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Origins of fishkeeping[ edit ] Koi and goldfish have been kept in decorative ponds for centuries in China and Japan. Fish have been raised as food in pools and ponds for thousands of years. Brightly colored or tame specimens of fish in these pools have sometimes been valued as pets rather than food.
Many cultures, ancient and modern, have kept fish for both functional and decorative purposes. Ancient Sumerians kept wild-caught fish in ponds , before preparing them for meals.
Depictions of the sacred fish of Oxyrhynchus kept in captivity in rectangular temple pools have been found in ancient Egyptian art. Similarly, Asia has experienced a long history of stocking rice paddies with freshwater fish suitable for eating, including various types of catfish and cyprinid.
The Chinese brought goldfish indoors during the Song Dynasty to enjoy them in large ceramic vessels. In Medieval Europe, carp pools were a standard feature of estates and monasteries, providing an alternative to meat on feast days when meat could not be eaten for religious reasons.
Marine fish have been similarly valued for centuries. Wealthy Romans kept lampreys and other fish in salt water pools. Tertullian reports that Asinius Celer paid sesterces for a particularly fine mullet.
Cicero reports that the advocate Quintus Hortensius wept when a favored specimen died. A pioneer of tropical fish breeding, Carbonnier was awarded the Gold Medal of the Imperial French Acclimatization Society in for research and breeding of exotic freshwater aquarium fish, and for his success in introducing exotic fish species to France.
The hobby can be broadly divided into three specific disciplines, depending on the type of water the fish originate from: freshwater , brackish , and marine also called saltwater fishkeeping. Neon tetras are common freshwater pets. Freshwater fishkeeping is by far the most popular branch of the hobby, with even small pet stores often selling a variety of freshwater fish , such as goldfish , guppies , and angelfish.
While most freshwater aquaria are community tanks containing a variety of compatible species , single-species breeding aquaria are also popular. Livebearing fish such as mollies and guppies are among those most easily raised in captivity, but aquarists also regularly breed many types of cichlid , catfish , characins , cyprinids , and killifish. Many fishkeepers create freshwater aquascapes where the focus is on aquatic plants as well as fish. These aquaria include "Dutch Aquaria" that mass contrasting stem plants, named for European aquarists who first designed them.
In recent years, one of the most active advocates of the heavily planted aquarium was the Japanese aquarist Takashi Amano. Garden ponds are in some ways similar to freshwater aquaria, but are usually much larger and exposed to ambient weather. In the tropics, tropical fish can be kept in garden ponds. In the temperate zone , species such as goldfish , koi , and orfe work better. Saltwater[ edit ] Marine aquaria have more specific needs and requirements to maintain, and the livestock is generally more expensive.
As a result, this branch tends to attract more experienced fishkeepers. Marine aquaria can be exceedingly beautiful, due to the attractive colors and shapes of the corals and the coral reef fish they host. Temperate zone marine fish are not as commonly kept in home aquaria, primarily because they do not thrive at room temperature.
Marine aquarists often attempt to recreate a coral reef in their aquaria using large quantities of living rock , porous calcareous rocks encrusted with coralline algae , sponges , worms , and other small marine organisms. Larger corals, as well as shrimps , crabs , echinoderms , and mollusks are added later on, once the aquarium has matured, as well as a variety of small fish.
Such aquaria are sometimes called reef tanks. Brackish water[ edit ] Brackish water aquaria combine elements of the other types, with salinity that must stay between that of freshwater and seawater. Brackish water fish come from habitats with varying salinity, such as mangroves and estuaries , and do not thrive if kept permanently in freshwater. Although brackish water aquaria are not necessarily familiar to inexperienced aquarists, many species prefer brackish water, including some mollies, many gobies , some pufferfish , monos , and scats.
In practice, it is virtually impossible to maintain a perfect balance. As an example, a balanced predator-prey relationship is nearly impossible to maintain in even the largest aquaria. Typically, an aquarium keeper must actively maintain balance in the small ecosystems that aquaria provide.
Balance is facilitated by larger volumes of water which dilute the effects of a systemic shock. For example, the death of the only fish in a litre 2. For this reason, hobbyists often favor larger tanks whenever possible, as they require less intensive attention. This same concept extends to the filtration system as well, external outside of the tank systems in particular. Generally speaking, the larger the filtration system depending on its configuration, the more capable it will be of properly maintaining an aquatic environment.
External filtration systems provide the added benefit of increasing the overall volume of water and its dilution effect. A variety of nutrient cycles is important in the aquarium. Dissolved oxygen enters at the surface water-air interface through agitation or what would be observed as waves in a natural environment, and Carbon dioxide escapes into the air. The phosphate cycle is an important, although often overlooked, nutrient cycle.
