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The earliest forms of aquariums were in the form of ponds in ancient China. The Chinese believed that Carps (goldfish and Koi Carps) were lucky and hence reared them. These fishes were bred to give rise to various beautiful sub–species. The first tropical fish to be kept in an aquarium was the Paradise fish (Macropodus opercularis) which is still kept all over the world as it looks attractive. Earlier fish were reared for food and kept in ponds and sluices. The main purpose of having an aquarium is to observe its beauty and serenity, and it is reported to even reduce blood pressure. Aquariums come in various sizes and at first even a small aquarium will do, providing an interesting and fulfilling hobby.

Aquarium Aquarium
Generally a basic aquarium consists of about 2 inches of sand, a couple of plants, a few fish, a filter, an aerator and an air stone, a cover and suitable lighting. It is suggested that someone new begin with a tank of about 2 ft by 1 ft by 10 inches. Fish tanks of smaller size can be obtained and it is advisable to consult a aquarium store owner for help and guidance. The sand to be put in can be obtained from any aquarium store. Natural looking sand is preferable to other colorful sand. It is necessary to check that the sand is not sharp and it doesn’t contain any water soluble minerals as these could kill the fish. The sand should be placed in a sloping manner, the higher side being at the back and the lower side being at the front. Most aquarium plants are easy to grow and now artificial plastic plants are also available, these look realistic and require hardly any maintenance. These also do not require any particular form of lighting and cannot be eaten by the fish. When buying fish for the home aquarium, one must be very careful to choose the right fish. Choosing the wrong fish can be disastrous as some fish quickly outgrow the tank whereas others may feed on the rest of the fishes or at least nibble at their fins or tail, and yet others uproot plants and dirty the tank and still others just refuse to eat and die. The most suitable fish to keep are livebearers which include guppies, platties etc. Any other fish you wish to keep can be kept but be cautious in checking out their requirements and habits. Most fish do not require any particular form of lighting and for a two foot tank aquarium tube lights of that size are available. These tubes provide light adequate for plants and also enhance the colors of the fish. The roof or cover of the aquarium should fit properly and must have a gap to allow electrical wires and the air tube to enter. The cover must also have a flap that opens and closes to facilitate feeding and cleaning the tank. All aquariums need an air pump. This device can be bought at any aquarium store and requires an air tube and an air stone. The air pump or aerator provides the water with fresh oxygen, and is hence an essential feature.

Another essential aspect of keeping an aquarium is feeding the fishes. Most fishes can be fed with the readymade pellet food that is available in the market. Live food is not advisable as it may bring in diseases and bacteria. Pellet food is also available for fishes of various sizes and is hence the best as modern pellet foods contain all the required nutrients and vitamins. Due to feeding the aquarium needs to be filtered and cleaned. For such an aquarium a small sponge filter or a power filter will do. When cleaning the sponge one must be careful to wash off all the dirt but only with water. If soap is used and not washed off properly, it can poison the fishes. Changing a certain amount of water every week is also required. Normally 2 inches from the top can be removed and filled with fresh water.

As time passes you will want to get a larger aquarium or get more fish or try your luck with real plants. All of this can be achieved with a little hard work and determination.

Setting up an Aquarium
When setting up an aquarium one must consider many factors, such as the time involved in setting it up, the regular maintenance involved and the minor setbacks which a novice often finds himself up against. Then again, one must not be discouraged by these factors but not ignore them altogether. Keeping an aquarium doesn’t require any special skills but does require meticulousness, patience and utmost care.

The size of the aquarium depends on the hobbyist and his circumstances. Small as well as large aquariums look attractive and can be made to suit all sorts of needs. When buying a tank one must decide the size and place where it is to be kept. The surface on which the tank is to be kept must be flat and a sheet of thermocol is to be placed on it. This is done to regulate the pressure at the bottom and prevent the tank from cracking. The table or stand on which the tank is to be placed must be sturdy as the weight of the tank increases tremendously when it is filled with water.

Locating the aquarium Once bought, the tank must be cleaned thoroughly using water and a soft sponge. A rough sponge or blade will scratch the glass and is hence not advisable. Any form of soap or detergent must not be used as, if there is any residue left it may poison the fish. Once the tank is cleaned and put in its place it is all set to start filling in with sand. The back of the aquarium can be left blank or even posters which have pictures of aquarium plants as a background can be used. These are readily available in the market and look quite attractive.

Generally, most aquarists use golden or fairly dark colored sand. Sand of 3mm diameter is generally used, fine sand is not used as it tends to become too compact and plants cannot spread their roots in this kind of a substrate. Sand if got directly from the river or even bought from a store must be washed thoroughly and all the dirt and other scum must be removed. The sand must be now spread evenly in a slope with the more elevated side at the back and the lower side to the front. If one chooses to use an under–gravel filter one must be careful to cover the filter completely with the sand. Otherwise normally about 2 to 3.5 inches of sand should be put. The sand if being used along with live plants must be placed down not too compactly as the plant’s roots will not be able to propagate. The sand if used along with an under–gravel filter it must be compact enough to hold the dirt. Care must be taken to see that the sand is not sharp as it may cut or injure the fish.

After the sand has been put in the aquarium next one could introduce the plants. Plants are often difficult or often not quite suitable as they may die, wilt or rot soon. Plastic plants are available in most stores that look absolutely real and are even long lasting.

