A sea turtle glides over your head. Tiny blue and yellow fish flash by. A big shark swims right at you. You are walking around on the bottom of the sea. Yet you are perfectly safe and dry. You are visiting an aquarium.


An aquarium is a water-filled tank in which fish swim about. You can keep a small aquarium at home. You can visit a large aquarium in most cities. This kind of aquarium is a building with fish and other water animals in large tanks. A large aquarium may have otters, turtles, dolphins, and other sea animals. Most aquarium tanks also have plants.  An aquarium (plural: aquariums or aquaria) is a vivarium of any size having at least one transparent side in which water-dwelling plants or animals are kept and displayed. Fishkeepers use aquaria to keep fish, invertebrates, amphibians, aquatic reptiles such as turtles, and aquatic plants. The term, coined by English naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, combines the Latin root aqua, meaning water, with the suffix -arium, meaning "a place for relating to". The aquarium principle was fully developed in 1850 by the chemist Robert Warington, who explained that plants added to water in a container would give off enough oxygen to support animals, so long as their numbers do not grow too large. The aquarium craze was launched in early Victorian England by Gosse, who created and stocked the first public aquarium at the London Zoo in 1853, and published the first manual, The Aquarium: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea in 1854. An aquarist owns fish or maintains an aquarium, typically constructed of glass or high-strength acrylic. Cuboid aquaria are also known as fish tanks or simply tanks, while bowl-shaped aquaria are also known as fish bowls. Size can range from a small glass bowl to immense public aquaria. Specialized equipment maintains appropriate water quality and other characteristics suitable for the aquarium's residents.


Many of the newest aquariums are located next to an ocean, bay, or river. They have huge water tanks. Some tanks are big enough to hold sharks and other large fish. Some aquariums have a passageway at the bottom of a huge tank. The passageway is made of thick, clear plastic. When you walk through the tunnel, you see fish swimming on both sides of you and even above you. What a cool way to watch fish!

Sea life in an aquarium looks very real. Many tropical fish live on colorful coral reefs. The reefs are made of tiny animals called corals. A tropical fish tank may look just like a coral reef. The tropical fish feel right at home in this tank.

You can do many things at a big aquarium. You can watch and learn how sea animals live. You can learn about dangers they might face. You can learn about kinds of pollution that could harm sea animals. You can even watch dolphins put on shows at some aquariums.

Scientists work at many big aquariums. The scientists study fish. They want to know how to protect life in the sea.


Many people have small aquariums at home. A small aquarium can be a bowl. It can be a square tank. Some home aquariums are made of glass. Some are made of a strong plastic called Plexiglas. Some people keep freshwater fish in their aquariums. Some people keep saltwater fish.

Suppose you want to make a home aquarium. There are many things you have to pick out. What should your aquarium tank be made of? You can see fish better in a Plexiglas tank. But Plexiglas scratches more easily. Plexiglas also costs more than glass.
The 80-meter (260 ft) underwater tunnel in Aquarium Barcelona

Which type of fish do you want to keep in your tank: freshwater fish or saltwater fish? Goldfish and tetras live in fresh water. Angelfish and butterfly fish live in salt water. Most people with aquariums have freshwater fish. Freshwater fish are easier to take care of. Freshwater fish cost less than saltwater fish.

Do you want to keep fish that live in cold water or fish that live in warm water? Tropical fish live in warm water. Tropical fish come in reds, yellows, blues, purples, and many other colors. Goldfish live in cold water. Goldfish are mostly golden red.

Pick out the kind of tank and fish you like best. You can decorate your tank with plants, colorful stones, and objects that the fish can swim through and hide under. Find out what to feed your fish and how to keep them healthy. Then have fun watching the fish in your home aquarium.

