What’s in an Aquarium?
WHAT’S in an aquarium? A hobby? Education? Entertainment? Income? A fish tank can be what you want it to be, and you can have in it what you want it to have. Many families have enjoyed making a home aquarium a family hobby. It can provide hours of entertainment, watching and caring for these scaly friends.
Young and old often find fascination in having a fish tank. One eleven-year-old boy who calls it a “fun hobby” says: “I like to watch something alive. I like to watch the fish play games, such as tag.” And a man, a writer and editor, says: “The four goldfish that are housed in a big glass bowl, close to my big chair, are a joy. I get a bigger lift from watching their graceful movements than I do from looking at my so-called art treasures which adorn the shelves and walls of my apartment.”
Others find not only joy but also relaxation and education in having an aquarium. The book Tropical Fish expresses it this way: “Just watching the graceful movements, the uninhibited play, the sheer joy of living of healthy fish, is itself a relaxing nerve tonic. . . . Educationally, the aquarium provides a living experience in nature . . . In creating a healthy environment for fish, we learn a great deal about all nature. We see what proper oxygen (and, conversely, polluted breathing conditions) does to our health.”
Your fish can actually become pets. They will become accustomed to your presence and your hand in the aquarium as you clean or rearrange it. They seem to know the difference between your hand and the fishnet. One minnow would jump out of the water to snatch a freshly swatted fly held over the bowl.
Selecting an Aquarium and Fish
Should you desire an aquarium, which of the many types of aquariums are you going to select? A small, round, all-glass fishbowl as an ornamental piece, easy to maintain? Perhaps a rectangular tank with plate glass sides and metal frame corners? In this regard many persons prefer one that is long, high and narrow in order to serve as a kind of showpiece, somewhat like a picture. Others prefer one that is low and wide, for breeding purposes.
Although there are over 30,000 known species of fish, tropical fish are favorites. There are, of course, freshwater and saltwater tropical fish. Most people fill their aquarium with fresh water, selecting a variety of fish that thrive in it and that get along with one another.
When purchasing fish from a pet store, care must be taken to select healthy fish. Adding diseased fish to your aquarium can result in loss of those already in the tank.
Of course, fish for your aquarium may possibly be obtained from a nearby stream. For example, Central American rivers may contain a beautiful swordtail. The male has a swordlike protrusion from its tail that is either aqua green, sky blue or canary yellow outlined with black. This fish seems able to swim equally well either backward or forward. Have you ever stopped at water pools or small creeks near your home to see what different kinds of finny fellows you can find?
Caring for an Aquarium
If one chooses to have an aquarium, time must also be spent in properly caring for it. Contrary to the views of many, however, caring for an aquarium does not entail dismantling and scrubbing it each week or even each month.
By weekly siphoning out a small portion of the water from the bottom where feces collect, and by adding clean water, or by using a mechanical filter to keep the water clean, some hobbyists have let years pass by before having to dismantle their aquarium completely. In addition to keeping your tank clean, you must also provide what your fish need to remain healthy.
Oxygen and Light
For your fish to remain healthy they will need proper oxygen. They absorb dissolved oxygen from the water as it passes through their gills. The amount of oxygen in an aquarium is determined by the temperature of the water (cool water holds more oxygen than hot water), and also by the amount of water surface area. Water replenishes its oxygen supply when in contact with the atmosphere. Some persons use an electric pump to force air through a tube into the aquarium. While a small amount of oxygen is absorbed from the air bubbles, the principal purpose of the airstream is to circulate the water upward to the surface, where oxygen is absorbed.
Since the amount of water surface area determines the amount of oxygen, a round glass bowl that has a lesser circumference at the top should not be filled completely. It should be filled just a little over halfway, to allow for greater water surface area.
Because of oxygen needs, the amount of water surface area determines how many fish you can have in your aquarium. Of course, the size of your fish is also a determining factor. One authority feels that there should be at least three square inches of air surface for each fish the size of a full-grown guppy (one and a half inches long). This would mean that an aquarium with a water surface of nine inches by twenty inches (180 square inches) should not house more than sixty grown guppies.
The use of some water plants in an aquarium is beneficial. Healthy plants give off oxygen and take in carbon dioxide during the daytime. In turn, fish take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Thus, healthy, growing plants not only are attractive in an aquarium but are also a source of oxygen.
When sufficient oxygen is lacking, your pet fish will soon let you know by rapid breathing, or by coming to the surface, gasping for oxygen.
Sufficient light is needed to ensure healthy plants, which, in turn, contribute toward the health of your fish. When there is not enough light, your plants will die and decay, microscopic life will multiply in your tank, and this may cause disease in the fish. On the other hand, too much light often causes excess algae, green water and high temperatures. As in the case with natural outdoor life, your aquarium should receive a total of about eight to ten hours of natural or artificial light each day.
