I became interested in keeping an aquarium at a very young age. My parents owned multiple aquariums and watching the small, colorful inhabitants was intriguing and mesmerizing. I enjoyed learning the names of all the fish and through a lot of research in the school library, I became very familiar with the uniqueness of many different species of fish. I saved my money and was able to buy a twenty-gallon complete set-up that I placed on my dresser. I was meticulous with the initial set-up and went to great lengths to ensure it looked as natural as possible. I purchased life-like plastic plants and placed them carefully around the aquarium. Realizing I needed more, I went on a rock hunt and found some lovely river stones that I boiled and placed in the tank as well. I let the aquarium cycle and added the right amount of fish. I started with kuhli loaches, a couple of gouramis and some swordfish. Through the years, it was a rewarding and wonderful experience to cater to my underwater inhabitants.
As an adult, I have been partial to keeping 55-gallon aquariums and I go back and forth as to what I want contained within. Currently, I have a livebearer breeding tank. I just love watching the little baby fish scurry around avoiding the cannibalistic monsters darting around the tank ready to make a meal of them at any given moment. If the fry can survive for three weeks, they are golden. They may be chased but are no longer an easy meal. I am saving to purchase a second 55-gallon or I may go even larger. I envision a large 150-gallon with Bala sharks and clown loaches or perhaps a devoted cichlid tank.
I no longer keep plastic plants but focus on nurturing live plants only. This is not as challenging as it may seem. I am always in favor of the "keep it simple" rule. I chose some plants that not only look good but also grow well if given the basic requirements. I keep water sprites, Java ferns, Java moss, dwarf Sagittaria and some cabomba. The Java moss is the perfect plant when trying to raise fry for they can bury themselves in it and survive on the micronutrients contained within. The other plants mentioned are very prolific and when trimmed down can provide a lovely water garden. I don't use special substrate nor do I use CO2. I do however use Excel by Seachem along with Nourish by the same company. For light, I have a compact fluorescent fixture that provides 130 watts of total light for nine hours a day. To combat any type of algae problems, I employ Otocinclus and Siamese Algae eaters to take care of that particular dirty work.
Just as I did when I was a kid, I continue to perform my research and I am learning new things all the time. The new species of fish which have been brought to the market are incredible. Thanks to the Internet, I can purchase any fish I desire with a few mouse clicks. The best sites I have encountered to date are Live Aquaria and Aquarium Plants. I have had successful transactions with them and have yet to be disappointed. During my research, I have discovered something which makes perfect sense. The aquarium water is a gold mine of readily available micronutrients which should not be sent down the drains. Instead, it should be put into as many watering cans as necessary for use on indoor and outdoor plants.
As you siphon out fish waste and decaying food particles, you are also siphoning out incredible amounts of helpful bacteria along with all the trace nutrients all plants need to survive (Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Potassium, iron, etc.). Until I read about it during some other unrelated research, I had never really thought of it before. I have been watering my vegetable garden and my winter flowerbeds and have noticed INCREDIBLE results. I cannot compare the vegetable garden to last year but the flowerbeds are outperforming those planted last year by about 200%. The foliage is a perfect green and the flowers are abundant. Same flowers, same planting location but this time a lot of aquarium water was used and the result was amazing. Further, if you happen to lose some fish, do not flush them. Dig them into your garden soil instead.
Of course using fish byproducts is not a new concept. The Native Americans were adding fish to the soil when growing crops and taught us the "trick" of increased yields and food production. To date, I had been using fish emulsion and still do but now I can make it last longer when I use aquarium water as well.
The benefits of keeping an aquarium are immense. Not only does it provide much needed stress relief but we can also reap the benefits of aquarium by-products. If you already own an aquarium, try using the water for your indoor and outdoor plants. They will thank you for it. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions on any of the species of fish mentioned or any aquarium questions in general, please let me know. I am very happy to help.
There are some other brilliant articles available here at Dave's about keeping aquariums.
Jocelyn Watt writes about how to set up a self-sustaining aquarium and goes into more detail about what you need to set up an aquarium. View this article here.
Lee Anne Stark writes about creating an underwater garden in your own living room. She includes great photographs and great links as well. View this article here.
Thumbnail image of the pearl gourami is from Wikimedia Commons. The other two photos were taken by the author.