|Dip Into the Piscine World|
So now is the perfect time to make your home a great place to relax -- and build a soothing aquarium filled with beautiful fish.
You could swap the plasma TV for a 30-gallon
For a professional touch, try a high-end professional tank designer. To keep it clean, you can even hire a tank-service specialist to do all the work. But if you prefer a more hands-on experience, you can easily get started all on your own.
Gone FishingAn aquarium aficionado since the '60s, Fred Barron, 59, of Norfolk, Va., has had as many as five tanks and an outdoor fish pond. He has since downsized to one tank with two oscar fish -- an albino and a tiger; not surprisingly, they resemble their names -- and the pond. Barron, a retired biology teacher, constructed his
Breed All About ItFor beginning aquarists, Barron recommends low-maintenance guppies or zebras. Guppies are known for their oversized, flowing tail; one type of hearty zebra, the danio rerio, is often used in biological studies. Prices for goldfish -- another good starter fish -- can vary widely.
Tank TalkSeyffarth created the
Salt vs. FreshAs for water, consult with your local pet store to determine whether the fish you select require fresh, brackish or salt water, as well as the appropriate temperature range. Marine or saltwater tanks are needed for healthy corals, crustaceans and other exotic sea life. Brackish water is a combo of salt (marine aquarium salt) and fresh water, similar to the water in an estuary or marsh. For any tank, you'll also need the proper water conditioner. "The city puts in chlorines and chloramines to kill germs to make water drinkable, but those chemicals are deadly to fish," Barron explains. "It can also be devastating to your biological filter," Seyffarth adds. As a fail-safe, invest a few dollars on testing kits that check for harmful substances. Finally, you will need to replace 10% to 15% of the old water with new water every week.
Telltale Warnings"A fish's immune system is almost as robust as ours," says Seyffarth -- but they are also as fragile. A fish can get diseases and will show signs of stress if it has a poor diet, if other fish are picking on it, if the tank has poor water quality or is overcrowded, or if the fish has been moved too much. Some of Seyffarth's key warning signs:
- Look for anything out of the ordinary. If a middle- or top-swimmer starts to bottom or burrow, there may be a problem.
- Most fish hold their fins erect, not taut. Fish with clamped fins are usually stressed or in poor health.
- Opaque or fuzzy eyes may indicate an illness, a bacterial infection or stress.
- Look for any change in color.
- Heavy breathing and panting are signs of stress related to poor water conditions.
Enjoy the Good Life? Email us with what you'd like to see in future articles.