A good aquarium is a planned fish community where a good aquarium shape, size and layout are all important. It is true that some people have had good results with hit and miss methods, but they have been lucky. You can only be sure of success if you begin by considering the conditions under which the fish will live.
These conditions can be created by you specially that of a good aquarium shape, and in doing so you not only have to learn from nature, but improve upon nature to provide an ideal balanced world where different varieties of fish may be born, live together and thrive. This is not so simple as it may sound because nature has a way of striking a balance in it.
he whole of her complicated structure; if she did not, the natural framework of animal and vegetable life would crumble. Therefore, unless we start with the idea of ‘balance’ foremost in our minds, it is likely that ‘unbalanced’ conditions in our aquariums may cause disastrous results.
A Balanced Aquarium
A balanced aquarium, in a factual sense, is a myth. It implies that once an aquarium is set up it will look after itself—the plants giving off a balanced amount of oxygen to suit the needs of the fish, and the fish exhaling the necessary carbon dioxide required by the plants on a fair exchange basis. In fact, the oxygen content of water is more dependent on the surface area of water exposed to the atmosphere than it is on plant life. Under reasonable conditions, any oxygen deficiency is immediately made up from oxygen in the atmosphere passing into solution with the water.
Plants do help with the provision of oxygen when under the influence of strong light and, if the oxygen so produced is excessive, it will pass off into the atmosphere. Bubbles of oxygen can often be seen rising to the surface from the plants.
Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, passes out of the water into the atmosphere at a much slower rate than oxygen. It is excessive carbon dioxide in the water that causes fish to rise to the surface ‘gasping for air’, not oxygen deficiency. These facts show that a truly balanced aquarium is not possible to maintain in a technical sense.
However, the term is a good one, it suggests that the aquarist should maintain a balance by not overcrowding his fish; this will reduce the possibility of excessive carbon dioxide production. He should also ensure that the surface area of water is adequate, he should remove excessive excreta and debris, and he should not overfeed. In more general terms, maintaining balance means using common sense and knowledge to maintain a fish community in a ‘balanced condition’.
Good Aquarium Shape
The shape of the aquarium is the first consideration. It should not be too tall or narrow, as oxygen content, as previously stated, is more dependent upon surface area than on the actual volume of water.
An ideal size is 24 in. X 12 in. X 12 in., and this is an easy one to obtain if you prefer to buy a ready-made tank. We do not recommend the fancy shaped tanks many aquarists like to make for the odd corner or shelf because, although a tank of unusual size or shape may be decorative, it often has the limitations of a small surface area, and, apart from the right food and temperature, fish need plenty of room in which to live and become fully developed. If you restrict them to a confined space, or a tank with an inadequate surface area, you create an environment where they will be forced to adapt themselves by remaining small and stunted.
A tank 12 in. X 12 in. x 12 in. will contain one cubic foot of water with a surface area of one square foot. Indeed, the same quantity of water can be used in a tank 6 in. deep X 24 in. X 12 in., giving a surface area of two square feet. This larger tank will allow a greater number of fish to exist in comfort than in the one foot square tank, although both contain the same quantity of water. To find how much water an aquarium will hold, use the following method of calculation:
Length in. x Breadth in. x Width in
—————————————————— = Capacity (cu. ft)
The above formula gives the capacity in cubic feet and, as one cubic foot of water equals 65 gallons, you only have to multiply the product by to find how many gallons the aquarium will hold.
Remember, one gallon of water weighs 10 lb.
One cubic foot of water weighs 621/2 lb. It will therefore be seen that a tank 24 in. X 12 in. X 12 in. will contain two cubic feet of water, weighing 125 lb.
Whilst the largest possible surface area is the most desirable, it does not make an attractive tank if the depth is too shallow, so it is best to strike an average. The table will act as a guide to suitable proportions.
When you have decided upon the proportions, you are ready to start making your aquarium . It is a useful thing to remember that you can use either brass or angle iron. Brass is the easier material to work with, iron will require the use of welding plant. However, if iron is preferred, a garage will usually do the welding quite cheaply.
Cut two lengths of brass angle to correspond with the total perimeter, allowing about 3/8 in. for the bends at the corners. Now mark off the angle to correspond with the lengths of the two sides and two ends. It is best to work from the centre of the angle when marking out, as this method leaves some material at each end for the final sizing after.
Aquarists advise wedging the two sides in position with sticks across the inside of the tank, but this method distorts the glass, so that when the sticks are removed it reverts to its natural shape and causes a leak.
The aquarium cement usually begins to harden after two or three days, and the aquarium can then be filled with water. The pressure of water will give a final settling to the glass. Make sure that the aquarium is on a firm base which does not rock, before filling. Once your aquarium is filled there is no reason to empty it unless you have to repair a leak, or for some other emergency.
If you decide on a large tank, the bottom should be put in after the two sides, and the ends last. This gives additional strength.