Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 18 News List

The beauty of aquariums

Fish can be just as much fun as dog and, best of all, they won't embarrass you in front of guests

By Graham Norris  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yellow-tailed Damsel
Despite being only around 3cm long, these can be quite aggressive and fight with other similar-sized fish. Price: NT$150


Adopting a dog off the street may give you the warm feeling of having saved an animal from a life of misery as well as satisfy your desire to have a pet, but fish don't attack your visitors, defecate on your bed or try to have sex with your cushions.

Watching fish drift around in an aquarium can be very soothing, and they require only a minimal amount of maintenance. Not only that, but there are aquariums for all budgets.

At the least ambitious end of the scale is the desk-top fish bowl. The advantage of this is that you don't need a pump or a heater or a bucket to change the water. The downside is that there are only certain kinds of fish that can live like this -- the most fun that can be had is buying a fighting fish and waving a mirror in front of it.

If you're planning a more elaborate setup at home, you need to make a few decisions first.

Saltwater or fresh: Saltwater aquariums allow you to keep all manner of bizarre wildlife normally only found in the ocean, including the most colorful fish. But it takes a lot longer (a couple of months) for the water to become stable enough to support these quirky lifeforms, and the pumps are more expensive because they have to deal with the salt.

Size: Larger aquariums are far more impressive than smaller ones, but are more difficult to move around. You also need to remember that around 30 percent of the water needs to be siphoned off every few weeks and replaced. For a large aquarium of several hundred liters, sucking out 25 percent can take a while.

Animals: When chosing what kind of set-up you want, it's a good idea to first consider what kind of animals you want in there. Many kinds of fish aren't compatible with other kinds, and some are more demanding of the environment they live in. It's no good yearning after a school of particularly colorful fish only to find out after you've set up your freshwater tank that they are saltwater fish.

Money and effort: While not as demanding as dogs, fish still require care and monitoring. Don't take on more than you can handle, because you can't just throw fish on the street and expect them to fend for themselves.

They require feeding, sometimes several times a day, and they get sick, and the water needs to be changed regularly. As well as the aquarium and fish, there are a lot of other gadgets you may need to buy for the aquarium to function properly, although the maintenance costs are minimal compared to the initial outlay.

Once you've decided what you want, how much you're willing to pay for it and how bothered you'll be about it a few months down the line, you have to find the equipment that best fits your needs.

Aquariums come in all shapes and sizes and are measured in liters. Most are made of glass, which can be quite heavy, although acrylic tanks are becoming more common. The disadvantage of an acrylic tank is that it scratches easily, impairing your viewing pleasure. A 20 liter tank, which could be around half a meter long depending on what shape it is, can cost as little as NT$500. Aquariums you would be able to take home yourself go up to 90 liters. A 90 liter tank costs around NT$8,000. Tanks bigger than this cost a lot of money and require special delivery.

Thankfully, the aquarium itself is the most expensive and awkward part. However, you will also need a filtration system, which includes a pump, trays and some kind of filter material. There are many kinds of filters, but the cheapest are very cheap and, as long as they are regularly changed, will do the job well enough. For a 20 liter tank a pump costs around NT$250, and for a 90 liter tank between NT$650 and NT$850.

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