These plants require no maintenance and never die. Of course, these plants can never achieve the beauty of natural plants. They are good to start with and once the hobbyist decides to take up a new challenge, real plants would be a better idea. Plants like Cryptocoryne are quick growing and are best suited for a new tank. Other plants like the Cabomba spp. are good oxygenerators and also grow quickly. The Giant Sagitaria (sagittaria latifolia) grows quickly and forms a dense thicket providing adequate cover for young fish. The Riccia flu tans is a pretty floating moss that not only provides shade but also acts as food for herbivorous fishes. It is preferable to start off with a collection of fast and slow growing types as once the aquarium is established the fast growing plants can be removed and the more desirable, slow growing plants can be left.

Once the sand and the plants have been chosen you can work on the layout. This layout must be attractive as well as practicable for both the hobbyist and the fishes. At the same time, the layout must look natural and things like heaters or filters can be hidden by manipulating the layout. For such purposes Bog wood, stones and thick plants can be used. Of course, the best method to learn this is by trial and error and one must remember that the layout can be changed easily.
A few golden rules to be remembered when arranging the layout are as follows:
  1. Never overcrowd the tank.
  2. Always try and avoid symmetry.
  3. Try and create a layout which has varying depths, textures, sizes and colors.
One must also make sure that there is adequate swimming space. An easy way to do this is to first prepare a general sketch of the tank and make changes to that first and when satisfied, try it out in the aquarium. An other factor to consider is the feeding area. The area where the fishes are normally fed should be flat and simple as then it is easier to clean without disturbing the whole aquarium. Plants must also be placed according to their light requirements. The general idea of the layout is to try and create a natural environment. Certain species of fish tend to be territorial and may require their own space. For such species separate terraces could be provided.

After the sand has been put in, it is then time to put in the plants and other things and fill it up with water. The water to be filled should be municipal water as this is free from mineral deposits and salts. Although this water has chlorine which is harmful to the fishes, this can be removed by leaving the water for a couple of days or using a de–chlorinating liquid. This is readily available in the market and also comes in crystal form. The other way to do this is to aerate the water for a few days. These air pumps can be bought in the market and with them an air stone and about 3 meters of air tube needs to be bought. These devices oxygenate the water by releasing a stream of bubbles into the water. After the tank has settled down and the plants have been planted, it is then time to think about filtration. Filtration in an aquarium takes mainly three forms - biological, chemical and mechanical. Some of the types of filters are listed below: The most suited for the new aquarist is the under gravel filter. This type of filter uses the sand as the filtration medium so that when the water is sucked through it the dirt gets trapped at the surface and the water passes through. After a while, the sand forms a habitat for certain bacteria that consume the nitrates and other toxins in the water. This water in now truly pure. Thus the under gravel filter acts both as a mechanical and biological filter.

Aquarium View Aquarium View
The lower side of these pipes contain holes through which the water can pass. The upper side on the other hand has no holes and is attached to a power head. The under gravel filter needs to be made at home and can be done easily using inexpensive materials and a little work. The required pipes and joints can be bought at most hardware stores and are easy to work with as they can be bonded easily using a PVC sticking solution. The power head for the filter can also be bought from most aquarium stores and the store owners will also be able to help you and give you advice. This type of a filter also helps to create a little turbulence in the water.

The other type of filter that can be used is a sponge filter. This consists of a sponge attached to a tube through which the water is drawn, all the dirt is collected in the sponge and the water is put back into the tank. The other forms of filters are generally used in larger aquariums. In addition to the filters some cleaning will have to be done manually. Some of the dirt may be too big for the filters to suck up or it may be time for the complete clean up. The first problem can be solved easily by using a sufficient length of pipe and siphoning out the debris. The second method may of course take time but it is required very rarely–once or twice in a year.

In some tanks due to the excess light there might be an outbreak of algae. This can be controlled by reducing the light or by regularly scraping it off with a sponge or rough cloth. Another problem that may arise is an out break of snails. These will have to removed manually or by the injection of CO2 into the water. After setting up the aquarium and making sure that it is free from all these problems it is time to introduce the fish. When buying fish one must make sure like any other animals whether they are healthy. This requires them be vibrant and bold, avoid any fish that look stunted and reclusive. Also ask the fish dealer to feed the fish in front of you–buy fish that eat easily and finicky eaters are to be avoided. Also make sure that your fishes are not very aggressive, neither too shy.

Also avoid buying too many fishes in the beginning. The fishes will be packed into plastic bags and filled with oxygen and sealed with a rubber band. When bringing then home avoid temperature variations and shock. When you bring them home do not put them directly into the tank as the temperature and pH of the water may be different from that of the water at the aquarium store. Float the plastic bag for at least 30 minutes to allow the temperatures to equalize. Then open the bag slowly add a little water from the tank into it, after repeating this process a couple of times, you can let the fish swim into the tank slowly.

Once the fish has settled down completely it will regain its original colors. This method is to be repeated with all sorts of fish and must not be done in a hurry. The other thing you can do to help your new fishes is to feed the other fishes if any. This distracts them and gives the new fish a chance to settle down.
Some of the places to get aquariums in Pune are:
  1. Gay Lord Fish House, 2132,
    New Modikhana Camp, Pune 411 001, Maharashtra, India.
    Ph +91 20 652275.
  2. Fish n Fun 288 A, M.G. Road,
    Pune 411 001, Maharashtra, India. Ph +91 20 6131146.
  3. Fish O Fish 124, Ghorpade Peth, Pune 411 002, Maharashtra, India.
    Ph +91 20 4473371.
  4. Tropical Aquariums 33, Kailash Kutir, 12, Aundh Road,
    Kirkee, Pune 411 003, Maharashtra, India. Ph +91 20 5810584.
  5. Aqua Zone Aquariums., Ph. +91 20 6696204.