Sulfur , iron , and micronutrients enter the system as food and exit as waste. Appropriate handling of the nitrogen cycle , along with a balanced food supply and consideration of biological loading, is usually enough to keep these nutrient cycles in adequate equilibrium.
Water conditions[ edit ] The solute content of water is perhaps the most important aspect of water conditions, as total dissolved solids and other constituents can dramatically impact basic water chemistry, and therefore how organisms interact with their environment.
Salt content, or salinity , is the most basic classification of water conditions. An aquarium may have freshwater salinity below 0.
Even higher salt concentrations are maintained in specialized tanks for raising brine organisms. Several other water characteristics result from dissolved materials in the water and are important to the proper simulation of natural environments. Saltwater is typically alkaline , while the pH of fresh water varies. Hard water is usually alkaline, while soft water is usually neutral to acidic. Home aquarists typically use modified tap water supplied through their local water supply network.
Because of the chlorine used to disinfect drinking water supplies for human consumption, tap water cannot be immediately used. In the past, it was possible to "condition" the water by simply letting the water stand for a day or two, which allows the chlorine to dissipate. Additives are available to remove chlorine or chloramine and suffice to make the water ready. Brackish or saltwater aquaria require the addition of a mixture of salts and other minerals. This can be accomplished by additives such as sodium bicarbonate to raise pH.
In contrast, public aquaria with large water needs often locate themselves near a natural water source such as a river, lake, or ocean in order to have easy access to water that requires only minimal treatment. Water temperature forms the basis of one of the two most basic aquarium classifications: tropical vs.
Cold water aquaria maintain temperatures below the room temperature. More important than the range is temperature consistency; most organisms are not accustomed to sudden changes in temperatures, which can cause shock and lead to disease. Water movement can also be important in accurately simulating a natural ecosystem. Fish may prefer anything from nearly still water up to swift, simulated currents.
Water movement can be controlled through the use of aeration from air pumps, powerhead pumps, and careful design of water flow such as the location of filtration system points of inflow and outflow. Nitrogen cycle[ edit ] The nitrogen cycle in an aquarium Fish are animals and generate waste as they metabolize food, which aquarists must manage. Fish, invertebrates, fungi , and some bacteria excrete nitrogen in the form of ammonia which converts to ammonium in acidic water and must then pass through the nitrogen cycle.
Ammonia is also produced through the decomposition of plant and animal matter, including fecal matter and other detritus. Nitrogen waste products become toxic to fish and other aquarium inhabitants above a certain concentration. Nitrogen waste is metabolized in aquaria by a type of bacteria known as nitrifiers genus Nitrosomonas. Nitrifying bacteria metabolize ammonia into nitrite.
Nitrite is also highly toxic to fish in low concentrations. Another type of bacteria, genus Nitrospira, on—converts nitrite into less—toxic nitrate. Nitrobacter bacteria were previously believed to fill this role, and appear in "jump start" kits.
While biologically they could theoretically fill the same niche as Nitrospira, it has recently been found that Nitrobacter are not present in detectable levels in established aquaria, while Nitrospira is plentiful.
This process is known in the aquarium hobby as the nitrogen cycle. In a planted aquarium, aquatic plants also metabolize ammonium and nitrate as nutrients , removing them from the water column primarily through leaf surfaces. Additional nitrogen and other nutrients are also made available for root uptake by decomposing organic matter in the substrate as well as the breakdown of mulm.
Nitrogen bound up in plant matter is removed when the plant grows too large. Hobbyist aquaria typically do not have the requisite bacteria needed to detoxify nitrogen waste. This problem is most often addressed through filtration. Activated carbon filters absorb nitrogen compounds and other toxins from the water. Biological filters provide a medium specially designed for colonization by the desired nitrifying bacteria.
Activated carbon and other substances, such as ammonia absorbing resins , stop working when their pores fill, so these components have to be replaced with fresh stocks periodically. New aquaria often have problems associated with the nitrogen cycle due to insufficient beneficial bacteria, which is known as "New Tank Syndrome".
Therefore, new tanks have to mature before stocking them with fish. There are three basic approaches to this: the fishless cycle , the silent cycle, and slow growth. Tanks undergoing a "fishless cycle" have no fish. Instead, the keeper adds ammonia to feed the bacteria.
During this process, ammonia , nitrite , and nitrate levels measure progress. The "silent cycle" involves adding fast-growing plants and relying on them to consume the nitrogen , filling in for the bacteria work until their number increases. Anecdotal reports indicate that such plants can consume nitrogenous waste so efficiently that the ammonia and nitrite spikes that occur in more traditional cycling methods are greatly reduced or undetectable.
Adding too many fish too quickly or failing to allow enough time for the bacteria colony to establish itself in the filter media can lead to ammonia stress.
This is not always fatal but can result in the death of aquarium fish. A few days after adding hardy fish for the cycling process, it is essential to look out for the key signs of ammonia stress.
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