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DALY: Aquariums bring natural beauty indoors

Aquariums are fascinating and calming to the viewer. They can be elaborate, expensive, unusual or as simple as a gold fish bowl creating an attractive and interesting feature to any indoor environment.

Several steps are necessary for setting up a successful aquarium. First, you should determine what size aquarium you prefer. They range from small two- to five-gallon sizes up to 55 gallons or more. The size should be based on the amount of fish you want to have in your tank. As a general rule of thumb, allow one gallon of water for every one-inch length of fish if you are keeping small, community, tropical fish. The greater the number of fish the more space is required. Avoid overcrowding since this can be harmful to the fish. The aquarium needs to be placed near a power source, out of direct sunlight, and away from drafts. Add two to three inches of gravel to the bottom of the tank. Consider adding aquarium plants for aesthetics and to help keep the aquatic environment healthy.

The aquarium should be placed on an appropriate-sized stand that can bear its weight. It also needs a filtration system, such as an under-gravel, canister or power filter that is capable of removing wastes and providing aeration. A heater should be included to keep the water at a proper temperature. Put a thermometer in the water to monitor the temperature and make adjustments to the heater settings. Place a hood with a fluorescent light over the top to keep the aquarium illuminated, reduce evaporation and to prevent fish from jumping out.

When purchasing fish, make sure they are compatible with each other. Some tropical fish, such as tiger barbs, are aggressive and should not be mixed with less aggressive fish. Others are peaceful, such as platys and mollies, which are classified as community fish. Marine aquariums, which have a salt water environment, are not recommended for beginners. At the store, check to make sure the fish appear healthy. Do not purchase fish that are sharing a tank with dead and dying ones. When adding new fish to the aquarium, float them in the tank in the bag you brought them home in with them for 15 minutes to equalize the temperatures and then gently scoop them out with a net. Avoid mixing the water in the bag with the aquarium water.

Most fish should be fed daily and only as much as they can consume within a few minutes. Excessive feeding can cause a deterioration of the water quality and is a frequent cause of fish mortality. There are many types of fish food such as freeze dried foods and flakes. Make sure you know the appropriate type of feed the species of fish in your tank require.

The water in the aquarium should be changed periodically. The aquarium tank needs to be filled with water that has been dechlorinated. The addition of a chlorine neutralizing chemical will help remove chlorine from tap water. Let the water sit for several hours prior to adding to the fish tank. Change a quarter of the volume of the aquarium water once a month. Use an algae scrubber pad to remove algae from the glass and an aquarium vacuum to remove debris from the gravel. The addition of a small amount of aquarium salt can be beneficial for freshwater fish, especially mollies and guppies. Periodically use a water test kit to test water quality. Be sure the levels of nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia are at appropriate levels and the pH is in the correct range.

An aquarium can be a source of beauty and interest to the indoors. If properly installed and provided with the appropriate care, their presence can be a great asset to your home or office.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu

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