Home Aquariums

By Nancy Moffett

Even though we’re in the height of summer, it’s not too early to think about the long indoor months ahead. When it’s bleak outdoors, wouldn’t it be nice to have something natural and colorful to focus on indoors? An aquarium can serve as both an aesthetic element and an antidote to winter doldrums.

Studies have shown that gazing at a fish aquarium helps Alzheimer’s patients become more relaxed and alert and can temporarily lower blood pressure. And, an aquarium may be the answer to having pets for children who are allergic to a dog or cat. Lee Junge, owner of American Aquarium and Pet Supply, in Orefield, has had fish since he was a boy. “My dad got me into it. It’s exciting to see kids come into the store and the twinkle in their eye when they realize they’re going to get fish,” he says. Caring for fish is a good way to teach them responsibility as well, he notes.

Tropical Freshwater

For the novice, selecting and setting up a freshwater aquarium is quite simple. Tank and equipment manufacturers now include step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process. According to Craig Flyzik, store manager at American Aquarium, to get the most enjoyment out of an aquarium it should be placed where you spend the most time. Determine how much space you have, and then buy a tank to fit. A larger tank is easier to maintain, because there is more forgiveness in a bigger body of water. He recommends 55 gallons or larger

Starting with synthetic plants allows the owner to learn how to maintain a healthy tank before they move on to live plants. Resin figurines and reef replicas add color and personality. Popular tropical fish to start with include neon tetras, angel fish, swordtails, cardinalfish and mollies. African cichlids are growing in popularity among aquarium owners and come in many varieties.

New LED lights save energy and don’t generate as much heat as older types. Pumps and filters are also more efficient. Maintaining an aquarium takes about 20 minutes a week, which includes cleaning and taking out and replacing about 20 percent of the water once a month. No emptying and scrubbing are necessary if the tank is set up properly.

Junge says it’s important to get good advice and equipment. “We have customers come in who are frustrated because they bought at a chain store and are getting bad results. An independent store like ours can help the novice get started and upgrade as they get more involved in the hobby,” he explains.

Saltwater Reef

Many aquarium owners are turning to saltwater reef aquariums. They include live corals, other marine invertebrates and saltwater fish. The displays can be quite striking. Even though they’re more complicated to set up than freshwater, says Patrick Clasen, co-owner of EcoTech Marine in Bethlehem, they can also be low maintenance. “A reef tank is a microcosm of the ocean, so you need to create an environment that allows the coral to eat, grow and die,” he explains. However, with the right equipment to bring in oxygen and nutrients and take away waste, it’s not as hard as it might seem.

One important factor for reef aquariums is water movement. EcoTech manufactures pumps that produce broad, gentle flow that mimics tidal currents while preserving the beauty of the tank by being placed outside it. “My roommates and I had a reef tank in college and saw differences between the native aquatic ecosystems in nature and the habitats created in aquariums. We developed our VorTech products to fill that gap,” he says.

As for fish, varieties suitable for reef aquariums abound: angelfish, frogfish, butterfly, clown fish, groupers, lionfish and even seahorses are just a few. Maintenance is pretty much the same as a freshwater tank with the extra step of adding the proper salt to replacement water.

To begin, Clasen recommends visiting local stores that specialize in reef aquariums and finding clubs and mentors. The internet is also a rich source of information including forum sites such as Reefcentral and Reefland.

If you’re ready to take the plunge into home aquariums–from a small guppy tank for the kids to a custom tank built into a wall (à la the 20,000-gallon saltwater aquarium behind the front desk at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas)–there is plenty of equipment and advice available to help get you started with this exciting, yet relaxing, hobby.

American Aquarium and Pet Supply
3752 Route 309, Suite A
Orefield PA 18069610-395-6085


EcoTech Marine1349 Lynn Avenue
Bethlehem, PA 18015


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