservation and is the editor in chief for two major reptile publications. He has been a reptile hobbyist since childhood and has over 20 years of experience in herpetoculture.
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