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What to Consider Before Buying an Aquarium (Part I)

Keeping an aquarium can be a great hobby with therapeutic advantages. It is a practice that be enjoyed by hobbyists of all ages and experience levels. Before committing to a purchase or the responsibility of caring for animals, consider the following aspects of owning and maintaining an aquarium. Initial Costs and Fish Selection - The starting cost of keeping an aquarium may be fairly high due to all of the equipment needed to attain the proper environment. Purchases include the actual tank, filters, lights and other essentials, not to mention the fish themselves. Generally, the larger the tank the higher the cost; saltwater setups will cost more than freshwater. A typical tropical freshwater aquarium can safely support one inch of fish per gallon of water; this is dependent on the surface area of the water - the more surface area, the more oxygen, therefore, supporting more fish. Some fish are schooling fish, which by nature prefer to be in large groups; others may like their independence and will prefer to be left alone. Marine, or saltwater, fish are more colorful but require a lot of care and knowledge. Freshwater aquariums tend to be easier to maintain because there are fewer chemical balances to worry about. Size and Placement - The size and type of aquarium you need may be dictated by the type of fish you want, the available area, and your budget. In some cases, bigger is better. A larger tank will allow you to add more fish later; the larger amount of water will thin out chemicals, which can be potentially dangerous to fish. No matter what the size, the location should be level, sturdy and where it is not in danger of being bumped into or knocked over. They should also be kept away from heating vents, windows and doors because of temperature fluctuations; windows can also allow too much light causing excess algae build-up. The Nitrogen Cycle - Nature has implemented a cycle to regulate the potentially harmful effects of waste byproducts, this is called the nitrogen cycle. Certain bacteria are essential for this process to be carried out; it is important to be patient because it may take up to six weeks, or possibly longer if your tank setup requires a lower temperature. Time will be needed to cycle the tank, so start slow. Add some plants, followed two weeks later by some hardy fish. Each step needs to be gradual so the bacteria have enough time to multiply and break down the increasing amount of waste. Until the nitrogen cycle is functioning normally, monitoring ammonia levels may be a good idea. The number of fish in the aquarium should be low while the nitrogen cycle is being established. Filtration Equipment - Aquarium filters essentially work in three different ways. Biological filtration takes advantage of the natural bacterial process of the nitrogen cycle. This type of filtering provides larger surfaces for beneficial bacteria to colonize. Mechanical filtration takes in water and strains out particles such as fish excrement, sludge, and uneaten food; clean the filter media regularly to prevent build-up. Chemical filtration removes dissolved wastes than sneak by the mechanical filtration system. When water passes through, the filter media chemically bonds with the waste molecules and removes them from the aquarium. Other types of filters offer various combinations of the different filtration methods. These include canister filters, power filters, wet/dry filters and fluidized filters. UV Sterilizers - UV Sterilizers

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