The solute content of water is perhaps the most important aspect of water conditions, as total dissolved solids and other constituents dramatically impact basic water chemistry, and therefore how organisms interact with their environment. Salt content, or salinity, is the most basic measure of water conditions. An aquarium may have freshwater (salinity below 500 parts per million), simulating a lake or river environment; brackish water (a salt level of 500 to 30,000 PPM), simulating environments lying between fresh and salt, such as estuaries; and salt water or seawater (a salt level of 30,000 to 40,000 PPM), simulating an ocean environment. Rarely, higher salt concentrations are maintained in specialized tanks for raising brine organisms.

Saltwater is typically alkaline, while the pH (alkalinity or acidicity) of fresh water varies more. Hardness measures overall dissolved mineral content; hard or soft water may be preferred. Hard water is usually alkaline, while soft water is usually neutral to acidic.  Dissolved organic content and dissolved gases content are also important factors.  Home aquarists typically use tap water supplied through their local water supply network to fill their tanks. Straight tap water cannot be used in localities that pipe chlorinated water. In the past, it was possible to "condition" the water by simply letting the water stand for a day or two, which allows the chlorine time to dissipate. However, chloramine is now used more often and does not leave the water as readily. Additives formulated to remove chlorine or chloramine are often all that is needed to make the water ready for aquarium use. Brackish or saltwater aquaria require the addition of a commercially available mixture of salts and other minerals.
Some aquarists modify water's alkalinity, hardness, or dissolved content of organics and gases, before adding it to their aquaria. This can be accomplished by additives, such as sodium bicarbonate, to raise pH. Some aquarists filter or purify their water through deionization or reverse osmosis prior to using it. In contrast, public aquaria with large water needs often locate themselves near a natural water source (such as a river, lake, or ocean) to reduce the level of treatment. Some hobbyists use an algae scrubber to filter the water naturally. Water temperature determines the two most basic aquarium classifications: tropical versus cold water. Most fish and plant species tolerate only a limited temperature range; tropical aquaria, with an average temperature of about 25 °C (77 °F), are much more common. Cold water aquaria are for fish that are better suited to a cooler environment. More important than the range is consistency; most organisms are not accustomed to sudden changes in temperatures, which can cause shock and lead to disease.
Water temperature can be regulated with a thermostat and heater (or cooler).  Water movement can also be important in simulating a natural ecosystem. Aquarists may prefer anything from still water up to swift currents, depending on the aquarium's inhabitants. Water movement can be controlled via aeration from air pumps, powerheads, and careful design of internal water flow (such as location of filtration system points of inflow and outflow).

Public aquaria

Most public aquarium facilities feature a number of smaller aquaria, as well those too large for home aquarists. The largest tanks hold millions of gallons of water and can house large species, including sharks or beluga whales. Dolphinaria are specifically for dolphins. Aquatic and semiaquatic animals, including otters and penguins, may also be kept by public aquaria. Public aquaria may also be included in larger establishments such as a marine mammal park or a marine park.

 Virtual aquariums

A virtual aquarium is a computer program which uses 3D graphics to reproduce an aquarium on a personal computer. The swimming fish are rendered in real time, while the background of the tank is usually static. Objects on the floor of the tank may be mapped in simple planes so that the fish may appear to swim both in front and behind them, but a relatively simple 3D map of the general shape of such objects may be used to allow the light and ripples on the surface of the water to cast realistic shadows. Bubbles and water noises are common for virtual aquariums, which are often used as screensavers.  The number of each type of fish can usually be selected, often including other animals like starfish, jellyfish, seahorses, and even sea turtles. Most companies that produce virtual aquarium software also offer other types of fish for sale via Internet download. Other objects found in an aquarium can also be added and rearranged on some software, like treasure chests and giant clams that open and close with air bubbles, or a bobbing diver. There are also usually features that allow the user to tap on the glass or put food in the top, both of which the fish will react to. Some also have the ability to allow the user to edit fish and other objects to create new varieties.

