Keeping an Aquarium and Becoming an Aquarist Do Know It Aquarium While millions of people enjoy keeping an aquarium, the hobby isn't for everyone. The idea obviously holds some attraction for you, sinc... 72 72

Keeping an Aquarium and Becoming an Aquarist

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While millions of people enjoy keeping an aquarium, the hobby isn't for everyone. The idea obviously holds some attraction for you, since you're reading this article.

Image of tropical freshwater tank
Tropical Freshwater Tank

A Natural Choice

Keeping an aquarium is one way of bringing a bit of nature into your home. Every aspect of a successful aquarium contributes beautiful colors, fascinating behaviors, soothing gurgling sounds. In less-than-tropical climes, a tankful of tropical fish puts a bit of equatorial warmth into the chilliest environment, and, like flowering houseplants, a planted aquarium can soften the austerity of an urban environment. While it is undeniably ornamental, an aquarium can serve many other purposes in your home, and tropical fish are for many people the ideal choice in pets.

Fish as Pets

Fish are the perfect pets for people with no-pets leases, few rental units prohibit an aquarium since fish don't shred furniture, urinate on floors, scratch woodwork, bark all night, or bite visiting landlords (well, as long as they keep their hands out of the tank!). They are the perfect neighbor-friendly pet, too.

With very few exceptions, a pet fish is not going to turn on family members, inflicting serious bites or scratches, and no mail carrier has ever been chased by a guppy. Your fish won't bring fleas and ticks into your home, and while there are a couple of bacteria that can be transmitted from fish to humans, there is nothing like the risk of diseases such as salmonellosis, listeriosis, ringworm, psittacosis, rabies, etc., that are communicable from other pets. Fish don't shed allergenic hair or dander, and even someone with acute allergies can view a tankful of fish with impunity.

In addition to being a safe choice as a child's pet, fish also are easy for children to care for, and maintaining an aquarium with adult supervision is a wonderful way for kids to learn the responsibilities and joys of companion animals. Often small children are frightened by even very small animals, but they are never afraid of fish "safely" trapped in a glass box of water.

And fish are extremely low-maintenance pets. They don't need to be walked or exercised. You don't have to housebreak them or train them to stay off the furniture. They won't scare off visitors, and if you leave them alone for a few days they won't wreck the place in protest. Even highly pedigreed specimens you are taking to a show never need bathing, grooming, or nail trimming.

But What Good are Fish?

People used to playing catch with a dog or interacting with a garrulous parrot might wonder what enjoyment you can get from a bunch of fish swimming around a tank. Even an old tabby content to lie on your lap all day purring seems more interactive, and in a way this is true. The benefits of keeping fish, however, are many and varied, and they go far beyond the potential beauty of an aquarium though the ornamental feature of a fish tank is not to be disparaged.

The relaxing and therapeutic value of an aquarium is well known, and it accounts for the popularity of aquariums in doctors' offices, hospitals, and nursing homes. An aquarium provides an air of serenity and encourages the viewer to relax and go with the flow. Beautiful, yes, but an aquarium has a dynamic beauty- animated color and gently rippling the water. Most people find the sound of flowing water to be highly soothing, and watching the flow of water or bubbles in an aquarium can be almost mesmerizing. Even infants are often entranced by the peaceful but active movements of tropical fish.

While you won't be able to hold your fish on your lap or play fetch with them, keeping fish can be very much a hands-on hobby, offering many different opportunities for creative interaction. Those with an artistic flair will find aquascaping - creating the layout of your tank - a fertile area for expression. Fish keepers with a do-it-yourself bent will never be at a loss for tinkering projects. To people fascinated by natural history, the fish themselves will provide hours of enjoyment, and for many aquarists observing leads to various husbandry challenges such as the maintenance of difficult species, breeding fish, and even showing them in national and international arenas.

This leads to the educational possibilities an aquarium presents, and many schoolrooms, from elementary classrooms to high school and college science labs, boast one or more aquariums. Simple observation provides students with many topics of study from ecology to ethology, from biochemistry to photoperiodicity, and from taxonomy to ontogeny, but even more, possibilities arise from experimental projects, which can range from behavioral studies to genetics, microbiology to nutritional research, and comparative anatomy to histology.

What's the Catch?

Wow! Is there any downside to these practically perfect pets? Sure. I've already mentioned the minimal personal interaction you can have with fish. Fish are not. However, unaware of what goes on outside their tank, and they will learn to associate you with food, for example.

Many fish become hand tame and will eat from your fingers, while some of the larger species, especially cichlids, and catfish, even come to appreciate a gentle rubdown or "scratch behind the gills."

Fish or Fishes?

What's the plural of fish, fish or fishes'? Well. It's both. One way is to simply answer the question by choosing to use "fish" as both the singular and the plural, regardless of the context in which it appears. Another way - an arrangement used relatively rigidly by some writers, editors, and publishers, and one that you'll often see referred to as the right way in fish and aquarium books - is to use "fish" when only one species is meant and "fishes" when more than one species is meant. For example, under this arrangement, you would say that five guppies and four goldfish are nine fishes, whereas eight goldfish alone are eight fish. Another way Is to use "fishes" when the groups are viewed as dissimilar and "fish" when they are viewed as similar. There is no universally accepted rule, however, and if eight fish are all of the same species but each is a different breed or color or whatever, and you are trying to stress the differences among them, you could correctly say that they are eight fishes. Think of "fishes" as separating them for some reason, often in a comparison. For example, one might say. "North American fishes have different spawning challenges from those in South America." but "North American fish are not as endangered as North American amphibians."

Fish Out of Water?

Despite the common saying, many fish do spend time out of the water, and not just in terms of jumping out of the water and splashing back down, which almost any fish will do. Amazon hatchet fish are actually capable of powered flight - to escape predators, they use powerful pectoral muscles to propel themselves further than a mere leap could. A type of fish called the splash tetra shoots out of the water to lay its eggs on the underside of overhanging leaves. When the Asian climbing perch Anabas testudíneos (below) finds itself in a pool that is drying up, it takes off over land to find a new home. African lungfish facing the same situation simply dig down into the mud, where they wait until the rainy season refills the pond. The mudskipper is a lively fish that spends much of its time on land - simply because it likes to! It slithers along the mud and up and over tree roots in search of tasty insects. It may seem weird to us. but to the question. "Are you a fish out of water?" many fish would simply answer. "Yes!"

Here in this article, we've gone over some basic pros and cons, and we've told you what you can expect as an aquarist. That way you can make an informed decision about whether to take the first steps to becoming a fishkeeper, which the other pages on this site will outline for you.
5 Aquarium: Keeping an Aquarium and Becoming an Aquarist While millions of people enjoy keeping an aquarium, the hobby isn't for everyone. The idea obviously holds some attraction for you, sinc...

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