The Wonders of Being an Aquarist
By Jourdan Cameron
What is it about aquariums that seem to make people calm and happy? Is it the sounds of bubbles, rising from the depths and disappearing at the surface? Is it perhaps the constant tinkling noises that the filters make, just like a babbling brook? Perhaps it’s the denizens of this moist world, undulating back and forth, moving restlessly to and fro, waving their beautiful fins as pennants. Or perhaps it is the way they conduct themselves, some seemingly lowly, as the corydoras catfish, yet others behaving so regally, as the Siamese fighting fish. Whatever the case, however, when properly executed, aquariums change the atmosphere of a room. They can change the bland, sterile office of a doctor or a dentist into a sanctuary. The journey to the shadowy figure that breaks your jaw, and the wicked murderer who impales your arm, becomes a visit to a friendly dentist who fixes your teeth, and the kind doctor who enjoys healing you.
Aquariums have been proven to reduce stress, and as a result, blood pressure. Not only that, but an aquarium as a focal point can provide endless entertainment, conversation, and be a great source of relaxation. Who takes care of these aquariums, however? One who takes care of an aquarium is known as an aquarist.
Aquarists have much responsibility upon them. For one, it is vital that they start an aquarium properly. They need to carefully add ammonia to a new aquarium before adding any fish. This is to allow the nitrogen cycle to occur. Certain bacteria turn the ammonia into nitrites, and yet another turns the bacteria into nitrates, which are extremely less toxic than ammonia and nitrites.
This is known among aquarists as ‘cycling’ an aquarium, and it is a vital step towards the well being of any of the aquariums denizens. It is done in order for bacterial colonies to become established and help clear the waste products of fish. It is known as biological filtration because of how it employs the help of living bacteria.
In addition to biological, there is chemical and mechanical filtration, the former using various mediums, such as carbon, Zeolite, and assorted resins, to remove chemicals from the water. Mechanical filtration removes particles from the water. Chemical filtration, however, should be used sparingly, and is not a replacement for water changes, another important role the aquarist takes on.
Water changes are vital to the health of aquaria. In addition to removing various chemicals, and debris in the aquarium, they are important for keeping the pH of the aquarium from changing rapidly. They are also necessary to add trace minerals, which though only available in small amounts, are necessary to the health of an aquarium.
Yet another job of the aquarist is that of a landscaper. Making an aquarium beautiful is no small task, simple as it may seem. For one, placement of rocks, plants, statuettes, etc., is very important as to how an aquarium turns out, whether you have a box filled with wet junk, or chest of aquatic wonders. Rocks must be placed in order of size, the largest towards the back of the aquarium, smallest in front. The same applies to plants. It is also important to use important spacing, in order that the rocks aren’t all sitting together in one group, and yet there aren’t gaping holes in the scenery. Not to say a gaping hole is a bad thing, however, considering that it could be used to bring attention to something like a special decoration, such as a castle or bubble-driven ornament.
Sometimes, fish fall ill for one reason or another. It is the duty of an aquarist to now serve as a doctor. There are various diseases that afflict fish, the most common being finrot, a bacterial infection of a fishes fins. This can be brought on by poor water quality, stress, and crowded conditions. The best treatment is to first eliminate the problem by caring for the water quality, and the finrot will usually clear itself. But, if that doesn’t happen, or if the disease is at an advanced stage, the aquarist will use medications made specifically for the purpose of healing finrot.
Yet, in what seems to be much work comes a very large reward: a beautiful aquarium, full of vibrant, healthy fish, and sometimes invertebrates, such as shrimp, clams, and others. An aquarist watches his fish as they go about their lives, socializing, and feeding, mating and fighting, they watch as they rear their young to maturity, the way the small fish interact with one another. Yes, it seems to be extremely laborious, yet what is offered is quite an unparalleled delight.
Aquarists are also responsible for scientific progress as well. Because they spend much time with their fish, they understand many of their complex behaviors in ways that are beneficial to science, and the understanding of just how important certain species are to us, as humankind!
Next time you see an aquarium, remember what went into it. Remember that an aquarist was responsible.