The Aquarium

A vote was taken and the results were unanimous. A piece has to be written about the aquarium. This is a website about keeping an aquarium so lets start with the basics. I will not go into the history of the aquarium, different tank designs, or aquarium equipment in this post. If you want those details you can always head over to the aquarium wikipedia page. I will attempt to cover the topic of the aquarium from definition along with some personal insight. Here it goes.

Aquar-i-um noun

  1. a container (as a glass tank) or an artificial pond in which living aquatic animals or plants are kept
  2. an establishment where aquatic organisms are kept and exhibited (Mirriam-Webster)

What we should all realize from that definition is that it is not just the tank, but that tank must be housing living aquatic animals. I’m also going to emphasize aquatic. Small land animals such as hamsters, lizards, and turtles are part of a terrarium. Yes some of those animals do swim around in the water a lot of the time and some turtles spend most of their lifetime in their aquatic world. However, the way that you keep them is not in a tank full of water. They are usually kept in a tank that is mostly dry and might have a few decorations and a small pool of water for the animal to use.

An aquarium is a small homemade aquatic ecosystem. The largest aquarium in the world, Georgia Aquarium’s Ocean Voyager tank, holds 6.3 million gallons of saltwater. It is still small compared to the 343 quintillion gallons that make up all of the water in the world’s oceans. I have a small 12 gallon mini reef aquarium. No matter how big or small, saltwater or freshwater, public or private, fish-only or reef, the ecosystems and the living aquatic organisms of these aquariums are still beautiful, amazing, relaxing, and diverse.

The aquatic organisms that are housed and exhibited in the aquarium interact to form a biological community and cycle. When you start your aquarium and have to go through the nitrogen cycle you are introducing fish waste, uneaten fish food, or ammonia to your tank to grow beneficial, microscopic bacteria. Some of the bacteria, called nitrosomonas, eliminate the ammonia by oxidizing it, forming nitrites. Soon, more beneficial bacteria, called nitrobactors, develop, colonize the tank, and convert the nitrites into nitrates. Ammonia and nitrites are very toxic to fish and aquatic organisms. Nitrates are much less harmful unless large amounts are allowed to build up in the tank. Fortunately, nitrates can be fairly easily kept under control with live aquarium plants, live rock, deep sand beds, filtration, and regular water changes.

Those microscopic, beneficial bacteria colonies are the first organisms of your aquarium. They also start the ecosystem that can soon include live plants, colorful fish, and beautiful corals. Hopefully, that ecosystem will grow as the organisms spawn and bring new life to the aquarium.


Ready to start and grow your aquarium? Leave comments below.