Aquarium maintenance

Large volumes of water enable more stability in a tank by diluting effects from death or contamination events that push an aquarium away from equilibrium. The bigger the tank, the easier such a systemic shock is to absorb, because the effects of that event are diluted. For example, the death of the only fish in an 11-litre (3 US gal; 2 imp gal) tank causes dramatic changes in the system, while the death of that same fish in a 400-litre (110 US gal; 88 imp gal) tank with many other fish in it represents only a minor change. For this reason, hobbyists often favor larger tanks, as they require less attention.  Several nutrient cycles are important in the aquarium. Dissolved oxygen enters the system at the surface water-air interface. Similarly, carbon dioxide escapes the system into the air. The phosphate cycle is an important, although often overlooked, nutrient cycle. Sulfur, iron, and micronutrients also cycle through the system, entering as food and exiting as waste. Appropriate handling of the nitrogen cycle, along with supplying an adequately balanced food supply and considered biological loading, is enough to keep these other nutrient cycles in approximate equilibrium.  An aquarium must be maintained regularly to ensure that the fish are kept healthy. Daily maintenance consists of checking the fish for signs of stress and disease.

Also, aquarists must make sure that the water has a good quality and it is not cloudy or foamy and the temperature of the water is appropriate for the particular species of fish that live in the aquarium.  Typical weekly maintenance includes changing around 10–20% of the water while cleaning the gravel, or other substrate if the aquarium has one; however some manage to avoid this entirely by keeping it somewhat self-sufficient. A good habit is to remove the water being replaced by "vacuuming" the gravel with suitable implements, as this will eliminate uneaten foods and other residues that settle on the substrate.

In many areas tap water is not considered to be safe for fish to live in because it contains chemicals that harm the fish. Tap water from those areas must be treated with a suitable water conditioner, such as a product which removes chlorine and chloramine and neutralizes any heavy metals present. The water conditions must be checked both in the tank and in the replacement water, to make sure they are suitable for the species of fish kept.

Aquarium classifications

From the outdoor ponds and glass jars of antiquity, modern aquaria have evolved into a wide range of specialized systems. Individual aquaria can vary in size from a small bowl large enough for only a single small fish, to the huge public aquaria that can simulate entire marine ecosystems.  One way to classify aquaria is by salinity. Freshwater aquaria are the most popular due to their lower cost.
More expensive and complex equipment is required to set up and maintain marine aquaria. Marine aquaria frequently feature a diverse range of invertebrates in addition to species of fish.

Brackish water aquaria combine elements of both marine and freshwater fishkeeping. Fish kept in brackish water aquaria generally come from habitats with varying salinity, such as mangrove swamps and estuaries. Subtypes exist within these types, such as the reef aquarium, a typically smaller marine aquarium that houses coral.Another classification is by temperature range. Many aquarists choose a tropical aquarium because tropical fish tend to be more colorful. However, the coldwater aquarium is also popular, which is mainly restricted to goldfish, but can include fish from temperate areas worldwide and native fish keeping.

Aquaria may be grouped by their species selection. The community tank is the most common today, where several non-aggressive species live peacefully. In these aquaria, the fish, invertebrates, and plants probably do not originate from the same geographic region, but tolerate similar water conditions. Aggressive tanks, in contrast, house a limited number of species that can be aggressive toward other fish, or are able to withstand aggression well. Most marine tanks and tanks housing cichlids have to take the aggressiveness of the desired species into account when stocking. Specimen tanks usually only house one fish species, along with plants, perhaps ones found in the fishes' natural environment and decorations simulating a natural ecosystem. This type is useful for fish that cannot coexist with other fish, such as the electric eel, as an extreme example. Some tanks of this sort are used simply to house adults for breeding.  Ecotype, ecotope, or biotope aquaria is another type based on species selection. In it, an aquarist attempts to simulate a specific natural ecosystem, assembling fish, invertebrate species, plants, decorations and water conditions all found in that ecosystem. These biotope aquaria are the most sophisticated hobby aquaria; public aquaria use this approach whenever possible. This approach best simulates the experience of observing in the wild. It typically serves as the healthiest possible artificial environment for the tank's occupants.

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