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Tropical & Marine Fishkeeping

The hobby can be broadly divided into three specific disciplines, freshwater, brackish, and marine (also called saltwater) fishkeeping. Freshwater fishkeeping is by far the most popular branch of the hobby, with even small pet stores often selling a variety of freshwater fish, such as goldfish, guppies, and angelfish. While most freshwater aquaria are set up as community tanks containing a variety of peaceful species, many aquarists keep single-species aquaria with a view to breeding. Livebearing fish such as mollies and guppies are among the species that are most easily raised in captivity, but aquarists also regularly breed numerous other species, including many types of cichlid, catfish, characin, and killifish.

Marine aquaria are generally more difficult to maintain and the livestock is significantly more expensive, and as a result this branch of the hobby tends to attract more experienced fishkeepers. However, marine aquaria can be exceedingly beautiful, due to the attractive colours and shapes of the corals and coral reef fish kept in them. Temperate zone marine fish are not as commonly kept in home aquaria, primarily because they do not do well at room temperature. An aquarium containing these coldwater species usually needs to be either located in a cool room (such as an unheated basement) or else chilled using a refrigeration device known as a 'chiller'.

Brackish water aquaria combine elements of both marine and freshwater fishkeeping, reflecting the fact that these aquaria contain water with a salinity in between that of freshwater and seawater. Fish kept in brackish water aquaria come from habitats with varying salinity, such as mangroves and estuaries and do not do well if permanently kept in freshwater aquaria. Although brackish water aquaria are not overly familiar to newcomers to the hobby, a surprising number of species prefer brackish water conditions, including the mollies, many gobies, some pufferfish, monos, scats, and virtually all the freshwater soles.

Fishkeepers are often known as aquarists, since many of them are not solely interested in keeping fish. Many fishkeepers create freshwater aquaria where the focus is on the aquatic plants rather than on the fish. This is known as the 'Dutch Aquarium' in some circles, in reference to the pioneering work carried out by European aquarists in designing these sorts of aquaria. In recent years, one of the most active advocates of the heavily planted aquarium is the Japanese aquarist Takashi Amano. Marine aquarists often attempt to recreate the coral reef in their aquaria using large quantities of living rock, porous calcareous rocks encrusted with algae, sponges, worms, and other small marine organisms. Larger corals as well as shrimps, crabs, echinoderms, and mollusks are added later on, once the aquarium has matured, as well as a variety of small fish. Such aquaria are sometimes called 'reef tanks'.

Garden ponds are in some ways similar to freshwater aquaria, but are usually much larger and exposed to the ambient climatic conditions. In the tropics, tropical fish can be kept in garden ponds, but in the cooler regions temperate zone species such as goldfish, koi, and orfe are kept instead.

The origins of fishkeeping

Fish have been raised as food in pools and ponds for thousands of years. In Medieval Europe, carp pools were a standard feature of estates and monasteries, providing an alternative to meat on feast days when meat could not be eaten for religious reasons. Similarly, throughout Asia there is a long history of stocking rice paddies with freshwater fish suitable for eating, including various types of catfish and cyprinid. Particularly brightly coloured or tame specimens of fish in these pools have sometimes been valued as pets rather than food, and some of these have given rise to completely domesticated varieties, most notably the goldfish and the koi carp, which have their origins in China and Japan respectively.

Marine fish have been similarly valued for centuries, and many wealthy Romans kept lampreys and other fish in salt water pools. Cicero reports that the advocate Quintus Hortensius wept when a favoured specimen died, while Tertullian reports that Asinius Celer paid 8000 sesterces for a particularly fine mullet.

*The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Fishkeeping"

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