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Aquariums bring natural beauty to any indoor setting

Aquariums can help make the indoor environment attractive. They are soothing, pleasant to view and come in many varieties. Aquariums can be very elaborate and pricey, or they can be as simple as an inexpensive goldfish bowl. It all depends on what you want.

Several steps are necessary for a successful aquarium.

First, you need to determine how big of an aquarium you want. They come very small, maybe two to five gallons, all the way up to 55 gallons or more. The aquarium should be sized for the amount of fish you want to have in your tank. More fish need more space. Overcrowding can be harmful to fish.

The aquarium needs to be placed near a power source in the home, out of direct sunlight and away from drafts. Add two to three inches of gravel to the bottom. Consider adding aquarium plants for aesthetics and to help keep the environment healthy.

The tank needs to be filled with de-chlorinated water. Tap water can be de-chlorinated by adding a chlorine neutralizer. Let the water sit for a while before adding it to the fish tank.

Make sure you have an appropriate stand to rest the tank on. Using a stand that can't support the aquarium may cause the tank to leak or break. The aquarium also needs a filtration system (under gravel, canister, or power filter) that is capable of removing wastes and providing aeration. Have a heater to keep the water at a proper temperature, and a thermometer as well. Have a hood with a fluorescent light to keep the aquarium illuminated, which reduces evaporation and prevents fish from jumping out.

When purchasing fish, make sure they are compatible. Some tropical fish, such as tiger barbs, are aggressive and need to be kept with other aggressive-natured fish. Others are peaceful, such as platys and mollies, and are known as community fish. Then there are the cichlids and goldfish. Marine (salt water) aquariums are not recommended for beginners.

At the store, check to make sure the fish appear healthy. Do not buy any that are in a tank with dead or dying fish. Wait seven to 10 days after setting up the aquarium to add the fish. Float the bag with the new fish for 15 minutes to equalize the temperature. Then scoop them out with a net. Do not mix the water in the bag with the aquarium water.

Most fish should be fed twice a day. Feed them only as much as they can consume within a few minutes. Overfeeding will cause water deterioration and is often the cause of fish loss. There are many types of fish foods such as freeze-dried foods and flakes. Make sure you know what the species of fish in your tank prefer.

The water in the aquarium should be changed periodically. Usually change out about 25 percent of the water once a month. Remember to always use a de-chlorinator when adding new water. Use an algae scrubber pad to remove algae from the glass, and an aquarium vacuum to remove debris from the gravel. Sometimes, the addition of a small amount of aquarium salt can be beneficial for freshwater fish, especially mollies and guppies.

Use water test kit to test the conditions periodically. Be sure the levels of nitrate, nitrite and ammonia are in safe levels, and the pH is correct.

Yes, with proper selection and care, an aquarium really does enhance the environment of your home or office.

Timothy Daly is and Agricultural and Natural resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County Extension. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.