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With an estimated 20 million plus aquaria in the US, it appears Americans are aficionados when it comes to keeping fish as a recreational activity. The healthy effects of keeping domesticated fish are well-documented, inducing relaxation, and contemplation, as they do.
Mammals, birds, terrapins, turtles, frogs, other amphibians, and reptiles are also housed in aquaria, but by far the most popular inhabitants are fish. As a practice, aquarium keeping goes back to Sumeria, and Ancient Egypt, but the Chinese became past-masters, especially with golden carp.
The attractions range from seeing fish living and breeding in something resembling their natural habitats; scientific study; decorative effects, as recognized by Feng Shui interior designers; and commercial breeding for food, and sale. Indeed, some of the larger aquaria exhibit shark and other deep sea fish that would otherwise not be generally seen in their natural environment.
By far the most popular species of fish kept in aquaria are the tropical variety, famed for their myriad colors, sizes and variety. However, the crucial balance between the fish, plants, temperature, and oxygen becomes imperative here, as tropical fish must have a constant temperature of 22° C (72° F) to survive.
Plants and fish have a symbiotic relationship, plants providing oxygen, simulating the natural environment, and also digesting waste. Indeed, in some cases a balance between the fish and plants can even obviate the need for filtration. Likewise, sand and/or gravel forms a suitable base to the tank and also allows plants to root.
Purity is an imperative for the fishes’ survival, algae, for example, must not be allowed to build up as its effects are detrimental. Further oxygen is supplied by aerators, and filtration ranging from sand-filters, and simple flow-through systems to completely automated recirculating systems maintain water purity. In addition, fecal matter, dead fish, toxic metabolic waste and ammonia must be removed from the tank or reconstituted as soon as possible.
Water renewal is another must, the fine chemical balance ensuring viability. Nitrogen super-saturation must be avoided at all costs; something charcoal filtration is useful for. There are 3 types of water systems to cope with water freshness: open, closed, and semi-closed. Through-flow is the characteristic of open systems, while virtually identical to that in the natural environment, it tends to be expensive. Closed systems demand adequate treatment of metabolic wastes due to the fact that the water is recirculated. Semi-closed systems have a constant connection to the water supply, the flow of new water coping with metabolic wastes. Water should be replenished on a 2 hourly basis with the provision of air-stones to prevent oxygen depletion.
Glass is by far the best material for aquaria, followed by the non-toxic plastics like plexiglas. Non-toxic adhesives must be chosen for the sealants, and frame. Silicone rubber, and fiberglass, suitably treated, is probably best for safety, and cost. Fiberglass, and stainless steel make the most practical frame materials.
Finally, fish must not be overfed, and uneaten food should be removed from the tank. Brine shrimp and commercially produced food is the normal fish diet.
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