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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Creative Aquariums

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Aquarium size and volume
The large Georgia Aquarium houses a Whale shark.

An aquarium can range from a small glass bowl containing less than a litre (34 fl.oz.) of water to immense public aquaria which can house entire ecosystems such as kelp forests. Larger aquaria are typically recommended to hobbyists due to their resistance to rapid fluctuations of temperature and pH, allowing for greater system stability.
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Reef aquaria under 100 litres (20 gal) have a special place in the aquarium hobby; these aquaria, termed nano reefs (when used in reefkeeping), have a small water volume.[citation needed].

Practical limitations, most notably the weight (one litre of fresh water has a mass of 1 kilogram (8.3 lb gal-1), and salt water is even denser) and internal water pressure (requiring thick, strong glass siding) of a large aquarium, keep most home aquaria to a maximum of around 1 cubic metre in volume (1,000 kg or 2,200 lb). Some aquarists, however, have constructed aquaria of up to many thousands of litres.
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Aquaria within public aquariums designed for exhibition of large species or environments can be dramatically larger than any home aquarium. The Georgia Aquarium, for example, features an individual aquarium of 6,300,000 US gallons (23,800 m3).

Aquarium classifications
A planted freshwater aquarium

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 a single small fish, to the huge public aquaria that can simulate entire marine ecosystems.
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One of ways to classify aquaria is their salinity. Freshwater aquaria are the most popular kind of aquarium due to their lower cost and ease of maintenance. Marine aquaria generally require more complex equipment to set up and maintain than freshwater aquaria. Along with fish species, marine aquaria frequently feature a diverse range of invertebrates.[36][31] 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 mangroves and estuaries. Certain subtypes of aquaria also exist within these types, such as the reef aquarium, a type of marine aquarium that houses coral.

Another classification is by temperature range. Many aquarists maintain a tropical aquarium as these fish tend to be more colorful.[36] However, the coldwater aquarium is also popular, which may include fish such as goldfish.
A saltwater aquarium.
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Aquaria may be grouped by their species selection. The community tank is the most common type of aquarium kept today, where several non-aggressive species are housed peacefully together. In these aquaria, the aquarium fish, invertebrates, and plants probably do not originate from the same geographic region, but generally 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. Species or specimen tanks usually only house one fish species, along with plants, perhaps found in the fishes' natural environment and decorations simulating a true ecosystem. This type is useful for fish that simply cannot be housed safely 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.
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Ecotype, ecotope, or biotope aquaria is another type based on species selection. In it, an aquarist attempts to simulate a specific ecosystem found in the natural world, bringing together fish, invertebrate species, and plants found only in that ecosystem in a tank with water conditions and decorations designed to simulate their natural environment. These ecotype aquaria might be considered the most sophisticated hobby aquaria; indeed, public aquaria use this approach in their exhibits whenever possible. This approach best simulates the experience of observing an aquarium's inhabitants in the wild. Matching a tank to the environment at the source of fish usually serves as the healthiest possible artificial environment for the tank's occupants.

Public aquaria
Tunnel at the world's largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, USA.
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Main article: Public aquarium
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Most public aquariums feature a number of smaller aquaria, as well those greater in size than could be kept by home aquarists. The largest tanks hold millions of gallons of water and can house large species, including sharks or beluga whales. Dolphinariums are aquaria specifically for housing dolphins. Aquatic and semiaquatic animals, including otters and penguins, may also be kept by public aquariums. Public aquariums may also be included in larger establishments such as a marine mammal park or a marine park.
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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.
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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.