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Aquarium Equipment Explained Part 1 - The Aquarium

Nov 28, 2007
Probably your first thoughts will be to go out and purchase your new aquarium (do not buy your fish at this time, important preparation has to be made for them first); careful consideration must be exercised in your choice. The aquarium you choose should be as large as you can afford or accommodate. Obviously larger aquariums will contain a greater volume of water; this is a great advantage towards keeping water conditions more stable.

Ideally your aquarium should have as big a surface area as possible; this is where the oxygen that your fishes need to survive is absorbed, and where the carbon dioxide that they expel is released. In any event I would recommend a minimum size of 24x12x12ins (60x30x30cm); this would have a capacity of 12.5 gallons (56L).

Although it's possible to buy aquariums of different shapes nowadays, or even one made to fit into a certain part of your home, you should bare in mind that the fish that you house in your aquarium have to live in it for the rest of their lives. Therefore, it should be considered whether your choice of aquarium is the right choice for your fishes.

To calculate the capacity of your aquarium, multiply your aquarium length x width x height (in inches), divide result by 1728 = cu.feet, multiply that result by 6.25 = gallons, multiply that result by 4.55 = litres. Approximately 10% should be deducted to allow for gravel etc.

A word of warning at this point; water is very heavy in these quantities, an aquarium of the above dimensions when set-up is likely to weigh in excess of 200 pounds (90 kg). I estimate my 4ft tank to be approximately one-third of a tonne. An adequate stand or purpose built cabinet is therefore essential. If weights of this magnitude are to be rested on floors supported by joists, it is important that the stand or cabinet be positioned at right angles to, and lies across the joists.

Before you set-up your aquarium or add any weight to it at all, a purpose made piece of polystyrene should be placed between the surface area of your cabinet and the base of your aquarium, this is to absorb any imperfection or distortion between the two surfaces, a piece of grit for instance trapped between the two surfaces could quite easily crack the bottom of your tank when fully laden. Aquatic stores usually stock sheets of polystyrene in various sizes for this purpose.

Some aquarium manufacturers now build glass aquariums in such a way that they can be placed directly onto a surface without the need for any polystyrene sheet below it. More information of this and of which type is best for you will be available at your local aquatic store.

Quite often aquariums are purchased complete with hood and cover. If you do buy an aquarium that doesn't have any type of cover, it would be wise to buy one separately. The hood will prevent the fish from escaping, and also help to prevent heat and evaporation loss, they also have provision for light fittings. I personally prefer the appearance of a timber hood. Whatever your choice you must ensure a condensation cover or tray is fitted between the water surface and the hood to prevent condensation forming on the electrical light fitting. I use sheets of clear Perspex cut to size to form sliding doors for feeding etc.

It is quite likely that you will want to add gravel to the bottom of your aquarium as a substrate. It also makes an excellent media when used with an undergravel filtration system. If gravel is to be used at all, you must ensure that it is hardness-free, which means no calciferous materials, such as limestone, coral, chalk, etc., and of a size not too large or too small, about 4 to 5mm.

When gravel is used in the aquarium it will need regular cleaning, this task is made a lot easier with a gravel cleaner. This consists of a length of plastic hose, attached to one end is a plastic cylinder, this is placed in the gravel, whereby gravel is swirled around in the cylinder and the dirty water is drawn through the tube by gravity, and into a bucket for removal, leaving behind the cleaned gravel. Low voltage gravel vacuums are available, but these are obviously more expensive.

Remember, when choosing an aquarium you need to understand what the fishes needs are and not just how aesthetically pleasing you can make it. It is just a case of compromise, get this right and everyone is happy, and you are on your way to achieving your successful aquarium set-up.
About the Author
For more information about freshwater tropical fishkeeping please visit my site at www.freshwatertropicalfishkeeping.com for 30 years or more of fishkeeping experience. Or watch out for more fishkeeping articles from me, Kevin Yates at FWTFK
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