Temperature and Food
Besides proper oxygen and enough light (if there are plants) fish need the right temperature and food. An imbalance of any of these essentials will no doubt cause problems in your underwater world. As the word “tropical” itself indicates a warm temperature, most tropical fish thrive best at temperatures between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures colder than this can weaken their resistance to disease. Water that is too warm can rob them of needed oxygen.
Most importantly, avoid a sudden change in temperature. This often shocks the fish and lowers their resistance to disease. Because of the danger of sudden change, the matter of adding new water or new fish to the tank is critical. Make sure that the new water to be added is of the same temperature. Also, when adding new fish to an aquarium, you will be doing them a favor by gradually introducing them into their new home, rather than simply pouring them into it. This is done by floating their traveling container in the tank until both waters are of equal temperature. This usually takes about fifteen minutes.
Food, of course, will have to be provided regularly and it should be varied from time to time. It can be as simple as buying dried or frozen prepared foods for fish; or you may serve them a tasty dish of mosquito larvae, worms, ants or flies, to mention but a few. You can also add from your own table a bit of grated beef heart, finely chopped raw spinach or lettuce or bits of fish. Good diet largely determines whether you will have a healthy fish with a long life and good coloring. Different fish, of course, have varied eating habits, and that will have to be taken into consideration.
Proper feeding of your finny friends involves, not only what they are fed, but also how they are fed. In warmer water a fish will require more food, since it will breathe, digest, eliminate and grow faster than in cooler water. Healthy fish usually appear to be hungry and will often respond to your presence by swimming excitedly against the front glass of your tank, begging, as it were. However, you must be careful not to overfeed them.
A general rule to apply is to feed your fish only enough food at one time so that all of it is consumed within three to five minutes. Any food left over due to overfeeding will decay. Overfeeding results in increased bacteria life and then disease and death for the fish. Since fish feed a little throughout the day in their natural habitat, frequent small feedings are usually preferred. However, if it is convenient to feed them only once a day, it is generally best to do so in the morning.
The conditions that cause fish disease are principally the same as respects all living creatures, namely, overcrowding, chilling or fluctuating temperatures, poor diet, overeating, insufficient light and nearby dead or decaying matter. Any of these can lead to the breakdown of the fishes’ natural immunity.
Breeding Tropical Fish
Tropical fish are generally classified as either “live-bearers” or “egg layers.” Of these two, the live-bearers are usually much simpler to breed and raise. This is because the live-bearing fry is born fully developed and is usually larger than the egg-laying fry. The new fry can swim vigorously and can eat the same food finely chopped up as is eaten by their parents.
The live-bearers are easily distinguished as to sex, since the males have a modified anal fin with which to impregnate the female as he swims alongside her. You can easily recognize a pregnant live-bearing fish by her size and the dark area in the anal region behind the lower fin. Many human parents have found the reproduction of live-bearing fish to be a natural medium for educating their children concerning the “facts of life.”
Since the live-bearing female and others are inclined to eat the little fry, you will want to supply protection for the newborn fish. The best way is to separate the mother from the other cannibalistic fish before she gives birth. You can then either provide the young with hiding places such as plant thickets or use some type of breeding trap to prevent the mother from getting at her babies.
Most tropical fish reproduce by laying eggs, and they employ a variety of methods to accomplish this. Some scatter their eggs over sand or gravel. Others fasten their eggs on plants or stones. Some egg layers will build nests, afterward guarding their young from predators. Many species of egg layers need specific breeding conditions, and sometimes special food. Thus more extensive knowledge is needed for successful breeding.
Interesting among tropical fish are the egg layers known as the bubble-nest builders. The male fish actually makes bubbles from gulps of air enveloped in a filmlike saliva to prepare a nest for the eggs. To watch this is indeed fascinating. For example, a pair of Siamese fighting fish are first introduced to each other separated by a glass partition when it is apparent that the bulging female is loaded with eggs. The male madly tries to reach the female and goes into a fancy dance that is beautiful to behold, exhibiting his flowing, veillike finnage in shades of pink, purple or blue. Then the male builds a mass of foam on the water surface, his bubble nest being about one and a half inches in diameter. Now the glass partition is removed.
After the chase, which is plenty fierce, the female allows the male to wrap around her, squeeze the eggs out of her and then fertilize the eggs. As the eggs float downward, the male quickly catches them in his mouth and ejects them into the air-bubble nest. After these are carefully protected in the bubbles, the male returns to continue the squeezing process until all the eggs, which may be several hundred, are apparently released by the female. The eggs hatch in about forty hours. Being extremely small in size, the young usually have to be fed microscopic life.
Whether there is only one fish in a fishbowl or a large aquarium full of fish, many families find wholesome delight in contemplating how each fish reflects the Creator’s inexhaustible creative variety. It is only a teaspoon taste of what the future holds in God’s new order, when it will be possible to explore more thoroughly the things “passing through the paths of the seas.”—Ps. 8:8.
What’s in an aquarium? For many it is relaxation, joy and fascination.